Manuel Velez: Death Row Inmate Released, Granted New Trial

Manuel Velez was convicted of first-degree murder in 2008. Months later, he was sentenced to death. In April 2013, a Texas judge ordered Valez’s release — citing irregularities during the original trial. More than one year later, the former death row inmate is a free man.

In 2005, Velez was arrested and charged in the death of his girlfriends’ 11-month-old son. On the evening of October 31, the infant stopped breathing. Although he was rushed to the hospital, Angel Moreno was declared brain dead the following day. An autopsy later revealed that the infant suffered blunt force trauma to the head.

During a police interview, Acela Moreno stated that her son’s injury was accidental. She explained that her boyfriend had “playfully” shaken Angel and tossed him into the air. However, in her opinion, Velez’s behavior was not done “with malice.”

As Manuel Velez does not speak English, his police interview was conducted in Spanish. Although the interview was not recorded, the conversation was transcribed into English by a deputy. As reported by Texas Monthly, Velez admitted that he “threw, squeezed, and shook,” the infant prior his death. He further admitted that he bit Angel on at least one occasion.

Both Moreno and Velez were arrested and charged with first-degree murder. However, Moreno later accepted a plea deal in exchange for testimony against her former boyfriend.

Prior to entering her guilty plea, Moreno admitted striking her infant son’s head “with her hand, an object, or against a hard surface.” Despite her admission, she was sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges of injury to a child. Per the plea agreement, the murder charge was dismissed.

Moreno testified as a state’s witness during Velez’s trial. However, she underlined the fact that the defendant never abused her son. In her opinion, Angle’s injuries were purely accidental.

Despite Moreno’s admission that she struck her son, and her testimony during the trial, Manuel Velez was found guilty of capital murder and sentenced to death.

As reported by USA Today, Judge Elia Cornejo has now determined that Velez’s defense team “did a poor job representing” their client. Although a neurologist determined that Angel’s injuries were up to six months old, and were likely inflicted before Velez moved into Moreno’s home, the evidence was never presented during his trial.

Manuel Velez will remain a free man pending the outcome of his second trial.

[Image via Texas Monthly]

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