The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted a stay of execution to Ramiro Gonzales earlier this month, two days before he was scheduled to be killed.
The CCA, which is the state’s supreme court, ordered the trial court to consider Gonzales’s claim that his death sentence was based on false testimony. That testimony was provided by Dr. Edward Gripon, an expert witness for the prosecution who declared at Gonzales’s murder trial in 2006 that Gonzales posed a threat of future danger to society.
In Texas, a jury must find that the defendant is likely to be a future danger to hand down a death sentence (life without the possibility of parole is an alternative).
But Gripon retracted his testimony. He met with Gonzales again this past year and wrote, “[I]t is my opinion, to a reasonable psychiatric probability, that he does not pose a threat of future danger to society.”
As a result, “Applicant has also presented at least a prima facie showing that testimony of recidivism rates Gripon gave at trial was false and that that false testimony could have affected the jury’s answer to the future dangerousness question at punishment,” the CCA wrote.
Gonzales had just turned 18 when he killed 18-year-old Bridget Townsend in 2001. As the Texas Coalition Against the Death Penalty points out, Texas is “virtually alone in the United States” in executing men and women who were teenagers at the time of their crime.
Like many men and women on death row around the country, Gonzales was the victim of a violent and unstable home life. Records show he virtually raised himself on the streets. Now 39, he has spent 15 years on death row and has grown into a thoughtful, remorseful man liked and respected by others on death row and the corrections staff.
Gonzales’s case now goes back to the trial court for review of his claim of false testimony.