Texas Death Row Inmate to be Executed in Days as Catholics Call for Clemency

Cantu has drawn support from a wide variety of Catholics as his execution has drawn nearer.

Ivan Cantu is scheduled to be executed by the state of Texas on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024.

Catholics are continuing to call for clemency for a convicted murderer in Texas who is facing execution amid an ongoing dispute over his guilty verdict. 

Texas has scheduled the execution of Ivan Cantu for Wednesday, Feb. 28. Cantu was convicted for a double murder that took place in 2000. 

In November of that year, according to the state, Cantu shot and killed both his cousin and a 21-year-old woman. He also stole jewelry and a car, the state says. 

Cantu has been on the state’s death row since November 2001. He was previously scheduled to be executed in April 2023 but was granted a stay of execution based on new testimony that alleged a possible false witness in his murder trial. 

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals subsequently dismissed Cantu’s request for an evidentiary hearing. His attorneys have argued since then that he should be granted a new trial based on claims that the chief witness at his first trial was unreliable. 

Cantu has drawn support from a wide variety of Catholics as his execution has drawn nearer. The Catholic anti-death penalty group Catholics Mobilizing Network (CMN) urges readers on its website to “contact Gov. [Greg] Abbott and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles” to urge them to forgo the execution.

“Newly discovered evidence — which was not heard by the jury and has never been considered by any court — casts significant doubt on Ivan’s conviction,” the group says. 

“Some of the jurors who voted to sentence Ivan to death have since called for this evidence to be reviewed, declaring that they are disturbed by the prospect they heard false and misleading testimony during the trial,” CMN says.

Catholic religious Sister Helen Prejean, meanwhile, said on her website that she has “promised to be beside Ivan if his execution proceeds” but that “there is so much wrong with the case against him.”

Sister Prejean, who has been a vocal opponent of the death penalty for decades, wrote on her website: “There’s no way I’m simply going to acquiesce, hold his hand, and pray him into eternity without doing every single thing I can to get the truth out so that Texas does not execute this man.”

Cantu has also drawn support from the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops. Last year after the delay in Cantu’s execution, the bishops said they were “grateful [that] a judge has shown mercy to Ivan Cantu” by scrapping the April execution date. 

The case against Cantu was “riddled with serious uncertainties including false testimony, withholding of evidence, and potential framing of Mr. Cantu,” the bishops said. 

Cantu faces execution by lethal injection on Wednesday, the sole method allowed in Texas. 

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, Texas has executed 586 people since 1976, more than any other state. Oklahoma is second, at 123. 

Texas claims the second-most number of executions per 100,000 residents in the country at roughly 1.9; only Oklahoma claims more, at 3.0 executions per 100,000. 

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