Innocent Until Proven Dead: Will Texas Execute Another Innocent Man?
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Of course, there were no eyewitnesses. But LaToya was scared for her life and the life of her baby, so she signed a statement saying that she heard Reggie bragging about killing his friend Carlos that day. At trial, Mayberry recanted her statement and testified that she was threatened with capital murder charges.
Almost comically, LaToya's original statement, which was typed by the detective, compared Reggie to Tupac Shakur -- an obvious attempt to deal with the description of the initial suspect (who was not said to look like Tupac, but was wearing a 2Pac necklace).
After the statement was signed, LaToya's charges of assault on a public servant and failure to produce I.D, as well as her outstanding warrants, were all suddenly dropped, and she was sent home from the homicide office. She never saw a jail cell. When the arresting officer was questioned at Reggie's trial about what happened to the charges, he said he didn't know.
Even with Mayberry's coerced statement, investigators needed one more person to point the finger at Reggie to shore up their case. So the detective called up Robert Blanton and asked him to come to his office so they could talk about a murder. The officer assured Robert that he wasn't a suspect in the case, and even sent a squad car to pick him up.
According to Robert's testimony, upon arriving at the homicide office, the detective changed his story and told Robert that if he didn't sign a statement against his brother, not only would he get locked up on murder charges, but his pregnant girlfriend would be locked up as well.
Just like LaToya, Robert was terrified and signed the statement. Just like LaToya, Robert recanted his statement at trial -- a statement that, again, was typed by the detective, and not only used terms that weren't part of Robert's vocabulary, but also listed his age and Social Security number incorrectly, and placed the scene of the murder at a different location than the Stepping Stone Apartments.
Despite these inconsistencies, the detective had what he needed. On April 14, Reginald Blanton -- at the age of 18 -- was arrested for the murder of his friend Carlos Garza.
Civics classes and our introduction through popular television series like Cops teach us that all suspects are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. In reality, a defendant is presumed guilty. After all, he wouldn't be there sitting at that table unless he had done something wrong, would he?
In the case of Carlos Garza's murder, Reginald Blanton was sitting at the defense table despite the fact that not a single shred of physical evidence connected him to the crime.
In fact, the only physical evidence investigators had come up with should have ruled out Reggie altogether. When Carlos's door was kicked in, a shoe print was left behind. Also taken into evidence were the shoes Reggie wore the day of the murder. The problem for the prosecution is that Reggie's shoes were two sizes smaller than the footprint on the door, and the tread patterns clearly didn't match.
Though Blanton's court-appointed trial lawyers were aware of this fact, they refused to bring it up in court. We may live in the age of CSI, but in the real world, many defendants are charged and convicted not based on objective forensic evidence, but rather on coerced confessions, jailhouse snitches and unreliable eyewitness testimony.
Speaking of jailhouse snitches, one always seems to turn up in cases where actual evidence is scant, and they are rewarded handsomely for their information.