On October 8th, Manuel Velez, who once faced execution by the State of Texas, was released from prison in Huntsville. After 9 years, he will be reunited with his family. His freedom is a tremendous outcome in a case that has endured numerous legal twists and turns over the years. Last year, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned the conviction of Velez, who was sentenced to death in Cameron County in 2008 for the death of one-year-old Angel Gabriel Moreno. The baby was the child of Mr. Velez’s then-girlfriend, who served five years of a ten-year sentence for her role in the baby’s tragic death. The court agreed with a state district judges assessment that Mr. Velez’s defense attorneys failed to present critical medical evidence of injuries the baby sustained in the weeks and months before his death – injuries that Mr. Velez could not have caused as he was working on a construction site in Tennessee at the time.
The case of Manuel Velez is yet another example of the many things that can go wrong with the death penalty, including incompetent legal counsel, an unreliable and unrecorded police statement, prosecutorial misconduct, shoddy science, and false testimony. It’s time to wake up to the realities of the failed death penalty system.