Man executed for something he didn't do


Lonely Mountain Arms
Mar 13, 2005
Starksboro, VT
Feedback: 33 / 0 / 0
There was a discussion about the death penalty in another thread and the odds of an innocent man being executed. Just saw this:

From the Washington Post:

Witness Clears Man Executed In Texas for 1985 Slaying

Associated Press
Tuesday, November 22, 2005; Page A02

HOUSTON -- A decade after Ruben Cantu was executed for capital murder, the only witness to the crime is recanting and his co-defendant says Cantu, then 17, was not even with him that night.

The victim was shot nine times with a rifle during an attempted robbery before the gunman shot the only witness.

That witness, Juan Moreno, told the Houston Chronicle for its Sunday editions that Cantu was not the killer. Moreno said he identified him at the 1985 trial because he felt pressured and feared authorities.

Cantu, who had maintained his innocence, was executed on Aug. 24, 1993, at age 26. "Texas murdered an innocent person," co-defendant David Garza said.

Sam D. Millsap Jr., the district attorney who handled the case, said he never should have sought the death penalty in a case based on testimony from a witness who identified a suspect only after police showed him a photo three times.


Now I KNOW someone's going to bring up Charles Manson and Tim McVeigh, so let me just say this: if you can put into place a FOOLPROOF system of making sure that ONLY the guilty get executed, you should be running for office. YES, if there was such a system, I'd again back the death penalty... but until we can do that, my conscience will not let me support it.

Please understand, I've had a friend shot & killed over a BUS TRANSFER, and there's nothing I'd like better than to have seen Mr Michael J. Delcarpine FRY instead of serving 25 to life in Sing Sing (guess I've never gotten over it if I remember the bastard's name and his sentence... and I can still picture the trial, because I attended it). But... until that foolproof system is in place, I can't see any way to do it. Sure, I'd LIKE revenge for Harvey - but try to imagine yourself in the place of that poor bastard who got executed, KNOWING THAT HE DIDN'T DO IT!!!

Well, in my not-so-humble opinion the witness has declared himself a liar.

The problem is, when did he lie? In 1985 or 2005? And why? It's very easy to blame "the authorities".

As far as a "fool-proof" system, please show me a foolproof system in anything that involves human motivations and behavior and we will be glad to work to use it in everything we do.
so if this witness lied I see that this liar is the reason this "innocent" person was killed. So wouldn't this liar now be an accessory to murder? Kill him too.
I'm all for the death penalty. I'm even for making the long drawn out appeal process shorter and less costyl to the tax payers keeping these scumbags alive. Institute the electric couch. [twisted]
FPrice said:
As far as a "fool-proof" system, please show me a foolproof system in anything that involves human motivations and behavior and we will be glad to work to use it in everything we do.

Exactly my point, Frosty... exactly my point.
I have always thought that it would be a cost effective way to keep prisoners kept to have all those that would otherwise be sentenced to life or the death penalty to be "volunteered" for medical experimentation. Though I understand the need for animal experimentation- physiology matters.

I'd trust a drug more that had been tested on people rather than a pig.
Exactly my point, Frosty... exactly my point.

I understand your point, but you have left out one very important part, exactly what do we do with your point?

Taken to it's logical (or illogical) end, we should not do anything because we may end up doing the wrong thing. For example,

"Members of the jury, you cannot convict my client and imprison him because you are not completely sure that he is guilty because some of the witnesses may have lied and to take these years from my client, years which he cannot get back, is wrong."


"Mr Dwarven1, I cannot issue you an LTC or an FID because I cannot be certain that you will not use a firearm in an illegal way or harm another person. And your references may have lied about you. But don't worry, just call 911 and we will come to help you if you are attacked."

Now, I realize that you are talking about the ultimate penalty we can impose on a human being, but once you establish that this cannot be executed (pun not intended) then people will start moving down the scale of punishments (and rights possibly) to use that precedent as an reason why you can't use the next lowest step.

Not knowing the exact case in point it is difficult to know if the death penalty was appropriate in this case or not. But the problem is not so much in the death penalty as an appropriate punishment the fact that the system depends upon the integrity of the people involved. If a key witness lies, then that person is more at fault than the system.
FPrice said:
If a key witness lies, then that person is more at fault than the system.

And you're willing to execute someone on the word of someone who may have lied?

Put it another way:

You're sitting in your living room, cleaning your favorite Glock. Suddenly the door bursts open, spilling in kevlar-vested staties. Since G-d loves you today, they do NOT fill you full of lead because you're holding the Glock, but instead just take you to the floor.

