The Odd Case of Jesus Vela

Friday, May 13 2016

This past January, Midland, Texas resident Jesus Vela was exonerated on a false gun possession conviction. Vela had pled guilty to the charge in January 2015 and was sentenced to three years in prison.

As was customary in these cases, the gun involved was due to be destroyed, taking a dangerous weapon off the streets. A Midland police officer was about to do just that.

Except that the officer discovered that the item in question was not a gun gun, but a pellet gun. And there ain't no law in Texas against packing a pellet gun. The conscientious police officer (Kent Spencer) informed the district attorney and he got the whole thing cleared up.

Are you scratching your head like I am?

How could a guy get charged (let alone convicted) for illegal gun possession without first confirming that it was a gun? And why did Jesus plead guilty? Did he assume it must have been against the law to be carrying a pellet gun? And finally, where was Jesus' attorney in all this?

Some exonerations don't come with a boatload of drama. Some exonerations, like this one, just seem to offer an everyday unsettling tale about how mistakes happen in the criminal justice process.