About Ivan’s Case

t 3 What's wrong with the case against Ivan Cantu?

Major case issues

Ineffective assistance

Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

At his trial, Ivan’s defense failed him terribly.

The defense team:

  • presented no witnesses;
  • did not interview witnesses on the state’s witness list prior to trial;
  • failed to call any witnesses for the defense during the guilt/innocence phase;
  • failed to request a defense investigator; failed to request a DNA expert; failed to request a blood spatter expert; failed to request a ballistics expert; failed to request a forensics expert. (The prosecution, on the other hand, had five experts testifying on its behalf.)

Worst of all, Ivan’s defense team did not offer an alternative theory of the crime; instead, in their closing argument they conceded Ivan’s guilt, and only argued whether he should receive a capital sentence.

This disastrous defense could have been salvaged at Ivan’s habeas (appeal), but his defense then raised only a single claim of ineffectiveness at the sentencing stage of his trial, and no claim of ineffectiveness at the guilt/innocence stage.

fingerprint recognition

Newly Uncovered Evidence

Blood-stained clothes

From November 4 until late at night on November 7, Amy Boettcher and Ivan were away on a trip to Arkansas. During the day of November 7, while Ms. Boettcher and Ivan were still away, the police executed a search warrant for Mr. Cantu’s apartment. The lead detective described finding a trashcan in plain view in the kitchen with blood-stained clothes sitting on top.

Several days later, Amy Boettcher gave a statement to the police saying that Ivan had stripped off the bloody jeans and other items and had placed them in the kitchen garbage. At trial, she testified that she had placed the clothes in the trashcan.

However, at approximately 8:25 p.m. on the evening of November 4, 2000—just when Ivan and Ms. Boettcher were arriving in Arkansas—Dallas police officers entered Ivan’s apartment to perform a “wellness check” at the request of his mother, Sylvia Cantu, who was concerned after learning about the deaths of her nephew, Mr. Mosqueda and his fiancé, that Ivan might also be in danger. The officers swept the apartment checking “under beds, closets, tubs” looking to make sure nobody was in distress or dead. They spent about 10 minutes searching the one-bedroom apartment.

In an affidavit sworn on January 29, 2020, one of the officers participating in the wellness check, Susan Iliff, stated that she was “positive” that had the bloody clothing been as displayed in the prosecution’s exhibits at trial, she would have seen it.

This new evidence demonstrates that, after Ms. Boettcher and Ivan left for Arkansas, but before they returned, someone else removed the lid from the kitchen trashcan, deposited the crime-related items, and left them in plain view.

Witness coaching

Police and Prosecutorial Misconduct

The Rolex watch

The police believed, and Amy Boettcher testified, that Ivan stole, wore, and then discarded Mr. Mosqueda’s inscribed Rolex watch.

However, the police learned, before trial, that Mr. Mosqueda’s watch was never stolen but was instead recovered in his home and returned to his family. In 2019, an independent investigator, Matt Duff, took photographs of the Rolex watch, which was still in the possession of Gladys Mosquada, James Mosquada’s mother.

During the trial, the State suppressed the discovery of the watch.

Amy Boettcher’s testimony that Ivan Cantu stole, wore and disposed of James Mosqueda’s watch was all demonstrably false. Even more troubling, the false testimony conformed to law enforcement’s mistaken initial beliefs about the crime. How is it that Ms. Boettcher’s false testimony resembled the police’s initial mistaken beliefs?

Conflict of interest

Fraudulent Testimony

The state’s star witness, Ivan’s girlfriend Amy Boettcher, testified that Ivan:

  • Stole a Rolex watch from the victim. New evidence proves this false. The Rolex was found in the victim’s home
  • Stole an engagement ring from victim. New evidence proves that testimony false. Two witnesses signed declarations that Amy showed off an engagement ring prior to trial.
  • Left bloody clothes (from the crime scene) in their kitchen trashcan. New evidence proves that testimony false. A DPD officer signed an affidavit that the clothes were not in the trashcan prior to the search of the apartment.

The state’s second key witness, Jeff Boettcher, testified:

  • Ivan had the gun that was presented in evidence “almost every day.”
  • Ivan had “cop killer” bullets.
  • Ivan told Jeff he was going to kill the victim and asked Jeff to do clean up.
  • Ivan told Jeff he wanted to kill the victim in order to take cocaine, marijuana, and cash.
  • Ivan bragged to Jeff after the crime telling Jeff to “check out the paper.”

Jeff Boettcher was the only witness that testified that Ivan was planning the murders, gave a reason for the murders, and told him after the fact that he had committed the murders.

In 2022, Jeff admitted he testified falsely and recanted his testimony.

    Jury bias

    Jurors Support Ivan's Appeal

    Two jurors from Ivan’s 2001 double-murder trial now support his appeals, believing that his claims of the use of false testimony and of the failure of prosecutors to provide crucial evidence to the defense cast doubt on the verdict.

    One-way gate

    The Gotcha of Procedural Bars

    Most of us would think that evidence of innocence should be worth considering at any time, either duing a trial or in subsequent appeals. That is not the way our courts work.

    The legal system is a series of one-way gates. Once you pass through one gate, you can’t go back. So, if the trial attorney doesn’t raise an issue, you have no way of raising it later – higher courts will tell you you’ve waived your rights to raise that issue.

    In Ivan’s case, not only did his trial attorney fail him, but his attorney during his direct appeal compounded that failure by not raising “ineffectiveness of counsel” as an issue. The only issue raised on appeal was ineffectiveness during the sentencing phase, not during the guilt/innocence phase. So all the egregious errors and omissions by Ivan’s trial attorney became “procedurally barred” from being raised later on.

    Ivan Cantu in prison booth

    Resources and Information

    Matt Duff, an independent investigator, has spent a lot of time investigating every aspect of Ivan Cantu’s case. You can view quick overviews, or dive into the complete podcast series.

     

    Videos and podcast

    Quick video summary (4 minutes)

    Going into more depth

    The case in-depth :

    • Cousins By Blood, takes you deep into every aspect of the murders, Ivan Cantu’s case, and the evidence that emerged only years after Ivan’s conviction. (Multi-part series)

    Where’s the Conviction Integrity Unit When It’s Needed?

    Bill Wirskye is First Assistant in the Collin County District Attorney’s Office, working directly under DA Greg Willis.

    In 2017 he wrote an article, My Wrongful Conviction, about the importance of Conviction Integrity Units, and how they guard against errors by the state in criminal proceedings.

    Read the article – and Ivan’s responses to the crucial points it raises.

    Court Documents

    The documents below include the defense’s presentation of new evidence in Ivan’s case, also enumerating many of the problems with the State’s case. This was filed in April 2023, and was sufficiently persuasive to cause the presiding judge to cancel Ivan’s execution date, in order to the issues to get a full hearing.

    The application for a full hearing went before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (TCCA), which turned down the request.

    Given the strength of the evidence in the application, this denial would be shocking, were it not for the TCCA’s history of egregious denials.

    Timeline (to come)

    We are working on a timeline of the murders and the case, which we will publish here soon.