Six Judges and a West Texas Murder: The Trial of León Cárdenas Martínez, Jr. (Paperback)

Six Judges and a West Texas Murder: The Trial of León Cárdenas Martínez, Jr. Cover Image
By Keith S. Hampton, Dino Price (Designed by)


LE N C RDENAS MART NEZ, JR., TRIAL. On May 11, 1914, Le n C rdenas Mart nez, Jr., was executed for the murder of Emma Brown in Pecos, Texas, despite a Texas law preventing the execution of minors. The case was associated with one of the most prolonged efforts to save a Tejano, and for more than three years such organizations as the Mexican Protective Association of San Antonio and the Partido Liberal Mexicano as well as the Mexican government provided aid to the Mart nez family in appealing the boy's sentence. Mart nez's sentence and hanging ultimately acted as a catalyst for mutual aid societies (sociedades mutualistas) to address the issue of lynching and unusual punishment of Mexican people across the Southwest.

On July 23, 1911, Le n C rdenas Mart nez was arrested in Saragosa in Reeves County by two officers from the Reeves County sheriff's office, who were investigating the murder of Emma Brown, a white school teacher. According to an account given by his father, Le n C rdenas Mart nez, Sr, immediately after his son's arrest, Mart nez Jr. was taken to the location of Emma Brown's murder and forced at gunpoint to confess or be lynched by local ranchers. Additionally, on the night of the arrest, Reeves County Sheriff Pink A. Harbert and a number of other men forced Mart nez Sr., the proprietor of a local butcher shop, to leave his shop and also vacate his home with his family and leave town by way of the desert.

Over the next five days Mart nez Jr. was kept in prisons in Pecos and Midland. The transfers were in part meant to thwart potential threats of lynching by Pecos citizens. On July 28, 1911, his trial took place. Although the only evidence that he was guilty was the forced confession, the jury was composed of jurors who had already formed an opinion of the defendant's guilt, and the prosecution intimidated witnesses who testified on Mart nez's behalf. During the trial, Martinez's defense attorneys focused on proving that their client was a minor, which would prevent him from receiving the death penalty. His father stated that his son was fifteen years old at the time of the crime. Both of his parents testified to his age, but their testimony and their efforts to provide birth and baptism certificates were ignored in favor of other witnesses, who guessed that the age of the defendant was about eighteen or nineteen. Ultimately, Mart nez was found guilty and sentenced to death.

Several efforts were made to appeal the sentence, beginning with the Mexican Protective Association of San Antonio; The Partido Liberal Mexicano; The Sociedad Obreros of Laredo sent a petition to Governor Oscar Colquitt and asked that the death sentence be commuted to a life sentence. The Mexican government hired lawyers to file a writ of habeas corpus with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. The defense lawyers appealed to the United States Supreme Court. This did not stop efforts to gain a pardon, and in April 1914, Mexican Americans in Waco formed the Comit de Defensa to publicize the case. They were followed quickly in their efforts to raise publicity by La Prensa in San Antonio and El Guardia del Bravo in Laredo. This increased publicity resulted in hundreds of clemency petitions, but Texas Governor Oscar Colquitt ignored these requests. The Mexican government conducted one last-ditch effort to prevent Mart nez's execution by asking the Spanish ambassador, Juan Raino, to appeal to Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan. On May 9, 1914, two days before Mart nez was sentenced to be hanged, Raino communicated this request and Bryan relayed this to Governor Colquitt, who again refused. On May 11, 1914, Le n C rdenas Mart nez, Jr., was executed by hanging.

Product Details
ISBN: 9780990525929
ISBN-10: 0990525929
Publisher: Keith S. Hampton
Publication Date: February 26th, 2019
Pages: 122
Language: English