WASHINGTON - Jaime Elizalde is on death row in Texas, USA, with an execution date of 2 November 2005. He was sentenced to death in April 1997 for a double murder committed on 5 November 1994, in front of a bar in Houston, Texas. No physical evidence links him to the crimes and key evidence against him has been called into question.
Two men, Juan Guajardo and Marcos Vasquez, were shot and killed on 5 November 1994, outside a bar in Houston, Texas where Jaime and his father had been drinking. Both were arrested and charged with the murders. All charges against Jaime's father were eventually dropped and he was released after spending over two years in custody.
The prosecution case relied solely on the testimony of two eyewitnesses. One of these, in his original statements to police, denied knowing anything about the murders. He said that he had not seen them take place nor did he know who was responsible. However, he later stated at trial that he had seen Jaime carry out the shootings.
The second eyewitness claimed to have observed the murderer for 15 seconds, in the dark, and only contacted the authorities to identify Jaime as the murderer some months after the shootings.
Jaime's clemency petition alleges that his trial and state appeals lawyers failed to investigate his case adequately. As a result, important evidence, including eyewitness testimony supporting claims that he was innocent, discovered by attorneys presenting appeals to the federal courts, has never been considered on its merits because it should have been raised earlier in the legal process.
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty unconditionally. Since 1973, 121 people who had been sent to US death rows have been released after they were found to be innocent. Others have gone to their deaths despite serious doubts about their guilt.
The Swiss journalist and film-maker, Jacques Secretan, has made a film about the Elizalde case. "One Life on the Edge" provides information specifically about the case and general aspects of the death penalty in the USA.
The film-maker has recently returned to Texas to continue campaigning against the sentence with Jaime Elizalde's family and supporters.
The film is available on DVD from Amnesty International. It illustrates the main factors of the case, including the possibility of Jaime's innocence, race, jury selection, and the suffering of death row inmates' relatives.
The film contains footage of the Polensky Unit Prison in Texas, reconstructions of the events related to the charge and interviews with Jaime Elizalde, his father, sister, witnesses, current attorney, criminal defence lawyer and the State Prosecutor.