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Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the Oct. 31, 1996
issue of Workers World newspaper
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Ricardo Aldape Guerra

Symbol of anti-immigrant racism of cops and courts

By Gloria Rubac in Houston

Ricardo Aldape Guerra's victory over the summer heartened the movement to abolish the death penalty and the immigrant-rights movement here. At a motions hearing here Oct. 18 he took the opportunity to speak to his supporters.

Speaking from the Harris County Jail, he said: "I'm innocent and I'm just waiting to get out of here and go back to Mexico and be with my family. It has not been easy being locked up for something that I did not do, but I'm confident that I will be out soon.

"I am ready to fight and know that I have my supporters behind me. I want to thank everybody and tell them there will be a time soon when I'll be able to sit down and talk to all those who have stood by me these 14 years."

Three years ago an evidentiary hearing determined that there had been gross misconduct by both the Houston police and prosecutors from the time Aldape Guerra was arrested and all during his trial. The federal court ordered Aldape Guerra off Texas' death row to be either retried or released.

The state appealed that ruling. Finally, on July 30, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans suspended his death sentence. He was moved to the county jail in Houston to await a new trial.

Supporters demand Aldape Guerra's freedom

Supporters, friends and family filled the sidewalks outside the county courthouse early Oct. 18 demanding his freedom and the abolition of the racist death penalty, as Aldape Guerra went to court for a pre-trial motions hearing.

Defense lawyer Scott Atlas presented a crucial motion asking the judge to suppress testimony that was shown three years ago to have been tainted. If the judge grants the motion, then there would not be much of a trial because the state would have no witnesses.

The judge will rule as the new trial begins Dec. 2.

Aldape Guerra was 20 years old and had been in the United States only two months when he was arrested, tried and sentenced to die for the killing of a Houston police office in July 1982. During his trial the Ku Klux Klan, in hoods and white sheets, demonstrated outside the courthouse calling on the Klan to "protect our borders from the swarms of illegal aliens coming across the Rio Grande."

Inside the courthouse, racist words were bandied about, as the prosecutors tried and convicted someone they knew was innocent.

Aldape Guerra had gone out for a ride with an acquaintance named Roberto Carrasco Flores when Houston police pulled them over. Flores got into an altercation with an officer and shot him. He then took the dead cop's gun, stuck it into his pants and fled.

When the police found Flores, they killed him. The cop's gun was still in the waist of his pants. Yet they arrested Aldape Guerra for the killing.

Widespread support in Houston and Mexico

Since 1982, Aldape Guerra has received wide support both in Texas and in his home country of Mexico. After his arrest, demonstrations and support committees were organized, led by Houston's large Mexican immigrant community.

His case made headlines across Mexico. There, many were outraged that Texas could execute a Mexican citizen.

Radio stations in Mexico played corridos or ballads telling the story of this racist injustice. Supporters produced slide shows and videos. A book on the case was published in Monterey.

Vendors and stores sold T-shirts and buttons with the prisoner's image on them.

Aldape Guerra became a symbol of the anti-immigrant racism promoted by the cops and courts of the Southwest United States, and a perfect example of why the death penalty should be abolished. Like others on death row in Texas, he was poor, had a court-appointed attorney, and his case was full of police and prosecutorial misconduct. Racism permeated the proceedings.

Those who want more information on how to fight the death penalty and support Aldape Guerra can call the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty at 713-523-8454 or Coordinadora '96 at 713-926-2786.

Letters of support can be sent to: Ricardo Aldape Guerra, SPN#00463036, Harris County Jail-6C4-05A, 1301 Franklin Street, Houston, TX 77002.

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