In a recently filed petition for writ of habeas corpus in the Stanislaus County Superior Court, NCIP attorneys laid out new evidence that proves NCIP client Domingo Bustos Anaya is innocent. Anaya was convicted twenty years ago of the January 1996 murder of Luz Ortiz, who was shot in Modesto, California. Anaya has always maintained his innocence.
The only eyewitness to the shooting was Federico Muro, the victim’s brother-in-law. Muro identified Jose Luis Zepeda as the driver of the vehicle in which the victim was shot. Anaya became a suspect because he was related to Zepeda.
Muro did not identify Anaya as the shooter when first presented with his picture. Only after law enforcement included Anaya’s picture a second time in a line-up, did Muro identify Anaya. Showing a suspect’s picture multiple times to witnesses as they look through line-ups is a procedure which research shows commonly leads to misidentifications.
Muro’s identification was the only evidence implicating Anaya in the crime. The weak evidence presented against Anaya resulted in a deadlocked jury with eight jurors voting for acquittal.
Before Anaya’s second trial in 1997, Zepeda, who fled to Mexico shortly after the crime, provided a taped statement admitting he was the driver of the vehicle and that a man named Angel Rosales shot the victim. Zepeda confirmed Anaya was neither present at the crime scene nor involved with the murder.
However, a jailhouse informant named Uriel Valencia called authorities before the second trial and claimed Anaya confessed to him about committing the murder. After Valencia provided several inconsistent statements regarding Anaya’s confession, law enforcement officials provided Valencia key information about the shooting during their questioning of him. Valencia then used that information in his trial testimony to provide details consistent with the shooting. Anaya’s defense attorney never confronted Valencia with his prior inconsistent statements.
As a result, the second jury never heard that Valencia’s first two statements to law enforcement contradicted his trial testimony. The jury also did not hear Zepeda’s statement naming Rosales as the actual shooter because Zepeda refused to return from Mexico to testify and the court would not admit his taped statement. Anaya was convicted at the conclusion of his second trial.
In September 2015, NCIP had a breakthrough in the case when Angel Rosales confessed in a sworn declaration and videotaped statement that he was the actual shooter. Rosales provided details consistent with the undisputed facts of the case and consistent with other witnesses’ accounts of the crime.
After considering NCIP’s petition for writ of habeas corpus filed on Anaya’s behalf, the Stanislaus County Superior Court issued an order on October 18, 2016 for the state to show why Anaya’s conviction should not be reversed. NCIP is waiting for the state’s response. Hopefully, we will welcome Anaya home soon. Twenty years in prison, wrongfully convicted, is too long.