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Moises Catalan

Other Texas Cases with Inadequate Legal Defense
On Sunday, May 28, 1995, several days of conflict between members of the Navarro family and the Catalan family culminated in a confrontation on the Dallas, Texas street where both families lived.

The events of the day were triggered by the Navarro family’s claims that 25-year-old Moises Catalan struck and damaged a car owned by Robert Navarro. It played out on the street with Robert confronting Moises and his 33-year-old brother, Felipe Catalan. When it was over, Robert Navarro was shot and wounded, and Moises and Felipe were arrested on charges of aggravated assault.

Months later, Dallas County prosecutors sought to use the aggravated assault charge to revoke Moises’s parole that he was serving for a prior conviction. But the motion to revoke was denied after Navarro testified that Moises was a bystander and that Felipe was the aggressor and the man who shot him.

Moises and Felipe went on trial in Dallas County Criminal District Court in July 1997 and both were represented by the same attorney. Before jury selection began, the trial judge became concerned that the brothers should have separate lawyers and so an assistant Dallas County public defender was appointed on the spot to represent Moises and the trial began.

Felipe’s lawyer conducted much of the examination of witnesses, although Moises’s lawyer did handle some questioning. Navarro testified for the prosecution, and unlike at the parole revocation hearing, he told the jury that Felipe and Moises both were armed with guns, though only Felipe shot him.

A neighbor, Thomas Blacknall, testified that he was outside barbecuing when the Catalans drove up to their home. He noticed that when they got out of their car, they were carrying pistols. Blacknall told the jury that as Navarro approached the Catalans, one of them—he did not recall who—twirled a gun in his hand.

Blacknall said he put his children in his garage and returned to the street and saw two guns pointed at Navarro—one by Felipe and one by Moises. He said Felipe fired his gun and Navarro fell wounded into Blacknall’s driveway.

Moises’s girlfriend testified that Felipe and Moises acted in self-defense because they were attacked by Navarro and members of his family.

On July 25, 1997, Felipe and Moises were convicted of aggravated assault. Felipe was sentenced to 45 years in prison and Moises was sentenced to 35 years in prison.

After their convictions were upheld on appeal, Moises filed a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus contending that his lawyer provided an inadequate legal defense by failing to request a continuance to investigate the case and prepare for trial and also for failing to cross-examine Navarro about his statement at the parole revocation hearing that Moises was a bystander.

In February 2002, a federal judge granted the writ, vacated Moises’s conviction and ordered a new trial. The prosecution appealed, but in December 2002, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld the decision. On June 18, 2003, the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office dismissed the charges and Moises was released.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 8/24/2014
Most Serious Crime:Assault
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1995
Sentence:35 years
Age at the date of reported crime:25
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No