NCRJ’s Four Lives Lost Case Accepted by Texas Innocence Project

[Note: Friends of Justice is a personal blog. I speak only for myself.]

NCRJ is pleased to announce that one of the cases we sponsor has been accepted for post-conviction work by the Innocence Project of Texas (www.ipot.org).

The case has four defendants:

Anna Vasquez, Cassandra Rivera, Kristie Mayhugh, and Elizabeth Ramirez.

In 1994 they were young women, ages 19 to 21, living and working in San Antonio, TX. None had any mental health problems or any criminal record. However, all were lesbians and one, Elizabeth Ramirez, was being pursued by her ex-brother-in-law, who wished a romantic relationship with her. Elizabeth rejected the overture but was close to her seven- and nine-year old nieces, the man’s daughters. She offered to care for them during a week in summer 1994, as she had in the past.

After the daughters returned to their father, he and his mother filed a complaint alleging that Ramirez and her three gay friends gang-raped the little girls over a two-day period in a sadistic, ritualistic manner. The man had previously made at least one complaint against others for allegedly sexually abusing his daughters. On investigation, authorities did not validate the prior report(s).

The four accused young women staunchly maintained their innocence and rejected generous plea bargains. Unfortunately they had mediocre legal representation, and their trials were conducted in an atmosphere of frank homophobia, both in the courtroom and in the community at large. In addition, investigators for the state suspected the four women were “satanic ritual” abusers, and they communicated this to prosecutors. “Junk science” medical evidence also played a major part in convicting the defendants.

The women have been imprisoned since 1997 and 1998 and are serving 15 and 47 years. There is concern that even if they finish their terms they will be civilly committed afterward.

NCRJ was alerted to this case by a concerned community advocate. We listed it over a year ago and are grateful that the Innocence Project of Texas has taken it on.

Find out more about the case at www.fourliveslost.com.

Please donate to NCRJ at www.ncrj.org so we can continue fighting injustices like the one perpetrated on these four gay women in Texas.