San Antonio Four Start Holidays with Exoneration

January 10, 2017

sa4 oct2016Kristie Mayhugh, Anna Vasquez, Cassandra Rivera and Elizabeth Ramirez and their attorney, Mike Ware, Texas A&M Law adjunct professor, at a recent event hosted by Texas A&M University School of Law.

Nearly 20 years after their convictions, Elizabeth Ramirez, Kristie Mayhugh, Cassandra Rivera and Anna Vasquez, known as the San Antonio 4, are now celebrating their exonerations.

In the late 1990s, the women were tried and convicted of performing “satanic ritual abuse” on two young girls, Ramirez’s nieces. They are lesbians, and their sexuality was used as a motive by the prosecution. All four women were sentenced to prison.

Mike Ware SA4 AP photoCassandra Rivera, center, followed by Elizabeth Ramirez and Kristie Mayhugh are led out of the Bexar County Jail by their attorney Mike Ware, right, Monday, Nov. 18, 2013, in San Antonio.
(AP Photo/Eric Gay)

In 2012, the Innocence Project of Texas (IPTX) took up the case, and Vasquez was paroled. The other three were released in 2013 after IPTX “uncovered additional evidence of innocence never presented at trial, as well as a complete and total recantation of one of the alleged ‘victims,’ asserting that ‘none of it ever happened’ to either her or her sister,” according to an IPTX press release.

Just a few days shy of Thanksgiving, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that the women “are innocent and are exonerated.”

“[These] defendants have won the right to proclaim to the citizens of Texas: 'We are innocent',” said Mike Ware, Texas A&M Law Innocence Project director and adjunct professor and IPTX Executive Director. “This Court grants them the relief they seek.”

However, the San Antonio district attorney must still drop the charges. “Which he [district attorney] has made clear he will do,” Ware said.

The women can then apply for compensation from the state.

All were “ecstatic” to hear the news.  

Vasquez has been “in shock and disbelief” since her partner told her the news.

“It was a wonderful Thanksgiving,” she said. “And at the same time it still has not sunken in yet.”

 She said it’s been a huge weight off her shoulders.

“The one thing I would like to add is how grateful I am that the judges took the time to sort out all the information provided by our attorneys, and gave us a full exoneration,” she said.  “I knew that the odds were against us but in the end justice did prevail.”

More than anything, she is thankful for Ware and the IPTX’s dedication and faith in the case. She said first meeting with Ware was a bit intimidating.

“Now after all these years of getting to know him he is the most compassionate man I know,” she said. “He is a brilliant attorney and his passion for the law is remarkable.”

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- Article by Jennifer Nassar, Communications Specialist, Texas A&M University School of Law