Ricardo Aldape Guerra

Ricardo Aldape Guerra was sentenced to death for the murder of a Houston police officer in 1982 and was exonerated in 1997

Ricardo Aldape Guerra was sentenced to death for the murder of a Houston, Texas, police officer, even though the physical evidence pointed to another man who was killed in a shootout with police a few minutes after the officer was slain.

The case against Guerra rested substantially on the testimony of the 10-year-old son of a bystander who was killed in the shootout in which the alternative suspect died. The murdered officer's service revolver was recovered from the other suspect's body, but the prosecution contended that Guerra could have given it to him.

After the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the conviction and death sentence, a pro bono team from the law firm of Vinson & Elkins took up Guerra's cause. The firm devoted more than $3 million in time and money to the case, ultimately prevailing on a petition for a federal writ of habeas corpus. The federal courts found the prosecution had intimidated witnesses, conducted a suggestive lineup, hidden exculpatory evidence, and injected false evidence into the trial. The charges against Guerra were dropped. Guerra is Hispanic and the victim was Caucasian.