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Fernando Garza

Other Harris County, Texas CIU exonerations
On June 5, 2013, in Pasadena, Texas, 23-year-old Fernando Garza was arrested after police confiscated a substance from him that field-tested positive for cocaine.

On June 27, 2013, Garza pled guilty in Harris County Criminal District Court to possession of a controlled substance. He was sentenced to 180 days in the Harris County Jail.

In 2014, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office discovered that although the results of laboratory tests in controlled substance cases were being sent to the office, the reports in cases that had already been resolved were not being forwarded or distributed to the specific prosecutors in the cases.

After the reports were discovered, the District Attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit began notifying defense attorneys and attempting to locate defendants who had pled guilty to possession of narcotics, but whose lab tests were negative.

Among those reports was the lab test result in Garza’s case. That report said that the substance seized from Garza was tested on June 28, 2013—one day after he pled guilty—and was negative for any controlled substance. The report went unnoticed by the defense and prosecution at the time.

In 2019, a defense attorney for Garza filed a state law petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The prosecution supported the petition and in September 2019, a judge recommended that the petition be granted.

On March 11, 2020, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted the writ and vacated Garza’s conviction. On April 20, 2020, the prosecution dismissed the charge.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 4/30/2020
Last Updated: 4/30/2020
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2013
Sentence:180 days
Age at the date of reported crime:23
Contributing Factors:False or Misleading Forensic Evidence
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No