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Freeing the San Antonio Four

Photo: Michael Barajas, License: N/A

Michael Barajas

Anna Vasquez planned on attending nursing school when she was arrested at age 19; Cassandra "Cassie" Rivera was raising two young children when arrested at age 19; Elizabeth Ramirez was 20 years old and pregnant when arrested; Kristie Mayhuh, arrested at age 21, was studying to become a veterinarian.

Video of the second interview, where the daughter repeats the story of assault, shows "the grandmother glaring at [the girl] behind the interviewer's back."

Murphey called the investigator's questions "inappropriate," saying, "They are misleading, and as a matter of fact, the investigator tells her, 'Your father hurt you.'"

Asked if she was surprised by the lack of professionalism on the tape, Murphey said, "I'm outraged, quite frankly."


Outside Navarijo's court hearing this month, Rico Valdez, chief of the Bexar County DA's appellate division, confirmed he is in discussions with Mike Ware of the Innocence Project of Texas regarding the San Antonio Four (though Ware has yet to file for a court hearing re-evaluating the case). But he contends there are "types of situations that can cause a victim to recant untruthfully," and that Kellogg's testimony in Navarijo's trial was "strong scientific evidence" that was heavily litigated. "I haven't heard anything yet to make me question it." The real question is whether the judge, and, ultimately the Court of Criminal Appeals, believes the daughter's testimony was more credible this month, or when she took the stand as a child in 1999.

Jeff Mulliner, a prosecutor on Navarijo's case, disagrees. Now a criminal defense attorney, Mulliner doesn't give much weight to the recent recantation. "If the only thing was [the daughter] recanting, I'd be like, well, no," he said. "I talked to her at the time, I believed her, and I can think of a hundred reasons why somebody within the last 14 years, with all that family pressure, would come out and say this evil grandmother is the reason I said everything that I said."

Mulliner's more troubled by questions over Kellogg's testimony, which labeled the forensics definitive evidence of child sexual assault, when the science both then and now may not support it. "If the jury had not heard with such clarity from Nancy [Kellogg] that this was definitive, then all the other inconsistencies and arguments the defense made didn't have a fair opportunity of being considered," Mulliner said.

There's indication Kellogg's testimony carried enormous weight as jurors struggled with their decision. A note from jurors during deliberations shows they questioned whether Garza coerced the girl into making the charges. But it was the physical evidence that swayed the jury, recalled juror Monica Moreno in an interview last month with the Current. "That just showed us the real damage that had been done to that poor little girl."

In the Navarijo case, Eddleman, who directs the child abuse evaluation team at Driscoll Children's Hospital, contends Kellogg "stepped away from providing the medical findings to providing an answer for the prosecution's case."

"Certainly the defense community over time has come to form at least a general opinion that Nancy Kellogg is really an advocate as opposed to a scientist," said Mulliner.

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