In the audio excerpt from one deposition, included below, I had the opportunity to question a lead detective on a murder investigation that led to the conviction and imprisonment of an innocent man–as well as a guilty man walking free.
There was no evidence to connect my client to the brutal beating death of a Vietnam Veteran in El Paso, Texas, who lived out of his car. Instead, according to investigators, he was investigated for the murder because he had once been caught as a teenager shoplifting a pair of blue jeans with another person whose nickname was spray painted on a building near the murder.
Here is another “let that sink in” moment. Police find a name spray painted on a building near where a murder takes place. They run this name through their database and identify an individual. Then they look up this individual’s arrest record and find out he was once picked up for shoplifting jeans with a second person. Then the police arrest the second individual, my client, and not even the guy whose name was spray painted on the building.
At least, that is how the investigation was explained.
The problem for the police? Well, aside from a complete lack of evidence, a day after arresting my client they received a Crime Stopper’s tip about the murder. Another man–who lived near where the murder occurred–had shown up at his neighbor’s house, covered in blood, on the night of the murder and confessed.
The neighbor called and turned this other person in. He was arrested and brought in for questioning. After his fingerprints were compared to those taken from murder scene, police found a match! But after a couple hours of questioning, investigators let him go.
You see, after hours of questioning and threats, police had already obtained a written confession from a third individual who stated that he and my client had committed the murder. It did not matter that this third person did not even know my client. It did not matter that he immediately recanted the confession. It did not matter that there was no evidence to prove the story.
Police had made an arrest and that is all they needed. Listen as the lead investigator attempts to justify his actions, here:
The co-defendant who signed the confession implicating my client would later be found “not guilty” by a jury for the murder. He was fortunate enough to hire a good attorney that discovered that the police were already aware another person likely committed the crime and had evidence to connect him to the victim.
My client’s defense attorney was not as keen. Neither the police nor the prosecution ever shared the story of the Crime Stopper’s tip with him and a jury never heard anything but that someone confessed to committing the murder with my client.
Years later, while pursuing this case for my client, my private investigator and I tracked down the other person who had been seen covered in blood and whose fingerprints were found at the scene. He had, by that time, moved to Florida and was living in a large house on the beach. We also tracked down and spoke to the Crime Stopper’s informant. This information was turned over to police.
As of this time, no additional arrests have been made and the murder is currently unsolved.