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New DNA Testing Reveals Innocence of Man on Florida’s Death Row and Points to Victim’s Daughter as Likely Perpetrator

[Print Version]

Lawyers to Conduct Hearing With Compelling New Evidence for Overturning the Conviction of Clement Aguirre
 
Contact: Paul Cates, 212-364-5346, pcates@innocenceproject.org
Alana Massie, 212-364-5983, amassie@innocenceproject.org
 
(Orlando, FL; May 13, 2013) – New DNA testing reveals that Clemente Javier Aguirre-Jarquin is innocent of the 2004 murders of Cheryl Williams and Carol Bareis for which he was sentenced to death. In a hearing that begins today, his lawyers will present DNA and other evidence pointing to Williams’ daughter, who has a long history of mental illness, as the perpetrator.
 
“Tragically Mr. Aguirre’s lawyer never requested the DNA testing that could have proven that he was innocent as he always maintained,” said Nina Morrison, a Senior Staff Attorney with the Innocence Project, which is affiliated with the Cardozo School of Law. “But new DNA testing on multiple pieces of evidence now confirms that Mr. Aguirre was telling the truth all along, and he shouldn’t have to spend another day waiting to be put to death for a crime he didn’t commit.”
 
Aguirre has been on Florida’s death row since 2006 for the murders of Williams and Bareis, a mother and daughter who were found stabbed to death in their trailer in Seminole County on June 17, 2004. An undocumented Honduran, Aguirre initially told the police that he didn’t know anything about the murders. Later the same day, however, he admitted that he had gone to their home at approximately 6 AM that morning hoping to get some beer and saw that the two women had been stabbed to death. (Many people, including Mr. Aguirre and his friends, socialized with the victims at their trailer at all hours.) After discovering William’s body in the doorway of the trailer, he picked up the knife near her body because he was afraid the killer was still present. After discovering Bareis had been murdered too, he panicked, threw the knife on the ground and went home to his neighboring trailer.
 
At trial, the prosecution presented limited DNA evidence done in the case to show that the victim’s blood was on Aguirre’s clothes (which he voluntarily turned over to the police), shoes and the bloody knife. However, neither the prosecution nor the defense conducted testing on any of the more than 150 bloodstains that were photographed and swabbed from the crime scene. Aguirre’s lawyer didn’t even view, much less retain a forensic expert to examine, any of the 197 items of evidence that were collected in this case. Even thought the evidence was consistent with Aguirre’s version of events, which he testified to at trial, he was convicted and sentenced to death.
 
In August 2011, Aguirre’s new counsel at the Capital Collateral Regional Counsel – Middle Region, in consultation with the Innocence Project, sought DNA testing, which was unopposed by the state, of some of the previously-untested evidence. None of the testing of more than 84 items matched Aguirre. Most matched to the two victims, but there were two bloodstains that matched to William’s daughter (and Bareis’ granddaughter) Samantha Williams. Armed with this evidence, the legal team sought to test the remainder of the evidence. This time the state opposed testing, but the court ordered it anyway. Again none of the stains matched to Aguirre, but now there have been a total of eight different bloodstains identified as Samantha’s, which were spread out over four rooms, and each was near blood found from one of the victims.
 
“Mr. Aguirre is a victim of circumstance because he stumbled upon the crime and failed to report it,” said Maria DeLiberato, lead lawyer with the Capital Collateral Regional Counsel – Middle Region. “We firmly believe in his innocence, and we feel confident that after hearing the evidence the court will agree to set aside the verdict.”
 
At the hearing, which is expected to run from May 13 – 24, 2013, Aguirre’s lawyers will present additional evidence pointing to Samantha as the perpetrator, including:

  • Testimony from a crime scene expert that the bloodstains now known to be Samantha’s were “fresh” at the time they were photographed after the murders;
  • Testimony from the same expert that the blood on Clemente’s clothing and shoes does not contain the kinds of blood spatter or projected blood patterns that would be present if he had stabbed these victims at close range.
  • Testimony that one of the “swiped” stains containing the mother’s blood that was deposited on the arm of a kitchen chair (i.e., after she was killed), was left by someone wearing a cotton or denim fabric that is not consistent with Clemente’s clothing (a pair of nylon shorts); and that Samantha wore long khaki pants for her job at Subway;
  • Evidence that Samantha had a long history of mental illness and violence and has been involuntarily committed to psychiatric facilities once by her mother before the murders and at least three times since because of her behavior;
  • Evidence that Samantha made multiple statements (one of which was captured on police video) suggesting her own culpability for murders;
  • Evidence that Samantha and her mother had a heated argument the night of the murder; and
  • Testimony from friends and neighbors about the troubled relationship between Samantha and her mother.
Aguirre’s lawyers will ask the court to set aside the verdict based on either the new evidence, the ineffectiveness of Aguirre’s trial lawyer or actual innocence. Information about the hearing is listed below:
 
WHAT: Hearing to set aside the verdict of Clemente Javier Aguirre- Jarquin for the 2004 murders of Cheryl Williams and Carol Bareis based on new DNA evidence pointing to Williams’ daughter Samantha as the perpetrator.
 
WHEN: Monday, May 13 – Friday, May, 24 at 9:00 a.m.
 
WHERE: Seminole County Criminal Justice Center
101 Bush Blvd.
Sanford, FL 32773
 
Contact the Innocence Project for additional information about the case and a schedule of expected witnesses. Aguirre is represented by DeLiberato and Marie-Louise Samuels Parmer with the Capital Collateral Regional Counsel – Middle Region. Morrison and Co-Director Barry Scheck of the Innocence Project and Executive Director Seth Miller of the Innocence of Florida are serving as co-counsel.

 

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