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Illegal injections: How Texas is breaking the law, one execution at a time

Photo: Courtesy photo, License: N/A, Created: 2011:04:11 10:43:02

Courtesy photo

Humberto Leal Jr. visiting with Sister Germaine Corbin last month at the TDCJ’s death-row unit in Huntsville, Texas.

Photo: Courtesy: Texas Department of Criminal Justice, License: N/A

Courtesy: Texas Department of Criminal Justice


Babcock, however, argues that Guerrero, formerly a public defender who has since walked away from capital murder cases, was part of an appallingly poor defense team — something she says would have been remedied had the Mexican consulate been involved. Records from the State Bar of Texas show Guerrero has been suspended or reprimanded for faulty defense multiple times, both before and after Leal’s trial. Guerrero, who has since shifted his focus to immigration cases, said, “I mean, we were court-appointed. Anytime you’re court-appointed, there are several problems, hoops you have to jump through.” Guerrero said the defense never had the resources to call its own expert witnesses to analyze or challenge the prosecution’s evidence, and admitted that the involvement of the Mexican consulate could have likely changed the case.

Records show investigators found no blood on the jeans, boots, socks, or T-shirt Leal wore the night of the murder, nor did investigators find blood on the floor mats of his car. What the prosecution called a “minute” spot of blood on Leal’s underwear was the sole piece of DNA discovered and admitted as evidence against him during the trial: blood, the prosecution argued, that “could only have come from Adria Sauceda.”

Elizabeth Johnson, a forensic scientist formerly with the Harris County Medical Examiner’s Office hired by Babcock to review the DNA testimony and original test results, stated the prosecution’s interpretation of the DNA at trial was misleading at best, and said those results neither eliminated nor confirmed that the blood belonged to the victim.

In an affidavit in Leal’s appeal to re-test the DNA, Johnson stated the technology used 16 years ago is now outmoded, saying the state should re-test the evidence. Though it denied Leal’s appeal, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals wrote in 2009, “[W]ith the science available at the time of trial in 1994, no one could credibly say that an unknown blood sample came from a given individual.”

 

 

Junk science

Apart from DNA evidence, Leal’s lawyers insist his capital murder conviction was buttressed by pieces of dubious evidence that should have been questioned by his initial defense team.

One of the most alarming pieces of the story surrounding the murder is witness testimony that Sauceda was gang-raped the night of the party. The state’s own witnesses threw some of the darkest shadows over the case, claiming that the severely intoxicated victim was taken to the backyard and repeatedly assaulted before Leal arrived. One of the state’s witnesses even heard one of the men crudely encouraging partygoers to stick a bottle, or some other object, inside the victim — a gruesome foreshadowing of what would later befall the teenage girl.

The witnesses, under oath, also recalled Leal being furious when he drove up and learned of the rape, yelling, “Why? Why? Why did you let them do this?” and fighting with some of the other men.

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