DALLAS – LAWFUEL – The Legal Newswire – A Littlefield, TX judge has recommended new trials for two indigent Mexican nationals who have spent the last 11 years in prison on life sentences for the Aug. 6, 1996 killing of a Panhandle convenience store clerk.
The findings of fact and conclusions of law from 154th District Judge Felix Klein in Lamb County have been filed with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which defense lawyers expect will order new trials for defendants Alberto Sifuentes and Jesus Ramirez. The two men were convicted in 1998 for murdering Evangelina “Angie” Cruz, attendant at the Jolly Roger convenience store just off Texas Highway 84 in Littlefield northwest of Lubbock.
“This is a great day for these two men who are finally on the verge of vindication for a crime they could never have committed,” said Dallas-based attorney Barry McNeil, who has led the five-year Haynes and Boone, LLP pro bono fight for Mr. Sifuentes, 34, and Mr. Ramirez, 59. ”It is inconceivable that the prosecutors would retry these cases. There is simply no evidence of any wrongdoing by our clients. They weren’t even there.”
The defense team – McNeil, Ron Breaux, Sarah Teachout and former Haynes and Boone associate Ashley Brown Duffie – had argued during a 2005 habeas corpus hearing that Mr. Sifuentes and Mr. Ramirez were convicted based on false testimony by a questionable eyewitness.
The night Ms. Cruz was shot nine times and killed, Mr. Sifuentes and Mr. Ramirez were stopped by authorities while returning home to Muleshoe from a Lubbock bar. No evidence was discovered linking the men to the crime and they did not match the description Ms. Cruz gave of her assailants as she lay dying. They were allowed to leave.
Sifuentes and Ramirez only became the prime suspects the following day when an acquaintance inquired about a Crime Stoppers reward. After that, a bungled photo lineup and testimony from a mistaken eyewitness resulted in the convictions, the Haynes and Boone trial lawyers contended.
The Klein “findings of fact” concluded the defendants were denied their constitutional rights when the trial juries were never informed:
• about the existence of a known alibi witness, Pauline Robles, who would have testified the defendants were at a Lubbock nightclub at the time of the murder;
• that evidence implicated two brothers who matched the victim’s description of her attackers;
• and that critical evidence that could have led the jury to doubt the defendants’ guilt was never investigated.
The latest news and background on this case can be found at Innocent In Texas.com. Interviews with members of the defense team can be scheduled by contacting Doug Bedell by email or at 214.651.5815.
Haynes and Boone, LLP is an international corporate law firm with offices in Texas, New York, Washington, D.C., Mexico City and Moscow, providing a full spectrum of legal services. With more than 450 attorneys, Haynes and Boone is ranked among the largest law firms in the nation by The National Law Journal. The firm has been recognized by Vault.com as one of the “20 Best Law Firms to Work For,” by Corporate Board Member Magazine as one of the “Best Corporate Law Firms in America,” and has received the Minority Corporate Counsel Association’s Thomas L. Sager Award for its commitment to diversity.