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Texas Executes Death Row Inmate Ivan Cantu, Who Maintained Innocence in Double Homicide

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The state of Texas executed a death row inmate, Ivan Cantu, on Wednesday, February 28, 2024. A court convicted and sentenced Cantu to death for the 2000 murders of his cousin and his cousin’s fiancée. However, he insisted till his death that he was innocent.

A picture of Ivan Cantu
Source: CNN/X

Texas put the 50-year-old man to death by lethal injection at the state prison in Huntsville. According to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the time of death was recorded as 6:47 p.m. Before the execution, Cantu’s lawyer attempted to stall the execution. 

However, the attempts ended after two lower courts denied appeals. Also, Cantu’s lawyer, Gena Bunn, “couldn’t find a viable path” to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. With his last words, Ivan Cantu maintained he was innocent of the murders of James Mosqueda, his cousin, and Amy Kitchen.

“I’d like to address the Kitchens and Mosqueda families,” Cantu said. “I want you to know that I never killed James and Amy.” He added, “And if I did, if I knew who did, you would’ve been the first to know any information I would’ve had that would’ve helped to bring justice to James and Amy.”

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However, despite Cantu’s claims, Collin County District Attorney Greg Willis wasn’t convinced of his innocence. Willis said Cantu had “finally met with justice” after more than two decades of courts “comprehensively reviewing” his case.

“My hopeful prayer is for the victims’ families and friends,” Willis said in a statement. “And loved ones to find a long-awaited sense of peace.” According to a spokesperson for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, there were no issues with the lethal injection.

In addition to three journalists, Kitchen’s brother, her sister-in-law, and a family friend witnessed the execution. On the other hand, Ivan Cantu asked not to have any witnesses. However, his spiritual advisor, anti-death penalty activist Sister Helen Prejean of “Dead Man Walking” fame, accompanied him.

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Michael Graczyk, who covered the execution for the Associated Press, said Cantu appeared in “pretty good spirits” before the execution. Graczyk said Prejean held Cantu’s hand and whispered into his ear for about two minutes before he gave his final statement. 

Also, the media witness said he “didn’t sound bitter, he didn’t sound irate” during his last statement. Graczyk noted, “He just insisted he was innocent.” Before the execution, Cantu’s legal team argued in court filings that his trial “was marred by false testimony from the prosecution’s star witness.” 

Court documents show the witness was Cantu’s then-girlfriend, Amy Boettcher. In addition, court filings show that Boettcher’s brother, Jeff Boettcher, recanted his testimony. Cantu’s attorneys also alleged that Boettcher lied about a watch she alleged he stole.

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Furthermore, Ivan Cantu argued that he received ineffective assistance from counsel at trial. Efforts to prevent the execution gained prominence as the podcast “Cousins by Blood” reinvestigated the case.

ALSO READ: Court Sentences Convicted Killer to Death Row for the Third Time Over Child Murders

Also, the Austin American Statesman published an op-ed from the head juror in the 2000 case, Jeff Calhoun. The opinion piece claimed that the new evidence raised doubts about the conviction. “Simply put, we jurors did not hear the truth you assume you would hear from a person under oath,” Calhoun wrote.

“Bottom line, I feel like they fooled me.” A petition to stay the execution on “Moveon.org” gained over 150,000 signatures, and Kim Kardashian shared it on her platform. Kardashian also took to X, urging Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbot to give Ivan Cantu a 30-day reprieve. However, none worked.

Cantu’s execution came hours after Idaho called off the execution of a death row inmate, Thomas Creech. The state scheduled Creech for execution by lethal injection, which would have been the state’s first execution in 12 years.

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