Articles Posted in Presumption of Innocence

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A local man’s hung jury trial highlights that children are more than capable of making false accusations of sexual abuse. San Antonio, Texas resident Vaughn Ernesto Manibog was accused by a 13-year-old of inappropriately touching her after supplying her with cocaine and alcohol. During the trial, the defense attorney provided evidence that the teen bragged about the allegations on her MySpace page. In addition, Manibog had an alibi for the weekend that the alleged abuse took place. The girl’s brother is currently serving probation for falsely accusing a teacher of sexual assault. Manibog’s case ended in a mistrial. The judge in this case also allowed another alleged victim to testify, although Mr. Manibog was not indicted on charges against her.

This is neither an isolated incident nor a strictly local occurrence. All over the nation, more and more people are facing false accusations of sexual misconduct against children. In May of this year felony molesting charges against a Pensacola, FL, music teacher were dropped when a Child Protection Team determined that the 10-year-old accuser made up the story. According to a statement by the accused, he expressed dismay over the fact that nobody believed him, even with the lack of evidence. More recently, a couple in Orange County, NY, filed a suit against the county and the local school district over false child abuse accusations. Their lawsuit is a rare event in the face of false allegations.
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The recent release of Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley, and Jason Baldwin (also known as the West Memphis Three) may remind the residents of San Antonio and Bexar County of another young man – Ruben Cantu. Ruben Cantu was a Texan who was tried in San Antonio, Texas for the murder and attempted murder of two males at a construction site. While the two cases vary in both the scope of the crimes and the outcomes of those convicted, they can teach us an indispensable lesson in the fallible nature of our criminal justice system.

In both cases, all four young men were all tried as adults (despite the fact that Damien Echols was the only one who was over the age of 18 years old at the time of his alleged crime) and there was no physical evidence linking them to the crimes. In addition, the prosecution’s entire cases hinged on the shaky testimonies of sole eye witnesses. Testimonies that were later recanted.

In San Antonio, Ruben Cantu was convicted and later executed for armed robbery and murder that occurred in 1984. Many believed, and still believe, that Ruben Cantu became the prime suspect months later when he shot an off-duty police officer in a barroom altercation. Was Ruben Cantu framed for a crime he did not commit because of an unrelated incident? In the years following his conviction, the surviving victim Juan Moreno, the co-defendant David Garza, the then Bexar County District Attorney Sam Millsap, and the head juror have all publicly declared that Ruben Cantu’s guilty verdict and death sentence were a mistake. The state of Texas administered a lethal injection to an innocent man.
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wanted dead or alive.jpgIn a modern twist of the Old West’s wanted posters, twelve digital billboards around San Antonio, Texas are now showing the names and pictures of individuals who have warrants for felony driving intoxicated related offenses with the word “WANTED” directly above the person’s name. In addition to showing the face and name of the suspect, the billboard also lists the specific felony offense they are charged with. The billboards only show individuals who already have an active warrant for their arrest.

According to the San Antonio Police Department, there have been approximately 3,500 driving while intoxicated related offenses so far in 2011. Mothers Against Drunk Driving supports the use of the billboards which are being donated by Clear Channel Outdoor.
The billboards are not the only recent efforts law enforcement officials have implemented this year. The San Antonio Police Department working in conjunction with the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office are now making all weekends and most long holidays, such as the week of Fiesta, “no refusal” weekends. This means if an individual arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated refuses a breath test, the officer will get a warrant to draw the individual’s blood. Defense attorneys practicing in Bexar County have also noticed the plea offers for all DWI’s have increased.
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