by RUBY AUJLA
Manuel Velez, now 49, has been freed from a Texas prison, where he stayed for nine years. He was originally convicted for murdering a year-old infant, but the conviction was overturned, as Velez did not commit the crime.. Four of the nine years Velez spent in prison were on death row.
Velez has an IQ of 65 and is illiterate in English and Spanish. He was represented in court by the American Civil Liberties Union, whose attorneys stated that Velez had not committed any sort of crime. Lack of evidence to prove that Velez was nearly a thousand miles away working on construction at the time of the infant’s murder and a state prison expert’s testimony to persuade the jury that Velez was a danger to the public if freed contributed to Velez’s death penalty.
The murdered infant was the son of Velez’s then-girlfriend, Acela Moreno. In October 2005, Moreno pleaded guilty to charges of intentionally or knowingly causing the death of her child. She took a plea-bargain offer and was sentenced to ten years in prison for the act. Velez was convicted of capital murder, earning him a death sentence.
With the American Civil Liberties Union defending Velez, Velez chose not to accept a lesser charge of injury to the child to avoid repeating the same injustices in court. Velez’s attorneys claimed that the jury made no effort to actually find Velez innocent of murder and was too focused on the death penalty instead. Fortunately, Velez is now a free man after nine years in prison; unfortunately, the years of injustice in courts cannot be erased.