Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four (2016) - full transcript

A documentary that follows the struggle for exoneration of four Latina lesbians who were wrongfully convicted of gang rape against two young girls.

(somber music)

(crowd chatter)

- I've always wondered
where the story

that they came up with
actually came from.

You know, where
did it all begin?

And I wish I had an answer
for you but I really don't

all I can do is
speculate, you know.

(dramatic music)


So it's not gonna take long.

- [Woman] Whenever you're ready.

- Okay ready.

My name is Anna Vasquez,
I'm 37 years old,

and I was born and raised
in San Antonio Texas.

The neighborhood was pretty
decent even though I did

live on the west side of
town, which is not a very,

I don't know, rich
part of San Antonio.

But in that particular
neighborhood it was okay.

It wasn't as bad as some of

the other parts
of San Antonio is.

I came out probably
about 18 to my mother.

I'm sure she had some
kind of idea, you know,

not going out with boys.

But openly I came out
about 18, about 18.

When you want your children
to grow up you want them

to grow up being loved, not
being stared at or mocked

or looked at in disgust.

And growing up as an open
gay women, you get that,

and you got that a lot
in San Antonio, you know.

San Antonio's very conservative.

And my lifestyle wasn't
accepted at the time.

- And this is when
she was a baby.

Basketball, graduation.

And this is when we
went to Corpus Christi

and they took a
picture of us together.

See, there's me and that's her.

She was always trying
to improve herself.

Um, let me see.

She graduated

and she started college.

She dropped out
because of the money

and then she started
working at Little Caesar's

and she was gonna be going
back to college after that.

- When I met Anna
she was at work

and we ordered some
pizza from her.

So we did that, I
saw her, she saw me,

and after that I think we
took interest in each other.

We just stared talking.

And then since we were in
San Antonio we would go

to the carnivals and
we all decided to go

and that night we were
just stuck to each other.

That's what started
our relationship.

She kissed me that
night and it was over.

But it was all new to us so we
weren't really out and about.

I mean I had just left my
ex-husband and my babies

were very, very little, my son
and my daughter were young.

So I didn't even know what
I was doing, I didn't know

if that was the lifestyle
that I was gonna be in.

We spent a lot of time together

and we ended up really
caring for each other.

- [Woman] Get closer
together guys, a little kiss.

There you go.

- Happy birthday.

She was just the one that I
was gonna settle down with.

- [Anna] I truly feel
like Cass and I were one,

were one together you know.

We fell in love, you know,
and we moved in together,

we were living with the
children and raising them.

Something I wasn't ready
for, but I also took it on.

I mean we, you
know, we were good,

we were good to each other.

- These two kids
had two mothers.

They took responsibility,
very responsible parents.

I mean if you could call
them that, you know I mean

they're not married
or anything but.

They were totally
devoted to each other.

You know just like
a husband and wife.

I did ask a priest
about that once.

I asked him, you know,
what am I supposed to do?

She's my daughter and she's
involved with this other lady.

What am I supposed to do?

Am I being faithful,
in order to be faithful

to the church do I
have to be, you know,

apart from my daughter or
separated from my daughter?

And he said no.

He said the only
thing that is required

of you is to love
her, that's all.

He said, she's going to be
receiving a lot of negatives

in the world, you know,

she's gonna come
against this prejudice.

There should be one
place where she can go

where there is only love.

- My mom, when she found
out that me and Anna were

in a relationship, she wasn't
happy about it, you know, so.

Our families are very Catholic,
they're very religious.

Well my mom, you know, she
called me a lot of ugly names.

That was hard.

And as far as my
family accepting,

I couldn't go home
and be who I was.

So we ended up
spending a lot of time

with Liz at her apartment.

- [Anna] Liz is the
one that's kind of

like our home away
from home I guess.

- [Cassie] We spent a
lot of time together.

And I remember the week
that it supposedly happened

her nieces were there.

But we never thought
anything of it.

- [Anna] I met Liz through
my best friend Jolene.

