Meet the Exonerees

Santiago Ventura Morales

State: Oregon
Date of Birth:
Incident Date: 07/13/1986
Age at Arrest: 19
Conviction Date: 10/02/1986
Age When Exonerated: 24
Exonerated Date: 01/09/1991
Time Served: 4
Conviction: Murder
False Confession: No
Implicated by Another Youth: No

Case Details

A nineteen-year-old migrant worker, Santiago Ventura Morales, was wrongfully convicted of murdering another migrant worker in 1986 and sentenced to ten years to life in prison. He was convicted based on fabricated evidence, and a witness who originally denied Morales's involvement, but changed his story after meeting with the prosecutor. In the trial, it was quickly revealed that Morales could not speak English. He was provided a Spanish interpreter but he spoke Mixteco, a language spoken by indigenous inhabitants of Central America, and could not understand the Spanish either. While in prison, a few jurors who originally voted to convict changed their minds and advocated for his release. A newspaper columnist from Portland, Orgeon, Phil Stanford, wrote many columns outlining Morales’s innocence. After four years, the real murderer was found, and Morales was released based largely on his unfair trial.