71ºF

Actual innocence claim may be available to 2 TDCJ inmates freed on bond by San Antonio judge

Inmates' conviction was based on flawed evidence; Texas Court of Criminal Appeals evaluating case

SAN ANTONIO – After it was revealed that an informant had “planted” evidence that led to the conviction of John Cape, 49, and Louie Garcia, 48, on drug charges, District Court Judge Velia Meza ordered both men released on bond Thursday.

The case has been forwarded to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals for review.

Among the court’s options are to make a finding of actual innocence under the state’s Actual Innocence Law.

“It’s an avenue of relief that a defendant can file once they’ve been convicted," Court of Criminal Appeals Court Judge Bert Richardson said. “It is available whether they’re in prison, on probation or on parole. There’s a lot of ground to cover outside the legal world by just finding new evidence, whatever that evidence might be. Whether it’s new scientific evidence or whether it’s new legal evidence.”

After reviewing the evidence, it is up to the appeals court to set aside the conviction with a declaration of actual innocence.

“They’re entitled to $85,000 a year for every year they’ve been wrongfully imprisoned. They’re entitled to an annuity that goes along with that, as well as health and educational benefits," Richardson said.

The defendants are also eligible to have their record expunged.

“It’s a long road, to be quite honest. It takes many months and sometimes longer than that,” Richardson said.

Despite the obstacles, the number of defendants seeking the declaration continues to grow, he said.


About the Authors: