How judges, probate attorneys, and guardianship orgs abuse the vulnerable

How judges, probate attorneys, and guardianship orgs abuse the vulnerable

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Newsmonger: Got hope? Bexar health statistics still unequal, Innocence case gaining traction

Photo: Michael barajas, License: N/A

Michael barajas

Anna Vasquez

But this year one of the victims came forward to say the crime never happened. And, as the E-N outlined in an explosive 2010 piece, the forensics used to convict the four women were deeply flawed.

This past week it was announced Vasquez, after serving nearly all of her 15-year term, is set to be released on parole just as mounting evidence pointing to the women's innocence has led to a growing movement to free them and clear their names.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice last week set Vasquez's release for November 2. Vasquez's mother, Maria Vasquez, and family members of the other convicted women attended a fundraising event at Our Lady of the Lake University Saturday, where Austin-based filmmaker Deborah Esquenazi screened portions of her documentary on the case, tentatively titled "San Antonio Four," that's in the works. "I'm going to cook her a big breakfast," said Maria Vasquez of her daughter's pending release. "Huevos rancheros with chile and tortilla.

She hasn't had a good breakfast in 13 years."

The Current recently visited the women in prison. Each was in a same-sex relationship when they were accused, and each felt homophobia played a part in securing their conviction — even though research shows lesbians are not predisposed to sexually abusing young girls. The

Alliance at OLLU helped sponsor Saturday's screening, which raised money for the documentary and the women's legal fund.

Mike Ware, an attorney with the Innocence Project of Texas who's worked on the women's case for over a year, said he met with head of the appellate division at the Bexar County DA's office two weeks ago, and that talks about how to move forward with the case are ongoing. The head of the DA's appellate division attended part of Saturday's screening and briefly met with Ware, he said. "[The DA's office] vowed complete cooperation, vowed they were only interested in the truth and justice," Ware said.

Vasquez's release was still up in the air as of last month. She had been granted parole, but refused to comply with part of the pre-release conditions that required her to admit to and talk openly about the crime in group therapy sessions.

Vasquez, Mayhugh, and Rivera have all refused to take part in those therapy sessions. Each said they've been disciplined for doing so. Ramirez, pegged the ringleader in the crime, was sentenced to 37 and a half years in prison.

Ware said recent polygraph results sent to the parole board's general counsel may have secured Vasquez's release. The polygraph, he said, helped prove "why [Vasquez] couldn't stand up and participate in discussions in therapy." But Vasquez's parole comes with restrictions — like registering as a sex offender. "It's not exoneration," Ware said, "but it's definitely better than being locked in a cage."

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