10 Innocent People Who Were Executed, Part Three

Ruben Cantu

Executed in 1993

Ruben Cantu

On the night of November 8, 1984, Ruben Cantu and his friend David Garza, broke into a vacant San Antonio house under construction and robbed two men at gunpoint.

The two victims, Pedro Gomez and Juan Moreno, had been workmen sleeping on floor mattresses at a construction site, guarding against burglary.

As they tried to take their cash, they were interrupted by Gomez’s attempt to retrieve a pistol hidden under his mattress. The boys shot both men killing Gomez instantly. Thinking they had killed both men, the two teens then fled the scene.

This is the Third installment of the Innocent Executed series from Historydojo. Please find the second installment here, or start the series at the first installment here.

The police showed Moreno photos of suspects, which included Cantu’s picture, and he was unable to identify his attacker.

Later, Moreno would tell reporters investigating the crime that police had pressured him into fingering Cantu. [1]

On the basis of no physical evidence, no confession, and only Moreno’s subsequently recanted testimony, a jury convicted Ruben Cantu of first-decree murder.

Cantu “was innocent. It was a case of an innocent person being killed,” Moreno said.[2]

David Garza, Cantu’s co-defendant, has since admitted involvement in the burglary, assault and murder. He says he did go inside the house with another boy, did participate in the robbery, and saw the murder take place, but that his accomplice was not Ruben Cantu.

“We did the best we could with the information we had, but with a little extra work, a little extra effort, maybe we’d have gotten the right information,” said Miriam Ward, forewoman of the jury that convicted Cantu. “The bottom line is, an innocent person was put to death for it. We all have our finger in that.” [3]

Even the prosecutor in the case has said that he would have proceeded differently, perhaps not even to the point of charging Cantu. Sam Milsap, Jr., the prosecutor for Bexar County, Texas, says that the police framed Cantu.

“It’s so questionable. There are so many places where it could break down,” said Millsap, now in private practice. “We have a system that permits people to be convicted based on evidence that could be wrong because it’s mistaken or because it’s corrupt.” [4]

Cantu denied he was guilty until the day of his execution. In 1987, he wrote to the parole board, saying, “I was tried and convicted on bogus evidence.”

The San Antonio police clearly framed Cantu, and suffered no consequences for their actions. The prosecutor, today in private practice, felt no negative consequences for his role in the murder of an innocent American citizen.

In the 1980’s the San Antonio police were plagued by scandals involving drug dealing officers and vigilante cops who abused their power over the poor and the helpless in the city.

The San Antonio police department remains silent on the officers who pressured Moreno into fingering Cantu, claiming that the offers are retired and department policy bars them from commenting on closed cases.

Moreno says the motive was the Cantu had been in a fight with undercover officers just days before the shooting and that the police had it out for him.

“The police were sure it was (Cantu) because he had hurt a police officer,” Moreno said in a recent interview. “They told me they were certain it was him, and that’s why I testified. … That was bad to blame someone that was not there.” [5]

The conviction was based entirely on the police testimony and Moreno’s identification of Cantu. These two testimonies now seem manufactured to please the revenge motive of corrupt police officers. These officers are now enjoying retirement with public pensions, paid for my taxpayers that they abused during their time on the force.

Because of the justice system, rigged to give the State maximum leverage and the agents of the law the benefit of every doubt, innocent Americans are routinely jailed and convicted on senseless, flimsy evidence.

On August 24, 1993, Ruben Cantu at the age of 26, was executed by lethal injection.

His final request was for a piece of bubble gum, which was denied.

For more stories on the Last Meals of Death Row inmates, check out the last Meals Series from HistoryDojo.

[1] Houston Chronicle

[2] Ibid

[3] Ibid
[4] Ibid
[5] Ibid

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Author: historydojo

I’m a National Board Certified Teacher with nearly twenty years of experience teaching high school history. I blog about teaching, history, current events, the law and social justice.

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