You discover that your ex-girlfriend, the hot one with the belly button piercing, has accused you of being the one who shot 5 people in a stop & rob two weeks ago... the night that you spent with her and passed out after you got good and drunk. (what you don't know is that she's really the one who snuck your favorite Glock out of the safe, went down there to the corner Stop & Rob, shot 5 people, and, since she watches CSI, went and grabbed the videotape out of the surveillance system, not realizing that since it's been cycling through that video recorder for 5 years since it was installed, anyone watching the tapes couldn't tell the difference between Bigfoot and Danny DeVito because the quality is so crummy).

But for whatever reason, the only witness to the crime has accused you of the crime... and since the cashier was 8 months pregnant, there's some serious outrage in the community. Worse, in a mass attack of Republicanism, Bacon Hill had approved Romney's death penalty bill just a week before this happened!

Now... you're innocent and have been convicted of a crime that carries the death penalty. Psychobitch MAY recant in 20 years, after she's safely in Venezuela... but that's not going to mean much to you, will it?

I really can't believe that you all are focusing on the WITNESSES here!


Are you really saying that you don't care if you kill some innocent people by mistake as long as you can kill the some of the guilty ones??

Who decides?? Who made you G-d that you can judge infallibly (there's that word again!) who deserves to live and who deserves to die?

Frosty, your arguments are not parallel to what I'm saying. The standard is "beyond a reasonable doubt". Yes, you can sit in a courtroom and say "he's guilty". You can be sure. And you could be wrong.

This isn't a matter of "what might he do (the LTC example)"; this is more of a matter of "We know that juries, with the best of intentions, have made mistakes. Let's not make the mistakes fatal ones."

Put it still another way.

You served on a jury where you convicted John Q. Teenager of first degree murder. Since Bacon Hill put the death penalty in, you sentenced him to die; it was a particularly heinous crime.

The day after the needle goes in, the 3 witnesses all recanted, saying that it was a plot to get JQT executed.

Are you willing to bear the responsibility of being one of the jurors who convicted him and sentenced him to die... wrongly? Never mind that the 3 perjuror's are now going to get executed - I'm not talking about them.

How are you going to feel with the blood of an innocent on your hands? Could you live with yourself?

Could you deal with the fact that you helped kill a man with a family who will miss him, perhaps a son or daughter who will grow up knowing that the system can't be trusted because it killed his or her father... for something he didn't do?

I couldn't deal with that. And that's why I can't be for the death penalty any more.
Are you really saying that you don't care if you kill some innocent people by mistake as long as you can kill the some of the guilty ones??

Could you deal with the fact that you helped kill a man with a family who will miss him, perhaps a son or daughter who will grow up knowing that the system can't be trusted because it killed his or her father... for something he didn't do?

Ross, anyone else said this and I would tell them that they are acting like a looney liberal who is willing to blame everyone else but the people involved for the problem. The fact that you are trying to pass the blame on to a person who may have been acting in the best possible and honorable manner they could instead of the rather shallow, cowardly, and murderous conspirators you hypothesize is frankly insulting. They (your imaginary conspirators) are the guilty party with blood on their hands, not the honorable citizens they lied to in order to have their dirty work done by the state.

If you are so adamant that we cannot judge other people because we may make a mistake ("Who made you G-d that you can judge infallibly (there's that word again!) who deserves to live and who deserves to die?") then I am sure that you will never use a firearm in self-defense because you would then be judging and quite possibly condemning someone to die who did not deserve to (after all they did not kill you, yet!) and they may not if you are lucky. It would be much better for you to allow such people to do whatever they want to you and any loved ones who may be around because you should not judge lest you make a mistake.

The idea behind crime and punishment is that the punishment should fit the crime. And for certain crimes the only suitable punishment is that the guilty forfeit their lives. Now, if someone deliberately commits a heinous crime, frames an innocent party, and uses both the legal system and me as a surrogate to deprive that person of their life, that person is the guilty party, not me, despite how much you may try to shift the blame to me.

We may have to agree to disagree on this point and go on to other, more agreeable topics.

Just one final comment. Don't ever try to put the blame on me for mistakes that honest people make trying to determine guilt and innocence in a less than perfect world and I won't blame you for all the crimes commited by recidivists who are let go by a system that doesn't want to deal with them.


What I'm trying to get at is this: Until we can write a law that gives us the guidelines to make sure that an innocent person is NEVER executed, I don't think we should be doing executions.

Manson, McVeigh, bin Laden... great; I believe they deserve to die. The guy who guns down a citizen in a robbery, yup, him too. BUT we need a way to ensure we're getting the right guy! Romney is trying to write such a law and get it passed right now; I don't know the details. But if he gets the formula right, then I'm all for it.

