Law in Contemporary Society
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-- By PaulaKim - 27 May 2012

The Murder of Dahlia Sauceda

On November 20, 1979, the body of Dahlia Sauceda was found in her van in Corpus Christi, Texas. She had been beaten, raped, and strangled, and her killer had carved a large X in her back. The police arrested Jesse Garza for the murder after an eyewitness, Pedro Olivarez, told police he saw Garza rape and kill Sauceda. Kenneth George Botary, an assistant district attorney, was assigned to the case. He decided to prosecute Garza even though there was another suspect who was more likely the real killer: Carlos Hernandez, a violent man. His fingerprints and boxer shorts had been discovered in Sauceda's van.

When the police brought Hernandez in for questioning, he asked to make a phone call. He called his mother and told her that he had been with the victim at one point, but had been too drunk to remember what happened. His mother advised him to tell the police that he'd been with Sauceda earlier, but had left before she was killed. He followed his mother’s advice, but a polygraph machine indicated he was lying when he said that he didn’t kill Sauceda.

Botary had to decide whether to prosecute Hernandez for the murder or stick with Garza. He asked Hernandez to meet with him for an interview. Botary later made a transcript of their conversation, but it is unknown exactly what Hernandez said because the transcript was lost. Whatever it was, it convinced Mr. Botary not to go after Hernandez.

Botary thought that he had a slam dunk case against Garza. So when, on the day of the trial, the eyewitness Olivarez told him that he had lied about seeing Garza kill Sauceda, Botary was understandably upset. He asked a colleague who was known as a master interrogator to have a chat with the eyewitness. Just a few minutes later, Olivarez was back to claiming that Garza was the killer. Unfortunately for Botary, Olivarez was not a very good liar under pressure. At trial, the defense lawyer quickly tore his testimony apart and the jury found Garza not guilty.

Six years later, in 1986, police arrested Hernandez for Sauceda's murder. Botary was in charge of the prosecution and it seemed like he had a good case. There was plenty of evidence, both physical and circumstantial, that linked Hernandez to the crime. However, the essential pieces were the transcript of Hernandez and Botary’s conversation, and the recording of Hernandez's phone conversation with his mother. Botary was in charge of these and somehow lost both of them. The judge dismissed the case for the prosecution's failure to produce necessary evidence.

The Murder of Wanda Lopez

On February 4, 1983, Wanda Lopez was stabbed to death at a gas station in Corpus Christi. A man named Carlos DeLuna? was arrested for the crime. Botary and Steven Schweitz were assigned to prosecute DeLuna? . The police and prosecutors felt they had the right man even though there were many things that suggested otherwise. There was no physical evidence placing DeLuna? at the scene of the crime, and a man named Carlos Hernandez (the one involved in the Sauceda case) was bragging that he had killed Lopez. DeLuna? told his defense lawyers that Hernandez was the real killer, but they had no idea who that was. Both Botary and the police knew of Hernandez from the Sauceda case and knew that he was a violent man with a penchant for assaulting women with knives. Yet nobody informed the defense of this fact. And when Schiwetz told the jury that Hernandez was a phantom whom DeLuna? had invented, Botary remained silent. Had Botary done what his prosecutorial duties required him to do and disclosed information regarding Hernandez to DeLuna? 's defense team, DeLuna? 's case would likely have had a different outcome. Instead, DeLuna? was sentenced to death for a murder he did not commit and put to death by lethal injection on December 7, 1989. He was 27 years old.

The Present

Botary is currently a criminal defense lawyer in Corpus Christi. He has received no sanctions. He believes the outcome of the DeLuna? case was just. But one indication that Botary is ashamed of the way he handled the case? He checked out the boxes of evidence from the case after the trial and never returned them. They are still at large.

I don't know what kind of lawyer I want to be, but I know that I don't want to be the type of lawyer who worries more about winning cases than about achieving justice, who cares more about being right than about discovering the truth. I don't want to be like Kenneth Botary. I doubt anybody wants to be like him. But I also doubt that when Botary was a law student he aspired to be the kind of lawyer he ended up becoming. Botary was in our position once. He had the opportunity to be a lawyer that fights for justice. And he ended up destroying innocent lives. It only takes a few wrong choices, a few lies and excuses, a few instances of doing what's easy rather than what's right, to lead us down the path that Botary took. One compromise leads to another, which will eventually lead to a sudden realization that we are working for the wrong side, that our actions are hurting people rather than helping them, and this moment of awareness will crush us. Or worse, it will not affect us at all. I don't know what kind of lawyer I want to be, but when I first came to law school, I knew I did not want to work for a firm. Nine months later, I am starting to create a bid list for EIP and telling myself that I will work for a firm only until I pay off my loans. One compromise leads to another, and a few lies, even those told to myself, can ruin everything.

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r4 - 22 Jan 2013 - 20:10:08 - IanSullivan
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