ODESSA, Texas (Nexstar)- 48-year-old Michael Dean Gonzales, an Odessa man scheduled to be executed on March 8, has asked a judge to withdraw his execution order. According to his attorney, the request comes after the Odessa Police Department provided new evidence that “could prove his innocence”.
In 1995, Gonzales was convicted and sentenced to die following the murder of his next-door neighbors Merced and Manuel Aguirre. The couple was stabbed to death in their home on April 21, 1994. Attorney Richard H. Burr said Gonzales has maintained his innocence since his conviction.
Now Burr said OPD has released new evidence, including unexamined potential bloodstains on a piece of clothing worn by another man police suspected of committing the murder and untested fingerprints from the initial investigation.
According to his attorney, at his trial, police testified that they had found three of Gonzales’ fingerprints on a stereo that had been stolen from the Aguirre’s home and recovered a few weeks later. Police found no blood on Gonzales or wounds from the attack and found no evidence in his home of his involvement. At his trial, the prosecution told jurors that others were likely involved in the murder.
Just weeks before Gonzales’ execution date, Odessa police found 136 fingerprint cards from the investigation that had been believed to be lost. Burr said only six of these cards had ever been compared for prints, but at least 60 other fingerprints—including prints from the crime scene—”could have enough information to identify other suspects”, according to a fingerprint examiner who reviewed the new evidence.
Police also uncovered stains from a bloodstained flannel shirt that had been seized from the bedroom closet of an alternate suspect, identified by the attorney as Jesse Perkins. That shirt had never been examined for DNA.
According to a news release, Perkins was investigated but never charged in the case. The head of the OPD crime scene unit and experts working with the defense agreed that there are stains on the inner lining of the shirt and that if this new evidence is tested, it could strengthen the case that Perkins—who admitted to police he was in the Aguirre’s house, had wounds consistent with the attack, and had the only evidence containing the Aguirre’s blood— was responsible for the murders.
“We have tried to get access to these fingerprints for more than two years. When the department found the prints in early February, they notified us and have been very helpful since then in getting the prints to us in a form that allows comparison to the prints of the known suspects. It is critical that we be allowed time to conduct testing on the shirt and to make comparisons of these prints to the prints of the known suspects. Without this opportunity, there is a strong likelihood the State will execute an innocent person next week,” Burr said.
The attorney also said that based on Gonzales’ unspecified mental disabilities and should not be facing the death penalty because of those disabilities.
Judge John Shrode has set a hearing for 9:30 a.m. on March 4, to hear arguments from counsel regarding the motion.