Thursday, October 09, 2014

Manuel Velez leaves death row: Case tainted by flawed forensics, ineffective counsel

Another questionably convicted capital defendant has walked off of death row a free man. Manuel Velez, whose capital murder conviction was overturned based on ineffective assistance of counsel and the state's use of a future dangerousness expert whose testimony was debunked, pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and was released based on time served. Reported the Houston Chronicle:
Manuel Velez, a 48-year-old construction worker from the Rio Grande Valley who had been on death row for the capital murder of his girlfriend's 11-month-old baby, was released Wednesday on parole.
"I'm very happy. I thank God for my lawyers, for my freedom, for getting me out of death row," Velez said as he left prison in Huntsville on his way to Brownsville to be with his family.

Velez was allowed to be paroled after pleading no contest to a lesser charge of injury to a child.
Summed up Huffington Post writer Saki Knato, "To Velez's supporters, his release on Wednesday is the culmination of a legal drama that exposed many of the broader problems plaguing the justice system in Texas and beyond. The case 'contained a litany of injustices, including police misconduct, prosecutorial deception, ineffectiveness of defense counsel, and untruthful witnesses,' said Richard Dieter, head of the Death Penalty Information Center, in a statement." The Cameron County DA, by contrast, insists Velez is guilty. Either way, today he's a free man and to judge from the forensic evidence - which showed the injuries at issue occurred while he was out of town - IMO quite possibly an innocent one.

Pam Colloff's Texas Monthly story on the case may be the best overview for those unfamiliar with his story, doing an especially good job vetting the flawed forensic testimony. See also the trial judge's recommendation that Velez receive a new trial based on having received ineffective assistance of counsel. And here's a statement from Velez's attorney from the national ACLU.

MORE: From the Texas Observer. AND MORE: From Breitbart Texas which prematurely (from a legal perspective) declared Velez "innocent" TDCAA tweeted in retort, "Release on parole, yes. Innocent, no."


rodsmith said...

notice how they still blackmailed him into a plea to avoid the massive lawsuit.

Anonymous said...

Curiously, Mr. Velez' trial defense attorney O. Rene Flores' name still heads the list of those supposedly qualified to handle capital cases in that part of the State:

Funny, that ....

rodsmith said...

lol but of course. They couldn't blame ONLY the state fuckups. If the defense wasn't in there somewhere it would be hard to force a plea to avoid the lawsuit.

I am sure he's not only still on the list but getting most of the business to go along.