We all went to
high school together.

And Kristie I had
met years later

through Liz and Cassie as well.

When I came in, we
all became friends.

- Liz has her own apartment
and I was living there with her

helping her pay the bills.

She was dating some other guy.

Matter of fact she was pregnant.

She was basically on her own

getting ready to raise a child.

I was trying to help her
out as much as I could.

At one period of time we
did date for a minute,

Liz and I, for like
a couple months.

(women chattering)

- I lived in the projects in

the San Juan homes
in San Antonio.

My mom was in housing,

so pretty much that's
where I grew up in.

I met Anna Vasquez in high
school, played basketball

and volleyball and that's
how I met all of them.

I had just pretty much
found out I was pregnant,

that's when Javier had
came by the apartment.

And Javier of course is
my sister's ex-husband.

I told him that I was pregnant
and at that time he was like,

I can take care of him.

I was like, no the
baby has a father.

And that's when he asked me,
well why don't you just let me

marry you and take care of you.

And I was like no, no.

You know, for one I
didn't grow up that way,

you know I had
morals and values.

And that was my
sister's ex-husband

and what would I look like
doing anything like that?

I don't know what the custody
thing between them,

how he got ahold of the kids.

At that time he had come
to the apartment that day.

He was like, the
girls wanna stay,

and I was like,
okay that's fine.

I've always been
family oriented,

I think family is
very important.

So I've always supported
everyone in my family

or been around them or anything,
so they were apart of that.

You know it was a normal,
natural family thing.

You go pick up your nephews
and nieces and you hang out,

they stay with you, things
like that, it's a normal life.

- These four young women
were taking care of

two little girls
for about a week.

The two little girls were
the nieces of one of them,

of Liz Ramirez.

And a couple of months
after these little girls

had spent a week,
allegations were made that

the four young
women had gang raped

these two little girls
over a period of two days.

- I actually got a
phone call one night

from a Detective Majetka

and he was a detective
for the homicide unit.

And he called and he said
that some allegations

were being made by
these two children

and what I had to say about it.

- Detective Majetka takes
me down to the substation.

He's like, do you
know Javier Limon?

Do you know Vanessa Limon
and Stephanie Limon?

And I was like, yes
those are my nieces

and that's my brother in-law.

Do you know that they are saying

that you sexually
assaulted them?

And I was like, no,
I didn't know that.

We had talked about me being
pregnant and how he can

take my baby away from
me and all these things.

And I'm just like, for what?

You know I haven't
done anything.

Why would any of this
come about from that?

- When this happened, Anna,
she was the one that came

and told me because
she'd found out about it.

When she first mentioned
it, I thought that she was

only saying that Liz
was being accused of it.

But then she turned around
and said that we were also

and I lost it.

- I let him know off bat
that I was a homosexual

'cause he had asked, I said yes.

I willingly
cooperated with them.

I don't feel like anything
in my statement was bad

or you know,
incriminating for me, so.

- You believe as you're
growing up that if

you tell the truth
everything's gonna be fine.

A couple people told me,
you need an attorney.

Why would I need an attorney?

I'm innocent, there's nothing,
you know, that ever happened.

So I went ahead and
cooperated with them

and it seemed to turn
out to be a mistake.

The biggest mistake, you know.

I cooperated fully and it
seems like I just dug deeper.

- After I had my little
boy, about three days later

I believe is when they
came and arrested me

and took me to the county jail.

I used to tell my mom,
well these people think

these things about me and I'm
even scared to hold my baby.

- It was, it was sad.
It was sad.

We tried to have a good time,
you know, and I think it was

about two years before
she even went to trial.

So I mean we had
celebrations and everything,

but there was always
underlying sadness

that this was gonna come up.

And so it was for them.

It was like that for
them also, you know.

(dramatic music)

- My attorney had told me,
you know Liz they don't have

anything on you, there's
nothing, you know.

Wanted to let me
know I didn't really

have anything to worry about.