I'm not against the death penalty; just against mistakes. And I don't think I'm smart enough to set up the correct criteria to keep us from making that mistake even with the best of intentions.

I guess I don't have very much faith in the criminal justice system; I've seen a friend get screwed by an overzealous DA trying to make a name. So I may tend to worry more about the poor innocent schmuck who gets caught up in it. As a technician, in my professional life, I tend to try and make things foolproof; I want to see the death penalty set up the same way: foolproof.

Not trying to insult you, Frosty... I was trying to get you to look at it not from the point of view of "that guy killed X many people and deserves to die" but from "how the hell did I wind up in this cell if I didn't do anything?". Depending on which side of the cell bard you are, it makes a big difference how you feel about it.

This case is WHY I have reservations about Capital Punishment.

In this case, they executed a man, based on non-credible testimony.

I believe in Executions, IF all of the following conditions are met.

1. Caught at the scene.

2. Reliable 3rd party witness. An LEO or fellow perp are NOT 3rd Party. Said witness has to be 100% credible. I'd bet that everyone that posts here qualifies as credible.

3. 100% (ZERO DOUBT) that the perp is the correct person, and committed the crime.

I am glad to see that we are still on speaking terms despite being on (seemingly) opposite sides of a bitterly contested issue.

Several years back, during another discussion on another forum about the same issue I was asked if there was any punishment I would consider in place of the death penalty. I did come up with one.

Solitary confinement. In a cell that is decorated with pictures of the victim(s) which cannot be defaced or covered up by the prisoner. Can you imagine a Timothy McVeigh surrounded 24 hours a day by pictures of the 163 (is that the correct number?) people he killed in the Oklahoma City bombing?

I could possibly accept that as an alternative punishment for someone who is truly guilty.
Sounds like a good punishment to me... unless he's one of those sickos who get off on seeing his victims.

I'm not against the death penalty - I just don't want to see it used unless it's foolproof. That's my only reservation.

If someone gets shot while committing a crime... well, sorry, pal, but you were caught in the act. No doubt about guilt there. Hell, catch a rapist in the act, far as I'm concerned, hand the gun to the victim and let her do it! (could be very therapeutic!)

I'm just concerned with not making a mistake, that's all.

Yup, Ross, another issue where we agree.

I'm all for executions, if we make sure we have the right perp.

No one wants to execute an innocent person. Make that no sane, sensible, responsible individual wants to execute an innocent person.

But where I get a little testy is with those who use this issue as an attack on the death penalty to try to abolish it.
On that Frosty, I agree as well.

I'm a BIG believer in the Death Penalty, for certain crimes, under the restrictions I posted earlier.

It may not deter others from commiting crimes, but, the executed perp will never commit another crime.
LUCASVILLE, Ohio - Ohio carried out the nation's 999th execution since 1977 on Tuesday, putting to death a man who strangled his mother-in-law while high on cocaine and later killed his 5-year-old stepdaughter to cover up the crime.

John Hicks, 49, was put to death a day after Eric Nance was executed in Arkansas for killing a teenager by slashing her throat with a box cutter.

The 1,000th execution since the death penalty was reinstated is likely to come as soon as Wednesday, when Robin Lovitt is set to die in Virginia for fatally stabbing a man with scissors during a pool hall robbery.

On Monday, Gov. Bob Taft had refused to commute Hicks' sentence from death to life in prison, said Andrea Dean, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

Hicks offered a tearful apology for the 1985 murders in an interview earlier this month with Ohio Parole Board members, and said he loved both victims — 56-year-old Maxine Armstrong and 5-year-old Brandy Green. He detailed the killings and said his cocaine high made him desperate and paranoid.

Hicks had traded his VCR for about $50 worth of cocaine, court records show. After taking the drugs, he realized that he needed to get the VCR back before his wife wondered where it was, so he decided to steal money from Armstrong.

Hicks found his stepdaughter asleep on the couch at Armstrong's apartment. He woke her and brought her to bed and then strangled Armstrong, first with his hands and then with a clothesline.

He left her apartment with about $300 and some credit cards. He used some of the money to buy back his VCR and purchase more cocaine.

Realizing Green could identify him as the last person at the apartment, he returned and attempted to suffocate the 5-year-old with a pillow then strangle her with his hands. She struggled, and Hicks covered her mouth and nose with duct tape.

He left Cincinnati, but turned himself in to police in Knoxville, Tenn.

Hicks was the fourth person executed in Ohio this year and the 19th since the state resumed executions in 1999.

No doubt about this guy; he admitted doing it.

That's all I ask - some way to KNOW. No circumstancial evidence need apply.
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