New Evidence Suggests Ivan Cantu’s Innocence, But Will Anyone Stop His Execution?

85,000 petitioners and celebrities are behind him


Sister Helen Prejean is trying to keep Texas from killing death row inmate Ivan Cantu. Prejean, the famed death penalty opponent, joined MoveOn.org in a virtual meeting last week to plead for a delay in Cantu’s execution, scheduled for Feb. 28.

“Even if you’re for the death penalty, you believe in fairness,” Prejean said. “There was no fairness at this trial. All we’re asking is to delay the execution of Ivan Cantu long enough to be able to have a hearing and an inquiry into the new evidence that’s been presented.”

The new evidence unearthed in Cantu’s case over the last several years has come from private investigator Matt Duff, who has tracked his work in his Cousins by Blood podcast. Duff has pieced together information demonstrating that key witnesses against Cantu – his former girlfriend Amy Boettcher and her brother Jeff – lied under oath at his murder trial. The evidence was persuasive enough that Collin County District Judge Benjamin Smith stopped Cantu’s execution in April of last year, one week before it was set to be carried out. He ordered the same thing that Prejean is asking for now – a hearing in court to examine the new evidence. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned Smith’s ruling last autumn, offering no explanation for its decision. No court has appraised the evidence, according to the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

“All we’re asking is to delay the execution of Ivan Cantu long enough to be able to have a hearing and an inquiry into the new evidence that’s been presented.”   – Sister Helen Prejean, a nun for death penalty abolition

Cantu stood trial in 2001 for the murders of his cousin, James Mosqueda, and Mosqueda’s girlfriend, Amy Kitchen. According to court documents, Boettcher testified that Cantu left their apartment on the evening of Nov. 3, 2000, vowing to kill Mosqueda, and returned an hour later with blood-spattered pants and socks, which he placed in a kitchen trash can. She also said that Cantu threw a Rolex watch that he said he had taken from Mosqueda out of a car window as the couple drove to a Dallas nightclub after the murders.

But in 2020, Cantu’s attorneys presented testimony from a law enforcement officer who swore that she found no bloody clothes in Cantu’s kitchen trash can in a search conducted shortly after the murders, while Cantu and Boettcher were away – suggesting that Cantu may have been framed. They also submitted proof that the Rolex watch Boettcher claimed Cantu had thrown out of the car window had been discovered in Mosqueda’s home after the murders and returned to his family.

Jeff Boettcher testified at the murder trial that Cantu had told him in advance of his plan to kill Mosqueda. But after Amy Boettcher died in 2021, Jeff contacted the Collin County district attorney’s office and recanted his story in a videotaped confession, saying he lied on the witness stand. He expressed remorse that his testimony had helped put Cantu on death row.

MoveOn.org has collected 85,000 signatures asking for a halt of Cantu’s execution, an investigation into the case by the Collin County District Attorney’s Office, and a court hearing on the new evidence. Cantu’s attorney, Gena Bunn, has asked the CCA to reconsider its decision not to conduct a hearing. Kim Kardashian, Martin Sheen, Jane Fonda, and Mandy Patinkin have also requested a halt to the execution and Prejean is leading a rally on Feb. 22 at the Collin County courthouse to demand a hearing. She said that if the execution isn’t halted she’ll be at Cantu’s side as he dies.

“He’s asked me to be with him if they execute him, and to pray with him,” Prejean said. “But there’s no way I’m just going to be with this man and pray with him and ease him into eternity without doing everything I know to do to resist this death. Because there’s so many wrongs that have been done.”

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Ivan Cantu, Death Watch, Helen Prejean, Kim Kardashian, Martin Sheen

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