Family protests murder conviction

Protest caps years-long battle by family of Roberto De La Cruz to try to prove his innocence

By Robert Arnold - Investigative Reporter

BAYTOWN - A group of approximately 30 protesters gathered in front of the Baytown police department to demand justice for a man convicted of murder.

The protest caps a years long battle by the family of Roberto De La Cruz to try to prove his innocence.
"I miss my dad, you know, my dad didn't do nothing," said Robert De La Cruz. "He didn't kill nobody."
Protesters, led by community activist Quanell X, sought an audience with the police chief, but were told he was out of the office.
"We're asking the police chief to invite the FBI in to investigate this case," said Quanell X.
Local 2 Investigates reported De La Cruz was convicted and sent to prison for the 1998 murder of Jorge Pena.

Court records read an eyewitness to the crime, Marcos Torres, told a jury he saw De La Cruz shoot the victim in front of a bakery and then helped drive the body to a near-by park where it was dumped.

During the trial, Baytown police officers testified no evidence of a shooting was found in front of the bakery and the murder weapon was not found.

Court documents read Baytown police officers did testify that forensic evidence in the case supported Torres' version of events that Pena was shot at one location and then taken to the park where his body was found.

"It's a lie, it's a lie, it's lie," De La Cruz said during an interview with Local 2 at the Beto prison unit.

After his conviction in 2000, De La Cruz's family hired attorney Stanley Schneider. 

Schneider had the evidence in the case reviewed by forensic crime scene experts.

Documents filed with the court read those experts determined Pena was shot where his body was found in the park and not at another location. 

These expert opinions directly conflicted with Torres' testimony.

During a 2011 hearing a judge ruled "credible forensic evidence proves that the testimony of Marcos Torres is false."

The judge also stated Baytown police officers' testimony regarding the forensic evidence was "not credible".

The judge recommended De La Cruz "must be granted a new trial."

While the judge's recommendation is powerful, only the Court of Criminal Appeals in Austin can grant De La Cruz a new trial.

The judges have not yet issued a decision.

"Certainly in light of the judge's ruling we have our concerns, yes," said Lt. Eric Freed.

Local 2 also asked Freed about other evidence if the case does go back to trial.

"What's left in the case other than Marcos Torres at this point?" asked Local 2 Investigator Robert Arnold.

"This case is based on eyewitness testimony so, obviously, the math adds up to nothing," said Freed.

Following this interview Freed sent Local 2 a written statement regarding requests from the family for another investigation of the murder.

"The Baytown Police Department will not be re-investigating the murder of Jorge Pena.  We will follow any instructions from the Court of Criminal Appeals," Freed wrote in an email.

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