Monday, December 17, 2012

Bulletin: Manuel Velez: Hearing comes to end. Judge to provide decision within two months. Competence of defence lawyer in handling medical evidence relating to child's death at heart of hearing. Brownsville Herald.

STORY: "Velez hearing comes to an end," by reporter Mark Reagan, published in the Brownsville Herald on December 17, 2012.

GIST: "Judge Elia C. Lopez in 30 to 60 days will tell the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals whether she thinks convicted murderer Manuel Velez should have another day in court. Velez was convicted in October 2008 of killing 1-year-old Angel Gabriel Moreno. He was sentenced to death, but the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals threw out the sentence in June because expert witness testimony on future dangerousness was deemed inaccurate. The child’s mother, Acela Moreno, pleaded guilty to striking Angel Gabriel Moreno on or about Oct. 31. She served five years of a 10-year sentence and testified against Velez during the trial. She received a plea deal and pleaded guilty to injury of a child.
Lopez listened to five days of testimony detailing what Velez’s pro bono habeas counsel said were critical mistakes by his defense attorney, Hector Villarreal, that included not exploring medical evidence or failing to call witnesses who might have cast doubt as to whether Velez was responsible for the child’s death. The state of Texas disagreed with Velez’s habeas council and said Velez already had his day in court and that his attorney at the time had a strategy and did his job. “I think that Mr. Villarreal did the best he could do,” prosecutor L.J. Rabb said. “And hindsight is not the standard.” Rabb said Velez’s current attorneys had bigger pocketbooks than did Villarreal and went out and found experts who bought into their theory.........Kanan said Velez was not even in Texas when the child sustained the fatal injuries. Habeas counsel maintains that Velez was in Tennessee the five weeks prior to Oct. 14. However, the state in 2008 based its case on the premise that Angel Gabriel Moreno sustained the injuries on Oct. 18 or later, after Velez had returned to Texas. Dr. Daniel Brown testified last week that the child had a subdural hematoma, a brain injury, that was 18 to 36 days old at the time of his death, and Brown added that the injury could have contributed to the baby’s death.
Prosecutors maintained that injuries the child suffered on Oct. 31 killed him. Habeas counsel has said that a combination of injuries sustained before Oct. 31, in addition to those sustained that day, killed him. “Manuel Velez’s counsel never called Brown to ask the age of the subdural hematoma,” Kanan said. Also in question were two skull fractures the child had. During the trial, Dr. Norma Jean Farley testified that they were seven to 14 days old at the time of death. But during last week’s portion of testimony, habeas counsel asked her if it was possible that the skull fractures were older. She testified that it was possible, but at most 20 days. “Velez’s attorney never asked, ‘Can they be older than 14 days,” Kanan said. “A simple question.” As for arguments about a rapid increase in head circumference for Angel Gabriel Moreno during June and July of 2008, the state says it was just a mistake by a medical assistant who measured the child’s head incorrectly. “In our opinion, they’ve made a mountain out of a molehill,” Rabb said."

The entire story can be found at:

ACLU "Blog of Rights" report on the wrap-up. (Summations).


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