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.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.
Velez was allowed to be paroled after pleading no contest to a lesser charge of injury to a child.
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."