A Texas lawmaker is calling for a state body to review a 20-year-old death-penalty case with hopes that it will spark judicial reforms aimed at reducing wrongful executions. Houston senator Rodney Ellis wants the nine-member Criminal Justice Advisory Council to study the capital murder trial of Ruben Cantu, a San Antonio man who was executed in 1993 for a fatal shooting during an attempted robbery nine years earlier.
The lone witness whose testimony implicated Cantu has recently recanted in a Houston Chronicle article. An incarcerated co-defendant also exonerated him, and the Chronicle story cited other evidence casting doubt on the case.
"The reality that Texas may have executed an innocent man should shock us all into action," Ellis, a council member, said in a prepared statement Wednesday. "If the facts we now have are accurate, this was a catastrophic failure of the entire Texas criminal justice system and demands investigation."
So far this year, 19 persons have been put to death in Texas, the United States' busiest death chamber. Shannon Thomas was the last person executed in Texas, on Nov. 15. There are four executions planned in about a week's time in December.
Kathy Walt, the governor's spokeswoman, said Perry won't comment until after seeing the results of an investigation into the case by Bexar County District Attorney Susan Reed.
"It's too early to say whether those are valid claims 20 years after the fact," Walt said. "It's certainly not the first time that, post-execution, an individual has done this." Reed told the Chronicle Wednesday that she was most concerned with determining whether criminal behavior led to a wrongful execution, informs the AP. N.U.
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