César Fierro, free after 40 years on death row

Para español siga este enlace: https://www.theyearsoffierro.com/gfm 

On May 14 2020, at 63 years of age, César Fierro became a free man, after being on death row for over 40 years. Having lived in solitary confinement for most of his life and practically deprived from any contact with other human beings or exposure to natural light, he waited to be executed. For the last 20 years, César was housed in one of the worst prisons in the United States – the Allan B. Polunsky Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Today, despite being a free man, justice for César Fierro has fallen short. While the system spared his life and gave him back his freedom, it failed to recognize his innocence, provide any kind of compensation for wrongful conviction, and left him to be deported, not allowed to return to the United States where he has family members.

Cesar Fierro was sentenced to death in 1980 for the murder of a taxi driver in El Paso, Texas, without any physical evidence connecting him to the crime. César’s conviction rested entirely on his confession and the testimony of a 16 year-old mentally ill eyewitness, who claimed to be present during the crime.

In 1994, César’s defense found solid evidence proving that his confession was coerced by psychological torture. The night César was being interrogated, the El Paso Police colluded with the police in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. The Juárez police illegally arrested César’s mother and stepfather. César, knowing that they were in custody, decided to blame himself falsely to protect his family from the brutality of the police in México. Despite the fact that since 1996 the courts in Texas have acknowledged that César’s confession was “likely coerced”, they sustained his death sentence until 2020, calling the circumstances surrounding the confession a “harmless mistake” and arguing that the testimony of the alleged eyewitness provided sufficient basis to support the conviction.

 In 2018, César filed a subsequent application for a writ of habeas corpus in the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, arguing that forensic analysis and other evidence demonstrated that the state unknowingly relied on the false testimony of the eyewitness during his trial, and that the jury instructions had not allowed for proper consideration by the jury of all mitigating evidence. Fourteen months later, this Court finally vacated César’s death sentence, accepting the argument that the jury was not properly instructed during César’s sentencing trial in 1980. (This argument had been presented to the Court in 1990, but was dismissed until when, years later, the U.S. Supreme Court made it clear to the Texas courts that they were misapplying the United States Constitution.) César’s case was then remanded to the trial court for resentencing and, in January 2020, César was resentenced to life in prison with immediate eligibility for parole. The Texas Parole Board quickly granted parole, and César was released and deported to México on May 14 2020, in the middle of the CoVid-19 pandemic and economic crisis.

 César Fierro, who survived the emotional and physical torture of death row for 40 years, now has a great challenge ahead: surviving freedom in a country that has almost no public policies for social reinsertion. He is currently living in México City, rediscovering the world and building the necessary skills to survive in it, thanks to the initial support of his lawyers and pen-pals from all over the world. The economic resources, however, are running out, so your contribution to this GoFundMe can make a big difference in César’s life, helping him meet this enormous challenge.

Legal Details and Other Helpful Information:

Who is managing this GoFundMe?

This GoFundMe campaign is organized by Laura Tansey, in collaboration with the team of lawyers who helped César gain his freedom. The legal team is led by attorney Richard Burr.

 What is your relationship to César Fierro?

Richard Burr has represented César Fierro, pro bono, since 1994. Mr. Burr led the wonderful team of lawyers that was able to gain César’s freedom in 2020: Sandra Babcock, Jean Terranova, Joe Spencer, John Hall, Francis Donovan, Catherine Amirfar, Floriane Lavaud, Ryan Mullally, Laura Sinisterra, Jillian Tancil, Molly Baltimore, Jennifer Lim, and Laura Tansey.

Where is César Fierro now?

César is living in Mexico City, in an independent studio provided by one of his friends. Cesar is doing very well. He is being supported by donations from people around the world who have been his pen-pals for many years. He is getting excellent care (including mental health care and medication monitoring) and is developing the skills to live again in the free world. César wants to stay in México City until he feels safe and ready to move to Ciudad Juárez, the city where he was born and lived until his arrest, to live permanently.

How will donations to this GoFundMe help César?

Every single dollar that is donated to this GoFundMe will directly benefit César Fierro by helping him afford everything from daily essentials like groceries and clothing to larger life needs. César’s biggest dream is to live an independent and self-sufficient life in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, México. This GoFundMe will help him find a place to live, secure medical and psychological treatment, and gain work skills.

How will the funds collected through this GoFundMe page be spent?

100% of the funds collected will be used by César Fierro to pay for the myriad life needs and obstacles that he confronts alongside his newly won freedom.

How will these funds be provided to César?

We have established a lawyer’s trust account to keep César’s money. Lawyer’s trust accounts are a secure way in which attorneys keep money that belongs to their clients. These accounts are supervised by State’s authorities to ensure they’re properly managed. Every dollar that is donated to this GoFundMe will be transferred to the trust account and used only to pay for César’s expenses.
Is anyone taking any fee or commission from the amount collected by this GoFundMe?

GoFundMe charges a fee of 2.9% plus $0.30 USD per donation. All the money collected through this effort, after paying the GoFundMe fee, will go to directly to César.

How can I learn more about César Fierro and his case?

Follow this link to find an article, podcast, and information about film screenings:
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Laura Tansey 
Driftwood, TX
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