"When you have a client who is truly innocent,
the more you dig, the more the prosecution's case
falls apart. That's exactly what has happened
with Manuel's case."

- Susana Herrero, member of Manuel’s legal team.

Innocence matters

"I'm outraged at the injustice in this case."

- Sister Helen Prejean

but not the Supreme Court

"This Court has never held
that the Constitution forbids the execution
of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial
but is later able to convince a habeas court
that he is ‘actually’ innocent."

- Justice Antonin Scalia

A lethal combination: prosecutorial misconduct & actual innocence…

A corrupt prosecutor

1 Manuel’s prosecutor, Ronald Bodenheimer, was later imprisoned on several counts of corruption.

A conflict of interest

2 Bodenheimer concurrently represented the victim’s family in an insurance case, a case whose outcome – and payoff to Bodenheimer – hinged on the successful prosecution of Manuel.

A confession by another man

3 Carlos Saavedra admitted to the crime repeatedly and, on his deathbed, told his wife that he pinned the murders on Manuel as payback for a soured business deal.

Evidence withheld

4 The FBI, which paid Saavedra as an informant, refused to hand over crucial documents for years and, when it did so, redacted almost everything within the documents.

On death row for 20 years…

Manuel Ortiz has been on death row at Angola, Louisiana’s State Penitentiary, for 20 years. Manuel, originally from El Salvador, was convicted in 1994 of hiring someone to kill his wife, Tracie Williams, and of the murder of Tracie’s friend, Cheryl Mallory.

Manuel’s legal team believes Manuel is innocent of these crimes. The case against him was riddled with inconsistencies, plagued by prosecutorial double dealing and built upon the testimony of a man who later confessed to the crime.

In April 2010, after a long-running hearing before Judge Jerome Winsberg, his lawyers concluded their presentation of evidence of Manuel’s innocence and of prosecutorial misconduct committed in the original trial. That trial culminated in the judge throwing out Manuel’s death sentence while keeping his conviction for murder intact.

The prosecution appealed this decision and in February 2013, the Louisiana Supreme Court overturned Judge Winsberg’s decision and reinstated Manuel’s death sentence.

Manuel’s case now goes into federal court. He still hopes for a new trial in which he has a chance to present all the evidence. His legal team is confident that in a fair trial a jury will find him not guilty.

On this site you’ll find information about Manuel’s case and ways in which you can help. We will provide updates as soon as they are available, including, if necessary, other avenues of action.