Rivera and Garza didn't sit by, however. They tracked down the old police files on the killing and assembled a case against Carlos Hernandez for the District Attorney. The report laid everything out:
Hernandez's fingerprints on a Schlitz can in the van
The size–34 red plaid undershorts Rivera found at Hernandez's home shortly after the killing that matched the pair found near the victim's body
The buck knife Rivera found on Hernandez's possession at the same time
The semen in the victim, which Hernandez admitted was his
Hernandez's initial lie about not having seen Dahlia for months and spending the night she died with another woman
His phone admission to his mother that he had been with Dahlia that night, and her advice to say—as he then did—that he'd been with Dahlia "earlier" that night
His confession to Diana Gomez, tightly tracking the known facts of the crime
The explanation for the mutilated toe—a detail never mentioned in the newspaper, which only an insider to the crime would know.175
In July 1986, six and a half years after the death of Dahlia Sauceda in the back of her Happy Time van, the District Attorney indicted Carlos Hernandez for murder.176 Paul Rivera and Eddie Garza arrested him. They had their best game faces on when they performed the perp walk for the press. They looked like they were sure they had their man.177
His forehead visibly crinkled in the news photo, Carlos Hernandez looked like he just might agree. But that was before Assistant District Attorney Botary unwittingly teamed up with Defense Lawyer Jon Kelly to change Carlos's luck yet again.
* * * * *
Sitting in jail for months waiting for something to happen, Hernandez became increasingly anxious. Things had gone badly for him the last time he'd spent more than a few days in the county lock-up. And going from there to the state pen had been even worse.178
Bail was set at $25,000, far more than Carlos could afford or Fidela would risk on the promise that her least favorite son would show up in court when he was supposed to.179
Carlos knew well enough from past experience what would come next: an offer to plead guilty in return for a few years off the usual life sentence for murder.182 And he knew that the years he still owed the state on the car theft and armed robberies would be tacked on, because parole would surely be revoked.183
From the drubbing he took and the end result at Jesse Garza's trial, he also understood the difference a good lawyer like Albert Peña could make.184 When nothing had happened by November, Carlos sent the judge—Jack Blackmon—a handwritten complaint stating that his lawyer had only come to see him three times since July, listing all the requests he made of the lawyer, without results, and demanding that the judge appoint "a proper counsel."185
Luckily for Carlos, he got one. In mid-November 1986, a few days shy of the seventh anniversary of Dahlia Sauceda's death, Judge Blackmon appointed Jon Kelly to represent Carlos Hernandez.186
As Kelly told the investigators who came around years later asking about Carlos Hernandez, he wasn't one of those criminal defense lawyers who wants his client to tell him everything. He could learn all he needed to know about the bad things they'd done from cops and witnesses. The less he knew from his clients, he said, the more aggressively he could represent them.187
Paul Rivera, Corpus Christi Police Detective, Supplementary Report (July 16, 1986) at 1–2 (listing evidence that Carlos Hernandez murdered Dahlia Sauceda).
Reindictment, Texas v. Hernandez, No. 86-CR–1032-B (Nueces Cty., 117th Dist. Tex. July 15, 1986) at 1 ("The grand jury of Nueces County, Texas . . . do present that Carlos Hernandez, defendant, on or about the 20th day of November, 1979, in Nueces County, Texas, did then and there, intentionally and knowingly cause the death of an individual, Dahlia Sauceda, by inflicting trauma to her neck, chest and abdomen with his hands.").
Reindictment, Texas v. Hernandez, No. 86-CR–1032-B (Nueces Cty., 117th Dist. Tex. July 15, 1986) at 1 (noting that bond was set at $25,000);
Mot. for Reduction of Bond, Texas v. Hernandez, No. 86-CR–1032-B (Nueces Cty., 117th Dist. Tex. Nov. 14, 1986) at 1 ("Defendant is presently under a $25,000.00 bond. He does not have any means to pay a bond that high and hereby requests a hearing to determine the reduction of said bond.").
Def.'s Mot. for Continuance, Texas v. Hernandez, No. 86-CR–1032-B (Nueces Cty., 117th Dist. Tex. Sep. 5, 1986) at 1.
See supra Chapter 6, notes 166–171 and accompanying text.
See supra notes 109–132 and accompanying text.
Def.'s Mot. for Change of Counsel, Texas v. Hernandez, No. 86-CR–1032-B (Nueces Cty., 117th Dist. Tex. Nov. 17, 1986) at 1–2:
The Defendant feels that he has not discussed the Defendants [sic] charge properly with the Attorney . . . . Also, the Defendant has asked the said Attorney to file the proper motions, such as a hearing for a bond reduction several times . . . . Also the Defendant asked his Attorney to file a motion for the Defendants [sic] Right to have a private Investagater [sic] appointed to his case . . . . The Defendant has also asked his Attorney to file the motions for Discovery and exsetra [sic] . . . . The Defendant respectfully prays the court will appoint a proper Counsel . . . .
Transcribed Videotape Interview with Jon Kelly, Lawyer for Carlos Hernandez, in Corpus Christi, Texas (Dec. 9, 2004) at 06:20:33:
I remember my initial contacts, contact with Carlos Hernandez was, I don't know what year. In the latter part of the eighties was it? He was in jail. He had been, I believe, charged with, a murder. I believe. And he—I was called by the court manager for Judge Blackmon, the elder Judge Blackmon. And advised that the attorney representing him [Hernandez] was having difficulty in dealing with him, and he and the client weren't getting along.
Order Appointing an Attorney, Texas v. Hernandez, No. 86-CR–1032-B (Nueces Cty., 117th Dist. Tex. Nov. 13, 1986) at 1 (appointing Jon J. Kelly to represent Carlos Hernandez);
Peso Chavez & James S. Liebman's Notes on Interviews with Jon Kelly, Lawyer for Carlos Hernandez (Aug. 16, 18, 20, 2004) at 1, 6 ("Judge [who appointed Kelly] was Blackmon, Jack, older. Judges can't just appoint [a new lawyer]. He wasn't happy with way DA was handling Carlos's case. I was brought in to get it over with. Judge wanted it disposed of."; "Carlos told Judge Blackmon he needed a new att[or]ney. Judge Blackmon called me into his office; didn't speak to me; his case manager Carol, now Blackmon's wife, said 'judge wants you to take this; bad attorney; [Hernandez was] getting short end of the stick.' And I took over. Blackmon called me in because guy was getting a raw deal; he just felt that justice was not being done.").
Transcribed Videotape Interview with Jon Kelly, Lawyer for Carlos Hernandez, in Corpus Christi, Texas (Dec. 9, 2004) at 06:50:05–6:51:56 ("There's the reason that it didn't mean anything to me. Number two is, maybe I'd ended up representing him, or someone else. I just . . . wasn't something I needed to hear. But, sure, they would talk about that. When they [people in the trial judge's and District Attorney's office] said he was violent, they meant that Carlos Hernandez was a very dangerous man.");
Peso Chavez & James S. Liebman's Notes on Interviews with Jon Kelly, Lawyer for Carlos Hernandez (Aug. 16, 18, 20, 2004) at 2 ("Carlos Her[n]andez: I don't know if he did it [killed Wanda Lopez]. 1st lesson I learned was never to ask if they did it.").