On the night of August 1, 1996, I went out with three friends -- Robbie Foster, Kelly Overstreet and Dennis Haygood. That night ended in the death of Nick Moraida. While I did go out with the group, both Robbie Foster and myself were away from Kelly and Dennis when the crime was committed. I was not present during the time the murder was committed and I did not participate in its delivery. The two men that actually committed the murder are not on death row. One reason is that there were many misrepresentations and out right lies told at my trial. The jury selection was even continued when I was unable to be present in the court room due to a medical problem. And even though the jury requested an explanation of exactly what a sentence of life in prison meant, this was never explained to the jury.
I am just another statistic in the dubious title held by the State of Texas - death penalty capital of the World. There are many reasons that this is wrong, not the lease of which is that I DID NOT COMMIT THE CRIME for which I was convicted and sentenced to death.
It has been overlooked that one of my codefendants, while incarcerated in the Nueces County jail, wrote a letter to his girlfriend stating “I have always hated fagots, but I didn’t mean to kill the little queen. I was pretty high that night and I guess my rage over came my ass. I guess this is what being a skinhead is all about.” This is a direct quote from a letter written by Kelly Overstreet to his girlfriend on March 11, 1997. This letter was turned over to my defense lawyer by the girlfriend, Stephanie, after she learned that Kelly intended to testify against me to save his own life.
I was not willing to commit perjury and testify against Kelly, but he was willing to do so against me. He committed perjury by testifying and pointing a crooked finger at me. I guess everyone forgot that when you point one finger at a person, there are three additional fingers pointing back at you. This was surely the case with Kelly.
According to Texas law, an accused person cannot be convicted on an accomplice’s testimony alone. As a work around to this law, the State of Texas did not charge two of the people allegedly involved in the offense so that they would be able to provide corroborating testimony. One of those witnesses for the State, Sarah Holliday, said that she knowingly accepted stolen property from her husband (the second co-defendant in this case) with knowledge that the property had belonged to the victim of this crime. She took the stolen property to a pawn shop to obtain money for her husband. According to Texas law, knowingly accepting stolen property is a felony. The State used this information and the fact that Sarah Holliday-Haygood could be charged with this felony to convince her and her future husband to testify for the State to help them convict me of the crime of capital murder.
Kelly Overstreet’s and Dennis Haygood’s testimony was not enough to obtain a conviction because Texas law states that “an accomplice’s testimony must be corroborated by another piece of evidence.” Other corroborating evidence can either be physical or testimonial. It was a tangled web of lies, woven into a story of unadulterated fiction by the State of Texas to convict me and put me in the place I am today. Both of the codefendants, Dennis Haygood and Kelly Overstreet, were allowed to plead to lesser charges in accepting the State’s plea bargain offer, conditionally offered only if they were willing to testify against me.
Another fact that is important to note, Dennis Haygood and Kelly Overstreet had been childhood friends. Their criminal records show numerous robberies and assaults, which they had committed together. When they were arrested and taken to the Nueces County jail, they were placed in a holding cell together for several hours. This allowed plenty of time for them to get their stories straight and agree to place the blame for the murder on me alone. After all, I was a man that they had only known for two weeks, while they had a lifelong bond.
Dennis also admitted in his statement that the murder weapon was his and he bought it for his best friend Kelly Overstreet. This gun has never been recovered. He then described the gun in detail, including the year, model, brand name, caliber and type of ammunition it had been loaded with on the night of the murder.
There was not one single, solitary piece of physical evidence introduced to link me to this murder and robbery. No physical evidence!! I was convicted and sentenced to the ultimate punishment solely on the basis of two accomplices that were given very compelling reasons to lie -- including the right to go on living. They lied to save their own lives and the lives of each other.
Sarah Holliday-Haygood was married to Dennis Haygood after he was arrested, while awaiting trial. Her husband, in exchange for his testimony against me, was given a 20 year sentence and will be out in another 10 years or so. She was never charged with a crime in this case.
Robert Foster was the fourth member of our group present on that fateful night. However, he was never charged with a crime in this case either. Besides never being charged in connection with the murder of Nick Moraida, he was also forgiven a parole violation which in and of itself should have put him into prison. In addition, Robert was a suspect in a strong arm robbery and he was never questioned further regarding that case once he agreed to testify against me. Robbie also testified at my trial. He testified that I was down and out, remorseful and worried in the days following the incident. It is true. I was horrified once I learned of the death of Nick Moraida through the news. It was devastating and I was very, very scared.
The police and the expert witnesses that testified against me only stated facts. They did not introduce any evidence or testimony that identified me as the murderer. Everyone else that testified against me received some type of deal for their testimony.
I am not an angel. I do not want to mislead you. We set out that night to buy some marijuana. That in itself is a crime, but not worthy of the death penalty. It turned out to be the most expensive marijuana I ever bought. It cost two people their lives -- Nick Moraida and myself.
Everything I have documented here has been taken from the trial record itself. Half truths at best, but most absolute lies is what the State of Texas depended on to convict me and sentence me to death by lethal injection. I refused a plea bargain because I was convinced the truth would save me from a miscarriage of justice. I thought that because I didn’t murder this man, the evidence and truthful testimony would point that out in a trial. I was raised to believe in the American system of justice. While my faith in the system has definitely been shaken, I am still relying on the truth of this message to correct a gross miscarriage of justice.