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Ernesto Flores, Jr.

Other Texas Cases with Inadequate Legal Defense
On September 1, 2004, 19-year-old Natasha Hanna returned to her home in McAllen, Texas and discovered that her back door had been forced open and her 27-inch television was missing.

A neighbor, 19-year-old Jose Macias, told her that earlier in the day, he heard noises and saw a white Isuzu in her driveway backed up to the rear door of the home. Macias said he saw a man come out of the back door with a television and place it in the vehicle. He said a woman was standing in the driveway and both left in the vehicle.

Based on Macias’ description, Hanna told police that she believed the woman was an acquaintance named Andrea Martinez and that the man was Ernesto Flores, Jr., who lived with Martinez.

Police prepared two separate photographic lineups for Macias. He identified Martinez as the woman in the driveway. When he was shown the second photographic lineup, Macias said he only saw the man for a second or two. He said that the men depicted in photographs #1 and #2 resembled the man he saw with the television, but he wasn’t sure.

When the police officer asked him to select the one of the two that most resembled the man he saw, Macias picked Flores.

Flores and Martinez were arrested and charged with burglary. Flores, a native of Mexico who became a permanent legal resident in 1998, appeared in Hidalgo County Criminal District Court on September 29, 2004. At that time, the Hidalgo County District Attorney’s office sought to revoke his probation on a 2000 conviction for burglary.

Flores’ appointed attorney advised him to admit to the probation revocation in return for a one-year prison sentence. At the same time, the prosecution revealed that Flores had been indicted on the burglary charge and offered Flores a deal to plead guilty for a two-year sentence. The defense attorney, although not appointed on the indictment, persuaded Flores to plead guilty without investigating Flores’ claim that he was at work with his father on a job site several miles away at the time of the burglary

In 2005, at the completion of his prison sentence, Flores was deported to Mexico because of the burglary conviction. In 2012, Flores filed a state petition for a writ of habeas corpus claiming that his defense counsel—who was paid $800 for handling the two cases back in 2004—failed to advise him that he would be deported if he pled guilty to the burglary charge.

The trial court recommended that the writ be granted, but the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals remanded the case in March 2014 for further testimony. Subsequently, Flores’ attorney discovered that Macias had been unsure of his identification of Flores and that Macias made the statement that he had only seen the man with the television for a second or two—evidence that had not been disclosed by the prosecution prior to Flores’ guilty plea. Flores' attorney also confirmed, through interviews and payroll records, that Flores had been at work on the day of the burglary.

The trial court recommended that the writ be granted, and in December 2014, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted the writ and vacated the burglary conviction. On February 5, 2015, the prosecution dismissed the charge.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 3/5/2015
Most Serious Crime:Burglary/Unlawful Entry
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2004
Sentence:2 years
Age at the date of reported crime:23
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, Official Misconduct, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No