1993: Ruben Cantu, an innocent child?

On this date in 1993, Texas gave a lethal injection to a young man for murder — a crime many involved in the case no longer believe he committed, since the sole witness against him has recanted.

Ruben Cantu was only 17 years old at the time of the crime, and for that reason would not be eligible for execution today. But according to a Houston Chronicle investigation (the story is also mirrored here) 12 years after his death, he shouldn’t have been eligible then because he might not have done it. Cantu himself may have kept a street code of silence to his death.

Lise Olsen — interviewed by NPR here — blew up the case; Cantu’s jury forewoman and the district attorney who tried him for his life are among those who have publicly regretted their roles in what has emerged one of the most compelling cases of an executed innocent in the modern American death penalty era. Nobody could possibly have predicted that pitiable public defender resources and an extremely aggressive capital punishment regime could result in such a thing.

The subsequent (and still current) Bexar County District Attorney checked it out (threatening to prosecute the recanting witness) and declared everything proper. So don’t worry about it. What could she possibly have to gain from a whitewash?