Texas death row inmate set to be executed Wednesday. Why a court rejected his ask for delay

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A day before death row inmate Ivan Cantu's scheduled execution, Texas' highest criminal court rejected Cantu's last-ditch effort to halt his execution and introduce new evidence in the case.

The Court of Criminal Appeals on Tuesday afternoon denied Cantu's request, writing that he did not fulfill the legal requirements to file a writ of habeas corpus. Cantu, who was found guilty of a double homicide in 2001, had argued that a key witness in his trial presented false and misleading testimony and that his public defender did not provide him with adequate legal defense during the initial proceedings.

The decision comes as the head juror in the 2001 case, Catholic activists and Kim Kardashian have called on Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and the courts to grant Cantu a stay of execution, motivated by details provided in a popular true crime podcast about the inmate's claim of flawed witness testimony. State prosecutors have maintained that Cantu has repeatedly failed to provide new evidence and that his motions have no legal basis.

The Dallas native has spent more than 20 years on death row and has filed numerous unsuccessful appeals of his conviction. The Court of Criminal Appeals upheld the jury's death sentence in 2004 and in August 2023 denied Cantu's request for a new hearing, as Tuesday's decision states.

Cantu is scheduled to be executed at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

Who is Ivan Cantu?

Cantu, now 50, is a Texas man who was convicted for the double homicide of his cousin James Mosqueda and Mosqueda’s fiancée, Amy Kitchen. The murders occurred in 2000, and in a 2001 trial, Cantu was found guilty and sentenced to death.

Mosqueda, 27, and Kitchen, 21, were fatally shot on Nov. 4, 2000, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Jewelry and a vehicle were stolen from the victims' Dallas residence.

Since being sentenced over twenty years ago, Cantu has maintained his innocence.

What is the new evidence?

With the support of his lawyer and a private investigator, Cantu claims two of the state's key witnesses, his then-girlfriend and her brother, gave false testimony, CNN reports.

A Rolex watch was among the pieces of jewelry Cantu was accused of stealing the night of the double murders. The watch was later found.

Private investigator Matt Duff first brought attention to the new evidence in his podcast named "Cousins by Blood," which takes a deep dive into the decades-old double murder case.

Cantu's supporters, including Duff himself, gathered at the Collin County Courthouse last week to demand officials to hear the new evidence. Among them was Sister Helen Prejean, an activist known for her opposition to the death penalty.

"And he asked me to be with him, if Texas executes him on the 28th," the sister shared outside the courthouse. "[He said] 'Would you hold my hand and pray with me?'"

Cantu's attorney, Gena Bunn, also spoke at the event.

"I am hopeful that the court will do the right thing and give Ivan his day in court," Bunn said.

As of Tuesday morning, Collin County District Attorney Greg Willis has refused requests for a stay of execution.

In a statement obtained by CNN, Willis said he remained “fully convinced that Ivan Cantu brutally murdered” Mosqueda and Kitchen, pointing to the “undeniable evidence presented at trial,” including the DNA analysis, fingerprints, ballistics and witness testimony.

Kim Kardashian and others speak out in support of Cantu

A petition calls for Governor Greg Abbott to withdraw Cantu's execution date in light of the new evidence. Tens of thousands of people have signed as it comes closer to reaching the goal of 200,000 signatures.

Several big names have voiced support for a fair trial for Cantu — including Kim Kardashian.

"Hey! Its Kim Kardashian, I just wanted to thank you guys for signing, and I hope you all get your friends to sign too!" she wrote after digitally signing the petition.

Kardashian also shared a message on X, formerly Twitter, urging her followers to ask Gov. Abbott to grant a 30 day reprieve.

Head juror in 2001 case: 'I feel like I was fooled'

On Monday, the American-Statesman published an op-ed written by the head juror of the 2001 case, Jeff Calhoun. He was another individual who spoke at the Collin County Courthouse last week. Calhoun's heartfelt message acknowledges his role in Cantu's sentencing and rescinds his support for the execution.

Calhoun shared his reaction to the hearing the testimony of the state's star witness had been falsified.

"This struck me hard. 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 I was fooled."

Read the full article: I helped put Ivan Cantu on death row. Now I feel like I was fooled.

In closing, Calhoun requests action from Gov. Abbott.

"In full respect, I ask Governor Abbott, that you hand me back the document I signed that confirmed the jury's decision, and delay the execution of Ivan Cantu so further examination can be conducted. This one is unfortunately flawed and therefore incomplete."

Kardashian shared Calhoun's column to her Instagram story.

Kim Kardashian shares the article written by Jeff Calhoun for the Austin American-Statesman to her Instagram story.
Kim Kardashian shares the article written by Jeff Calhoun for the Austin American-Statesman to her Instagram story.

This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Ivan Cantu's execution to go forward after Texas court rejects appeal