Clemente “Shorty” Aguirre Confides How Fear Over His Undocumented Status Led to Him Being Convicted for Murders He Didn’t Commit
For so many young men in Honduras, there are two choices: join a gang or die. To avoid either fate, Clemente “Shorty” Aguirre escaped with his grandmother to Nicaragua. Faced with no economic prospects there, he came to the United States as an undocumented immigrant. Little did he know that this choice would land him in prison and facing the death penalty for two murders he didn’t commit. On the December 18th episode of Wrongful Conviction with Jason Flom, Aguirre discusses the years he spent behind bars pleading his innocence as the actual perpetrator walked free.
Aguirre’s troubles started late on the night of June 17th, 2004, when he stopped by the trailer shared by his friends Cheryl Williams, part-time by her daughter Samantha, and Sheryl’s mother Carol Bareis. The young man was horrified to find Sheryl and Carol stabbed and lying in pools of their own blood. He frantically checked their bodies for signs of life…only to find that the two women were dead. Afraid that the perpetrator may still be present, he picked up a knife lying nearby before panicking and throwing it into the yard. Afraid to call the police due to his undocumented status, Aguirre went back to his trailer.
When Aguirre came forward to tell police about his discovery, the authorities immediately arrested him for evidence tampering and targeted him as the prime suspect. Assigned an ineffective public defender and accused based on circumstantial evidence, Aguirre was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death for the two women’s murders.
As years ticked by while Aguirre sat on death row, his case was taken up by the Innocence Project, who pushed for previously unrequested DNA testing of 197 pieces of crime scene evidence. The testing revealed eight bloodstains near the victims’ bodies that belonged to Cheryl’s daughter, Samantha. That evidence along with multiple confessions by Samantha (including one captured on police video) helped exclude Aguirre and point to Cheryl as the true perpetrator.
On November 5th, 2018, prosecutors dropped the murder charges against Aguirre. He was released from prison after being detained briefly on an immigration hold – free for the first time in 14 years after nearly being executed for a crime he didn’t commit.
In this episode of Wrongful Conviction with Jason Flom, Aguirre talks with Flom about that fateful night and the nightmare that ensued – from his arrest and struggle for competent legal defense to waiting for his own execution as neighboring inmates were hauled off to death watch – the final stop before execution.
Wrongful Conviction with Jason Flom is a podcast that explores the tragedy and triumph of unequal justice and actual innocence. Based on the files of the lawyers who freed them, Wrongful Conviction with Jason Flom features interviews with men and women who have spent decades in prison for crimes they did not commit. Wrongful Conviction with Jason Flom, and an upcoming slate of Wrongful Conviction with Jason Flom series, are a production of Lava For Good Podcasts in association with Signal Co. No1 and PRX. Find Wrongful Conviction with Jason Flomhere.
Those who would like to support Aguirre can do so by going to: https://www.mightycause.com/story/Aguirreaguirree2019.