In recent years, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has halted numerous executions. The last execution of 2017 was no exception.
In November, the court stayed the execution of Juan Castillo scheduled for December 14. His case was sent back to the trial court to look into claims of false testimony.
The 36-year-old was sentenced to death in the 2003 robbery and murder of Tommy Garcia Jr. in San Antonio, the Texas Tribune reported. Prosecutors said Castillo and three other people wanted to rob Garcia after they took him to a secluded area with the promise of sex with a female accomplice. Garcia tried to run but Castillo shot him dead, according to the accomplices.
At his trial, Gerardo Gutierrez, a witness who bunked near Castillo in the Bexar County Jail, claimed Castillo had confessed to the crime when locked up. However, in 2013, Gutierrez signed an affidavit in which he said he lied.
Castillo lost a previous appeal. That did not stop the Court of Criminal Appeals ruling his case is now applicable for further review.
The Court of Appeals previously ruled it was a constitutional violation when the prosecution knowingly obtained a conviction by using a false testimony. In a case in 2009, the court ruled even if prosecutors are not aware of the false nature of the testimony, this still violates the defendant’s right to due process.
The court ruled:
“Although the present case involves unknowing, rather than knowing, use of testimony, we see no reason for subjecting the two types of errors to different standards of harm.”
In recent years, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has halted an increasing number of executions.
In 2016, the Tribune noted a hiatus of more than five months in executions in the Lone Star State, the longest gap since 2008. The gap nine years ago reflected a nationwide pause in executions as the U.S. Supreme Court looked at the constitutionality of lethal injections.
Last year, a combination of rescheduling and better criminal defense attorney practices, appeared to have slowed the series of executions. However, Texas moved ahead with executions in 2018, executing three Death Row inmates by February.
Although executions have slowed in Texas in line with many other states, it continues to put more people to death than nearly every other state in any given year.
Texas has executed almost five times as many people as the state with the second-most executions, Oklahoma, stated the Death Penalty Information Center.
If you have been charged with a serious offense like a homicide in Texas you should contact an experienced Austin murder defense lawyer at (512) 474-4445.