USA - Texas. Attempts to stop the execution of Ivan Cantu

USA - Ivan Cantu (TX)

26 February 2024 :

February 22, 2024 - Texas. Attempts to stop the execution of Ivan Cantu
Scheduled for February 28
Ivan Cantu, now 50, White, is scheduled to be executed on February 28, 2024, although Texas courts have refused to consider new evidence in his case that may prove he was wrongfully convicted. Mr. Cantu was sentenced to death in Collin County for the murder of his cousin and his cousin’s fiancée in November 2000. Texas scheduled an execution date for Mr. Cantu in April 2023, but a last-minute appeal describing new evidence of false witness testimony provided grounds for a stay of execution. However, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (TCCA) overturned the stay and dismissed Mr. Cantu’s request for an evidentiary hearing four months later without explaining its reasons. In more recent court filings, Mr. Cantu’s attorneys argue that numerous issues in his case warrant a new trial, including the recantation of a key witness.
Sister Helen Prejean and the actor Martin Sheen are among those calling for Mr. Cantu’s execution to be halted. At a press conference earlier this week, Sister Helen Prejean said, “There was not fairness at this trial. All we’re asking is [to] delay the execution of Ivan Cantu long enough to be able to have a hearing and an inquiry into the new evidence that’s been presented.”
At trial, the prosecution relied heavily on the testimony of Amy Boettcher, Mr. Cantu’s then-fiancée, who testified that he committed the murders, took her to the scene of the crime, and then took her on a trip to Arkansas. Law enforcement said they found one of the victim’s cars outside of Mr. Cantu’s apartment the following day, as well as bloody pants matching the victims’ DNA in Mr. Cantu’s trash can. Ms. Boettcher also testified that she disposed of Mr. Cantu’s bloody clothing after the murder and said that he had thrown the Rolex watch of one of the victims out of his moving car as they drove out of town. Ms. Boettcher’s brother, Jeff Boettcher, also testified against Mr. Cantu. He told the jury that Mr. Cantu told him about the murders before they happened and later recruited him to help clean up the crime scene. Mr. Cantu has maintained his innocence since his arrest, arguing that his cousin was killed by a local drug dealer and rival and that police planted evidence.
New evidence uncovered by a private investigator and others now casts doubt on the validity of Mr. Cantu’s conviction. In 2019, Mr. Cantu’s legal team discovered that police recovered the victim’s Rolex watch after finding it in his home and returning it to his family, shortly after the murder. In 2020, the police officer who performed a wellness check on Mr. Cantu, requested by his mother after she heard his cousin was killed, signed an affidavit stating she did not see bloody clothes in Mr. Cantu’s trash can. Neither Mr. Cantu nor Ms. Boettcher were home during the wellness check, as they were in Arkansas. After Ms. Boettcher died in 2021, her brother Jeff called Collin County investigators and recanted his trial testimony. Speaking with an investigator and attorney in 2022, Mr. Boettcher told them that he lied and admitted that he was not reliable at the time of trial, since he was out of state during the murder and was a frequent drug user. He reiterated his remorse for helping place Mr. Cantu on death row.
Mr. Cantu’s attorney, Gena Bunn, who has been his counsel for 15 years, has repeatedly attempted to persuade a court to hear the new evidence. Ms. Bunn filed another request in January 2024, asking the Court to reexamine ballistic evidence used to secure Mr. Cantu’s conviction. Independent investigators and experts have now concluded from their own ballistic experiments that there is reason to doubt the forensic report introduced at trial. Ms. Bunn also argued that Mr. Cantu did not have adequate trial defense counsel. “They did not even have a defense investigator,” Ms. Bunn told the Texas Tribune “Even considering how capital representation was 20 years ago, still that blows my mind.” 
Sister Prejean is leading a rally on February 22nd at the Collin County courthouse to demand a hearing. She said that if the execution isn’t halted she’ll be at Cantu’s side as he dies. “He’s asked me to be with him if they execute him, and to pray with him,” Sister Prejean said. “But there’s no way I’m just going to be with this man and pray with him and ease him into eternity without doing everything I know to do to resist this death. Because there’s so many wrongs that have been done.”


other news