Third Party & Independents Archives

How many other Ruben Cantu's exist?

In my many years of being involved on message boards or blogs there are several topics that create a huge difference of opinion. The Death Penalty is one of those; every time it has been discussed at least one pro-Death Penalty person will state that the absence of proof of anyone who was innocent being executed somehow justifies the continuation of the Death Penalty. Ruben Cantu was executed for murder in Texas in 1993. It appears there is a strong likelihood he was innocent.

One of the most valid reasons for not using the Death Penalty comes from the Judge that originally sentenced Cantu, as reported in this Houston Chronicle article about Ruben Cantu:

Roy Barrera Jr, said the case underscores weaknesses in the system, especially in the 'riskiest cases,' which rely heavily on eyewitness identification. "People do lie under oath, and people do get convicted on the basis of lies," Barrera said. "This case, like thousands of other cases in the system across the country, cry for a thorough examination of the process."

It would be easy to blame just the legal system alone if Ruben Cantu was truly innocent. Most of the responsibilty is with those who lied, and Cantu himself for following the belief that one does not betray a "brother". Cantu could have saved himself, yet he waited for someone else to come forward. The three men who could have prevented his death, David Garza who was involved with the shooting and the other teen that was involved in the shooting said nothing. Garza has now come forward years too late. The other man who was also a teenager at the time still denies he was involved, yet claims to be in fear of his life from threats made by Cantu's older brothers. A victim that survived the shooting, Juan Moreno, is also stating that Ruben Cantu did not shoot him, and that he was pressured by the police to identify Cantu as the shooter. Moreno said nothing, even as the time approached for Cantu to be put to death. It's also obvious that there are also some questions as to the quality of legal representation Cantu received in addition to problems with the legal system. All of these people and factors contributed to creating a situation where it is possible for an innocent man to be executed.

I'd like to say that Ruben Cantu would be the only person executed who proclaimed he was innocent. In just Texas alone where this took place, 335 people have been executed by the State since 1982. Each one is given the chance to make a last statement. Some like Charles William Bass, take responsibility "I deserve this. Tell everyone I said goodbye." Others like David Herman, take responsibility and hope their execution brings closure to the families of the victims, "It was horrible and inexcusable for me to take the life of your loved one and to hurt so many mentally and physically. I am here because I took a life and killing is wrong by an individual and by the state, and I am sorry we are here but if my death gives you peace and closure then this is all worthwhile."

There are those like G.W. Green, who basically just want to get it over with, "Let's do it, man. Lock and load. Ain't life a (expletive deleted)?" Some make statements against the Death Penalty as Henry Porter did, "You call this justice. I call this and your society a bunch of cold-blooded murderers. I don't say this with any bitterness or anger. I just say this with truthfulness. I hope God forgives me for all my sins. I hope that God will be as merciful to society as he has been to me. I'm ready, Warden." Others chose to make no last statement at all. A few made what we would call "death bed confessions" where they admited responsibility for crimes others had been charged or sentenced for.

Then there are the very troubling last statements, 43 of the 335 stated they were innocent. Leonel Torres Herrera said, "I am innocent, innocent, innocent. Make no mistake about this; I owe society nothing. Continue the struggle for human rights, helping those who are innocent, especially Mr. Graham. I am an innocent man, and something very wrong is taking place tonight. May God bless you all. I am ready." Carl Johnson, " I want the world to know that I'm innocent and that I've found peace. Let's ride."

Ruben Cantu chose to make no last statement, it is very possible that there were quite a few others who did not make statements who also proclaimed their innocence. Of course it is possible that some of these men who claimed their innocence right to the very end were not being honest. That for whatever reason, they chose to continue to lie up to the very end rather than take responsibility for why they were convicted and on Death Row. It is possible though that some of these men were innocent. Our legal system is imperfect because we as humans are not perfect. As even the Judge stated, people do lie. If someone is wrongfully convicted and sentenced to life in prison and it is found later they were innocent they will in probability have a difficult time re-establishing their life in the outside world but they would at least get that opportunity. Those that are executed, if it is at a later date believed they might have been innocent? Not much can be done, the family gains the knowledge that their loved one was not really a murderer, the victim's family then has that additional trauma.

It's worth pointing out that these cases were just in Texas alone, that over 7,000 people have been executed during the past Century. Pure logic tells you that some of these were probably innocent. Even with today's technologically advanced scientific crime lab skills mistakes are made. Evidence tainted or lost, due to human error, so while it is less possible today it is still a factor. This is why I do not support the Death Penalty. Not because of the cost factor; not because it is cruel or inhumane; not because of God; because there is that chance this person could be innocent. Enough innocents are killed, we as a nation do not need to add to this as a possibility.

Posted by Lisa Renee Ward at November 21, 2005 12:23 PM