The Guardian posts "Texas releases death row inmate Manuel Velez after wrongful conviction," by Ed Pilkington.
A building worker from Texas, who was sentenced to death for a murder he did not commit, was released on Wednesday after spending nine years in prison, four of them on death row.
Manuel Velez, 49, emerged from Huntsville prison a free man at 11.32 pm CT. He was arrested in 2005, and sentenced to death three years later, for killing a one-year-old who was partially in his care.
But over the years the conviction unraveled. Tests on the victim’s brain showed that Velez could not have caused the child’s head injuries. Further evidence revealed that the defendant, who is intellectually disabled, had suffered from woeful legal representation at trial, and that the prosecutor had acted improperly to sway the jury against him.
Brian Stull, a senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union who has represented Velez since 2009, said that “an innocent man went to death row because the entire system failed him. The defense counsel who are meant to defend him let him down, the prosecutor who is meant to secure justice committed misconduct, and even the judge made errors that were recognized on appeal.”
"Man Freed After Wrongful Convictions for Baby's Death," is by Gregg Zoroya of USA TODAY, via WLTX-TV.
A construction laborer who spent nine years in prison — four on death row — was freed Wednesday after a judge ruled that the man's pro bono lawyers in South Texas did a shoddy job defending him.
"An innocent man went to death row because of a complete system failure," says Brian Stull, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney who represented Manuel Velez, 49, in the successful effort to overturn his 2008 murder conviction.
Velez was convicted and sentenced to death for the 2005 beating death of Angel Moreno, the 1-year-old son of a woman Velez was living with in Brownsville, Texas. The prosecution relied heavily on a timeline asserting that the fatal injuries occurred within the two weeks before the child died. Before those two weeks, Velez had been working in Tennessee for several weeks.
The jury never heard about a prosecution expert's report indicating that autopsy results showed that the critical head injury occurred more than two weeks before the child died.
The death sentence was overturned in 2012 in an appeal arguing that a witness on the subject of Velez's future capacity for being dangerous was no longer credible. The conviction stood.
"Ex-death row inmate from Brownsville released on parole in Texas," is AP coverage, via the Brownsville Herald.
Nearly six years after Manuel Velez was sent to Texas death row for the beating death of his girlfriend's year-old son, the former Brownsville construction worker has walked out of prison.
An appeals court threw out his conviction because of faulty testimony and deficient legal help at his trial, and the 49-year-old Velez in August accepted a plea bargain to a lesser charge, allowing him to be paroled.
His lawyers say he's innocent of the child's death and the plea was a formality to ensure his release.
MSNBC posts, "Innocent Texas man freed after nine years in prison," by Meredith Clark.
A Texas man is free Wednesday after spending nine years in prison for a crime he did not commit, four of them on death row.
Manuel Velez, 49-year-old native Spanish speaker with little knowledge of English and an IQ of 65, was convicted in 2008 of killing his girlfriend’s baby son. Despite evidence that Velez was not with the child when he suffered the injuries that led to his death, and evidence that his girlfriend had been abusive to her children, Velez was found guilty.
After new lawyers took on Velez’s case, they discovered that his original attorney failed to present evidence, both that Velez was in Tennessee when the child was fatally injured, and of his girlfriend’s behavior. Velez’s girlfriend was also charged with capital murder, but she was given a plea deal in exchange for her testimony against Velez.
"Manuel Velez was sentenced to death due to injustices that continue to plague our justice system; only luck saved his life," is the ACLU news release. Here are two excerpts:
At 12:32 PM CT today, Manuel Velez stepped out of the Huntsville Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice as a free man after nine years behind bars, four of them on death row, all for a crime he didn't commit.
"Manuel never belonged in prison, let alone on death row waiting to be executed. He is indisputably innocent,” said Velez's attorney, Brian Stull of the American Civil Liberties Union's Capital Punishment Project. "My joy for him and his family today is tinged with sadness for the years our criminal justice system stole from him, all because he was too poor to afford better counsel than the lawyer the state appointed to him."
In 2008, Maurie Levin, a law professor tracking ongoing capital cases, noticed Velez's case and was concerned that an intellectually disabled man had just been sentenced to death. She alerted the ACLU and the American Bar Association's Capital Representation Project, which in turn recruited Carrington, Coleman, Sloman & Blumenthal, LLP, and Lewis, Roca, Rothberger LLP, whose work was instrumental in proving Velez's innocence. Without Levin's intervention, Velez could still be on death row or dead by lethal injection.
Even after Velez's conviction was overturned, and in the face of overwhelming evidence of his innocence, the State refused to dismiss the murder charge against him unless he took a plea. Velez pleaded no contest to a lesser charge of injury to a child rather than face a new trial that could be plagued by the same injustices that sent him to death row.
Earlier coverage of Manuel Velez' case begins at the link.