In the early morning hours of November 12, 2002, witnesses spotted four masked individuals at a home known to be used drug activity in Corpus Christi. Three of the four masked individuals emerged, the driver remained in the vehicle. Two of the individuals entered the home and shot Jesus Gonzalez and John Commisky – known La Cuare gang members – multiple times. Mr. Commisky and Mr. Gonzales were known drug dealers who were allegedly killed by members of Raza Unida for not paying a percentage of their profits. One individual inside the house, Gavino Moreno, spotted the armed masked individuals approaching and ran, successfully escaping harm. He could not identify anyone. Another individual, Tony Ortiz, witnessed the murders from another part of the house. He called 911 and reported the murders. In the call, and in two following interviews with police, he asserted that he did not know who any of the masked individuals were.
Joe David Padron was one of two suspects arrested for the crime. At the trial, Tony Ortiz, stated that he was able to identify Joe David Padron because, after the crime took place, he looked out a window of the house and saw Mr. Padron remove his ski mask in the SUV while the dome light was on in the vehicle. Mr. Ortiz did not mention during the 911 call or the following two police interviews that one of the perpetrators removed their mask. In addition, two jailhouse informants testified that Mr. Padron had discussed the crime in front of them. Mr. Padron was sentenced to life in prison in 2004.
A series of evidentiary hearings on the case took place between February and June, 2023 in the 214th District Court in Nueces County. During hearings, the judge heard testimony from a witness about the confession of a fellow Raza Unida gang member who stated that he was one of the four perpetrators involved in the crime and that Mr. Padron did not take part. IPTX also presented significant evidence that State’s witness, Robert Lara, committed perjury at the original trial. A second State’s witness from the trial, Francisco Cabrialez, also recanted his testimony, stating that he did not overhear Mr. Padron make incriminating statements while they were both incarcerated, as he had originally testified.
Evidence of prosecutorial misconduct was also presented indicating that the prosecutor, James Sales, promoted false statements from Robert Lara in order to bolster his credibility. Specifically, that Mr. Lara received a reduced sentence related to his own charges in exchange for information that another Raza Unida member, Ramiro Saldana, was plotting to threaten the life of Sales’ wife. Despite making the statement during the trial, no investigation into the alleged plot was ever conducted and Mr. Sales later wrote a favorable letter to the parole board on Mr. Saldana’s behalf.
The district judge released her decision in September recommending that Joe David be found actually innocent. A final ruling from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals is expected in the coming months. On September 25th, with the support of the Nueces County District Attorney’s office, a bail hearing was held to determine if Joe David could be released pending the CCA’s decision. On October 6th, the district judge ruled in favor of releasing Joe David on bond and he was released that day.
Systemic Failures Have Wrongly
Imprisoned Thousands of
The Generosity of Their Fellow Citizens Can Provide Them
The Freedom They Deserve.