Guilty of being QWOC: The San Antonio Four on being wrongly accused

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AE: I’m not trying to stoke controversy, but does that at all hurt you? One thing I have to keep in context is that it’s easy for me to say, because I’m from Toronto, that if the same thing happened to me, I would be shocked and I would be hurt if the community didn’t come out in support of me. Is it something you can accept because it’s San Antonio? Keep in mind that it’s also 2016 in San Antonio.

CR: Being that it is 2016–back then, I didn’t even know if the community existed. We didn’t see a lot of it. We had a couple of gay supporters. We spoke at gay Pride. We still didn’t receive a lot of support as far as that went. But now in 2016, I think that we would expect a little bit more.

AV: It’s very disappointing, it’s very hurtful, that we don’t have the community behind us. And not just for us. I don’t see it here. I don’t see it when gay issues come up, or there’s a gay bashing–because it still happens. I just don’t see anybody raising hell for an injustice when there should be. It is very hurtful because here we are, fighting for our lives, in San Antonio, and we don’t have the San Antonio community behind us.

ER: Even now, I’m trying to reach out to someone to help, just to get involved. Just to say that we have an organization behind us. Maybe it is the charges. I don’t know. But I would like to know.

KM: There’s really just no support from the gay community here in San Antonio. I don’t know if it would be different if we were in another city. But it’s sad. It seems like you would have your people behind you, helping you, but we don’t have that here. We would like the support and the help.

 

AE: That’s upsetting. I would now like to talk about something positive, which is to ask you what was it like to receive the news that Stephanie Limon, your niece Liz, was recanting her confession, and that the pediatrician on the case was also taking back her findings?

AV: The way I felt about the recantation, it was, “Thank God that she finally spoke up.” It was something that I wasn’t thinking would ever happen, but it was a blessing nonetheless. And when the pediatrician, when she retracted her statement, that made me feel like, “See? I told you. I told you that this never happened.”

CR: It was like a breath of fresh air, like we had been given some kind of hope once again. Like I said before, we knew the truth would set us free eventually, and that was our chance to show everybody. Because people don’t know what to think of people that are accused of crimes like ours. But we were innocent and we were going to die proving it. We were finally getting our moment to actually show the public and everybody else that there was no possible way that we had done anything like that.

ER: I knew the confessional would be great, but whenever they told us about the affidavit, then I was like, “Wow. Now we can have something more than just a confession.” That’s when I finally felt the hope.

KM: When I was told about all that, I guess I had like a sense of peace. To actually hear that she came forward and said that, it was like a relief off my shoulders. We had been waiting so long for that moment.

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AE: What’s life like for each of you right now?

CR: It’s still kind of difficult because of all the stipulations that we have, everything that we still have to report. We still have to get permission to travel. But as far as that, I have my kids back in my life. We’re building our relationship. We’re having good times. We’re making new memories because so many were stolen from us. We’re all working. As far as that goes, that’s where I’m at right now.

AV: I am working in a factory–a tortilla factory. It’s not my dream job, but it is a job. I’m grateful for what we do have now, which is being outside of prison. But Daniela, make no mistake, we are still, what I like to say is that we are still in a prison without bars. Nonetheless, I am happy where I am now. But still we have this over our shoulders.

ER: I’m really grateful because I didn’t think I would be home until I was like 62-years-old. Because I knew I was going to have to do all my time because I was never going to admit to the crime. I have a 37 and a half-year sentence. For me, personally, it’s like I can’t really go on with my life because I hesitate on making decisions and doing things in my life. I still have a long ways to go. It’s very difficult for me. I’m grateful. I spend time with my son. As a matter of fact, he’s fixing to leave for the Marines. I’ve only been home for three years and here he’s leaving me again. I’m trying to buy a home. I just got a new vehicle. I’m trying to build a life, but at the same time I have that fear that I do that and then I might leave again. And then what?

KM: I’m very grateful that we’re all out and no longer in prison. I try to live life–going on with my life and enjoy things that I’ve missed out on all these years. But it is difficult. You still have this hanging over your head. You don’t know what’s going to happen, but you have that fear. We’re not totally free.

 

AE: Any final comments?

AV: Mike Ware and the Innocence Project of Texas have been a tremendous help. I would like to ask on their behalf for them to continue to receive donations. If people want to donate to us girls, please donate to the Innocence Project of Texas so that they can continue to help people that are innocent and in prison still. And that, in our way, is giving back because they’ve done so much for us.

All four women are still looking for exoneration and their case currently stands before the court. Whatever the court’s decision, the district attorney of San Antonio can still choose to retry the case. To help stop this from happening, visit SouthwestOfSalem.com and access the “Act Now” button to find out how you can call, email and use social media to help the women.

Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four plays at Frameline in San Francisco on June 23 and at Outfest in Los Angeles on July 15. Visit the movie’s website for news on future screenings.

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