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Michael Luera, Jr.

Other Texas exonerations with sexual assault
On January 14, 2005, 18-year-old Michael Luera Jr. pled guilty in Henderson County, Texas Criminal District Court to a charge of indecency with a child. He was sentenced to eight years of deferred adjudication, a form of probation.

Luera had been accused by his five-year-old half-sister, C.A., of molesting her during the summer of 2003. During an interview with a Henderson County Sheriff’s detective, Luera had said that on two occasions, while bouncing the girl on his lap, while clothed, he may have gotten slightly aroused. He had denied touching her genitals as the girl had alleged. The detective interpreted that as a confession.

In 2008, Henderson County prosecutors filed a motion to revoke his deferred adjudication based on a statement from his girlfriend’s roommate. The roommate alleged that she saw Luera on a computer and that he was viewing child pornography, which violated the terms of his deferred adjudication. Luera claimed that he was playing a video game and denied he was looking at child pornography.

On March 5, 2009, his deferred adjudication was revoked, and he was sentenced to 4 years in prison. He was released on March 13, 2013.

After he was released, C.A., who was by then 15, admitted to him that her father had forced her to falsely accuse him. Her parents had divorced and her father was angry at her mother, who had married Luera’s father. In fact, C.A. said, her father was sexually abusing her at the time.

In February 2022, after spending years attempting to obtain funds to retain a lawyer, Luera filed a state law petition for a writ of habeas corpus on his own. He cited the recantation of C.A. and also claimed that he would not have pled guilty had he realized that he would be forced to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

After the prosecution opposed the writ on the ground that it was filed too late, a hearing was held. In August 2022, Criminal District Judge Dan Moore recommended that the writ be granted.

Judge Moore said that C.A.’s testimony at the hearing was “direct, emphatic and adamant. Her demeanor lent credibility to her testimony.” Judge Moore said C.A. “pieced together…around the time she entered puberty that she had suffered sexual abuse at the hands of her father. She discussed the matter with her mother but not in detail.” At that time, C.A. was 13.

“She and her mother discussed it occasionally, but were afraid of [C.A.’s father] and anyway did not know where to start to do anything about it,” Judge Moore noted.

C.A. testified that she reached out to Luera in 2016 when she was 18 because she “believed she was more credible after turning 18 and was not afraid [Luera] would get in trouble by having contact with her,” Judge Moore said. “She and her mother had been contacting lawyers but were financially unable to retain counsel for [Luera].” Ultimately, Luera arranged for a private investigator to obtain the affidavit from C.A.

In her affidavit, C.A. said that “my father alleged that Michael was sexually abusing me, although it was actually my father that was doing it. My father threatened me with a handgun one day, pointing it at me saying that I would say and do what he wanted me to do or he would kill me and my siblings. He then told me what to say, that Michael was touching me sexually on the couch and rolling up my shorts.”

C.A. also said in the affidavit that her father suspected she might have to make drawings when interviewed by social workers, so “he showed me what to draw and had me draw it for him in practice.”

Judge Moore noted, “The words in her affidavit are her own.”

The judge said he found Luera’s testimony denying the sexual abuse to be credible. He noted that Luera “is unable to get a well-paying job as a consequence of his conviction and has limited financial resources. He has been unable to accumulate funds with which to retain counsel.”

C.A's mother, the judge also noted, had testified that she never believed that Luera had sexually abused C.A., but that Luera’s father forced him to plead guilty.

On January 11, 2023, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted the writ and vacated Luera’s conviction. On February 14, 2023, the Henderson County District Attorney’s Office dismissed the case.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 3/17/2023
Last Updated: 3/17/2023
Most Serious Crime:Child Sex Abuse
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2003
Sentence:4 years
Age at the date of reported crime:16
Contributing Factors:False Confession, Perjury or False Accusation
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No