By: Lily Hughes
Campaign to End the Death Penalty
Monday, March 17, 2014
The 5th Circuit Court has released an opinion denying relief to innocent Texas death row prisoner Louis Castro Perez. Many folks will be familiar with the case through Louis’ sister, Delia Perez Meyer, who sits on the board of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty.
Delia has been a tireless advocate for her brother and all death row prisoners. She has travelled the world in the fight to win death penalty abolition. For some time, Louis has been fighting to win DNA testing of several items found at the crime scene that contain the DNA of an unknown person, including on a bloody towel wrapped around a knife found at the crime scene!
The latest appeal for Louis was based on an issue of ineffective assistance of counsel. The 5th Circuit had previously rendered a judgement denying Louis relief. His lawyer then had 30 days to respond, however, she failed to respond to a 30 day deadline for filing a new motion with the district court. In fact this attorney received notification of the deadline and without alerting Louis or the other consulting attorney on the case, she decided on her own not to respond to the motion, effectively abandoning her client.
We will continue to fight for justice for Louis Castro Perez and against any execution date!
Justice for Louis Castro Perez… TEST ALL THE DNA!
Louis Castro Perez has been on Texas’ death row since 1999 for the 1998 murders of Cynda Barz, Stacy Mitchell, and Michelle Fulweiler. Louis was convicted based on his DNA being found at the crime scene. The presence of his DNA is explained by the fact that he was a guest in the home and likely interrupted the crime in progress. There were also several samples of foreign DNA and foreign fingerprints found at the scene that were never tested, and no attempt was made to match the foreign DNA to another suspect. Like so many who languish on death row, Louis is the victim of a sinister combination of prosecutorial misconduct and crime lab incompetence.
- 43 unidentified fingerprints were discovered at the scene of the crime and never tested.
- Unknown DNA was identified on a rag wrapped around a knife at the scene of the crime, as well as on a towel near one of the victims. Crime scene investigators admitted under oath that the Austin Police Department sent this material to DPS and asked them to only look for Louis’ DNA.
- During the investigation, the state failed to honor an agreement with the defense that would mandate both sides’ presence at any tests that could destroy DNA evidence. On two occasions, investigators exhausted DNA evidence found at the crime scene without ever notifying the defense.
- Crime Scene Specialist Michelle Thompson testified that three possible murder weapons were found at the scene of the crime: a Comal, a telephone cord, and a pair of pantyhose. None of these items held any evidence of Louis’ DNA or fingerprints.
- Louis’ case coincided with the disgraceful tenure of Robert Bayardo at the Travis County Crime Labs, in which he practiced without proper medical licensing, systematically mismanaged evidence, and sold human body parts on the black market.
- Individuals in the courtroom observed various members of the jury and the judge sleeping during the trial. Furthermore, presiding Judge Jon Wisser pushed for a speedy trial because he wanted to go on vacation.
Louis’ appeal is reaching it’s final stages. He has always maintained his innocence. A law passed during the 82nd legislative session guarantees the right to post-conviction DNA testing when requested by the defendant, and in particular testing of unidentified DNA at the crime scene. Texas authorities need to pursue the testing of the foreign DNA in accordance with state law to ensure that an innocent person is not executed!
JUSTICE FOR LOUIS CASTRO PEREZ!
Campaign the End the Death Penalty