Manuel Velez was sentenced to death in 2008 for the murder of a 1-year-old boy based on the false testimony of his live-in girlfriend and mother of the child. The woman, Acela Moreno, failed to admit she had separately pleaded guilty to inflicting her son with head injuries the day he died. Medical experts made clear these injuries were consistent with those that led to the child’s death. At Velez’s trial, Moreno testified she pleaded guilty not to committing violence against the child but rather to having failed to alert authorities that Velez had allegedly been hurting the child.
The special prosecutor in the case negotiated the plea deal with Moreno and so knew she was covering up her own abuse of the child; indeed, he told the judge presiding at Moreno’s plea that she had injured the child. But at Velez’s trial, he did nothing to set the record straight. He then presented Moreno’s false testimony as fact during closing arguments, repeating that she was guilty only of having failed to alert authorities.
Today the ACLU argued before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals that Velez should be given a new trial because serious misconduct by the prosecutor led to his capital conviction despite grave questions about his guilt. We should never be comfortable with sending a man to his death when we know that the state has relied on falsehood to convict him.
Our death penalty system is riddled with problems and it results in too many mistakes. The execution of even one innocent person is too many. We can’t let it happen again. You can help: go here to end the death penalty in your state.