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Pedro Torres

37-year-old Pedro Torres was an immigrant from Mexico who was living illegally in the U.S. and working in Dallas as a laborer at an ironworks. On the morning of April 17, 1983, while Torres was at work in Dallas, 18-year-old Manuel Ortega was stabbed to death more than 250 miles away in Houston. The witnesses to the murder said that the man who killed Ortega was named Pedro Torres.
 
Nearly five months later, Dallas police picked up Pedro Torres for drinking a beer in a convenience store. The officers did a routine check in which they entered Torres’s name into the Texas Department of Public Safety computer, and the computer records showed that a “Pedro Torres” was wanted for Manuel Ortega’s murder in Harris County. Three witnesses then positively identified Torres as Ortega’s killer. Torres was convicted of the murder in a jury trial and sentenced to seventy-five years in prison.
 
However, Judge Michael McSpadden had his reservations about the case from the start. About a month after Torres’s conviction, Judge McSpadden requested that Torres’s defense attorney, Carlos Garcia, provide him with Torres’s work records. Garcia had not presented the work records at trial, and, upon examining them, it became clear to Judge McSpadden that an error had been made and the wrong “Pedro Torres” had been convicted. These records showed that Torres was at work in Dallas on April 17, 1983 when the murder was committed in Houston. Coupled with Torres’s work records was a new witness: the roommate of the “Pedro Torres” who had actually committed the murder. Judge McSpadden stated that he could understand why the jury had originally ruled against Torres based on the evidence that was presented. On April 26, 1985, Judge McSpadden reversed Torres’s conviction and ordered his immediate release from prison. The other Pedro Torres was sought by police but had not been located as of April 1985.
 
Judge McSpadden gave Torres a document that declared him innocent of the murder of Ortega to avoid any future confusion or accusation. It is not known whether Immigration and Naturalization Service ever deported Torres.
 
— Researched by Kenneth Avila
State:TX
County:Harris
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Reported Crime Date:1983
Convicted:1985
Exonerated:1985
Sentence:75 years
Race:Hispanic
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:37
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, Inadequate Legal Defense