SAN ANTONIO – The Bexar County Conviction Integrity Unit helped three people clear their names after an informant’s planted drugs led to their convictions, the district attorney’s office announced Wednesday.
John Gabriel Cape, Louie Garcia and Rexina Linan-Juarez, were arrested in August 2017 after a confidential informant’s tip led to a raid of their home. All three were charged with possession of a controlled substance between 4-200 grams, a second-degree felony.
Despite maintaining their innocence, the three accepted plea deals in 2018. Cape said he accepted the deal because it allowed his girlfriend, Linan-Juarez, whose health was failing, to avoid prison time. Garcia accepted the plea deal so he wouldn’t receive a longer sentence, according to the news release.
“Ultimately we realized while working on this that this is a really good lesson on why innocent people take pleas,” said Conviction Integrity Unit Director Matthew Howard.
Linan-Juarez was placed on deferred adjudication, while Cape was sentenced to 10 years in prison and Garcia was sentenced to 8 years in prison.
In 2020, prosecutors received information that the same confidential informant lied when he provided information in a separate case.
“The defendant in that new case provided proof that the confidential informant had planted the drugs – just as Linan-Juarez, Cape, and Garcia had claimed,” according to a news release from the district attorney’s office.
Hours before they were raided, the three had claimed a man came up to the home with a girl he said was his daughter and begged to use the bathroom. Officers showed up after the man’s visit with a search warrant, going straight to the bathroom and finding the contraband.
After receiving this information, the office’s Conviction Integrity Unit requested attorneys represent the three in their appeal efforts.
“It is my belief that it is the obligation of every assistant district attorney in this office not to prosecute, but to seek justice, and that’s exactly what we are doing in this case,” said Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales.
While Cape and Garcia were exonerated in July by the Court of Criminal Appeals, Linan-Juarez died in hospice care days before her expected exoneration in November 2020.
“We don’t know for sure how aware she was of her finding that she’s innocent and her exoneration,” Howard said. “But at least her family is aware of it. So it’s kind of a bittersweet moment.”
Gonzales confirmed that they notified the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office about the informant, in case he was used in other prosecutions in the past. But Gonzales would not confirm whether they will seek perjury charges for the informant’s false information.
“There may be a potential to complete an investigation, but again, I can’t disclose anything at this time,” Gonzales said.
Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar issued the following statement:
“I commend the district attorneys office for taking a proactive approach and righting a wrong. Informants are vital to the work our deputies perform, but great care must be taken to ensure informants work within the law.”