He didn't tell me
what we were gonna do,

what are our plans,
anything like that.

All I went in
there and sat there

and just went through the trial.

When I first came out as
far as my lifestyle was,

my mom had disowned me.

So she gave me my papers
and went to the courthouse

and said she was no
longer responsible for me.

I believe I was 16 at the time.

I went to go stay
with my sister.

They were taking care of me
as far as giving me money

for school and buying
clothes and things like that.

- I did know many years ago
that when she was staying

with him and her sister,
which is his wife at the time,

that he was coming on to her,
and we were in high school.

And my thing to tell her was,
you need to get out of there.

- I had letters
that he would write.

He would say, my little angel.

I had given them to my attorney,
you know, the originals.

I never had any contact
with him though.

We never kissed, embraced,
anything like that.

He knew I was with women
at the time too, you know,

and that's one thing
he didn't like.

- I don't think Javier
knew the extent of Liz

and I's relationship, I
don't think he did at first.

I think he thought
we were just friends.

He was shocked when he found
out I think, surprised.

And I know he didn't like
it, he didn't like it at all.

Our attorney's decided to
put all us three together

and go one shot.

Cassie, Anna, me, we all
went to trial together.

- My attorney said
that I would lose.

He said that I would lose

because of the
charges, the charges.

Nobody wants to go
against a child.

But he said that I would

He's like, I will fight for you

if that's what you choose to do.

So we fought.

- [Debbie] Even during jury
selection defense lawyers

had trouble finding jurors
that weren't homophobic.

- [Cassie] Our lifestyle

was not supposed
to be brought up.

But they brought it
up anyway, the DA did.

- The DA was trying
to make us look like

we were just a
bunch of lesbians.

That, that was a
thing that we did,

you know, molest little girls.

So that's how from the get
go they made the jurors,

you know, put that
in their head.

- When I heard the
children testify against me

I was shocked.

I was baffled, I
couldn't believe it.

They said that
they were screaming

and that we were inserting
objects into them.

And the things that
they say we did,

I just can't even imagine.

- [Cassie] When I
heard the testimony

of Vanessa Limon
during that time when

she was sitting there,
I was just in shock.

I didn't even know
what to think or feel,

I was just like I
couldn't believe it.

It's like she was just
throwing things out there.

- [Anna] The testimony that
was given was off the wall.

You know it was one gun
here, three guns there.

Then there was a knife involved.

There was so many mistakes.

- They were caught in
so many inconsistencies

and they were questioned
constantly about Liz's trial,

you know, it's against ours.

- I had asked Anna to
come into the station

so I could take a Polaroid.

- [Man] Did he not tell you

that you had a right
to an attorney?

- No sir.

It was just so easy for
this case to evolve around

an accusation without
any concrete testimony.

- Really the only evidence
against the four women

was the word of these
two little girls.

The jury, I don't think,
would've been able to convict

if they hadn't had the
so-called medical evidence.

Both of the little girls
had been taken to a facility

where they were examined.

The pediatrician who examined
them said that there were

certain features on their
genitals, on their hymens

that indicated that they'd
been sexually abused.

Shapes of the hymen, little
notches on the hymen,

tiny, tiny things.

For about 15 years prior to
this case, a body of knowledge

had developed about
what children's genitals

should look like.

These little girls genitals
did not look like the model

that had been developed and
that was supposed to show

that they'd been abused.

That kind of evidence put
before a jury is very powerful

'cause it's physical evidence.

- Ah man, he really went
after Liz like nobody.

Got in her face.

He was horrible,
he was horrible.

He was horrible, he
was very prejudiced.

Prejudiced against, I
guess, her being gay.

Painted as a witch, you know.

- [Liz] He was trying
to say because we were

four women and that, that
the way supposedly the girls

were assaulted
that we were trying

to sacrifice them
because of our lifestyle.

- According to the
people in court

this is what gay people do.

That's what they said.

This is what gay people do.

No, no it's not.

(dramatic music)

- I never did anything besides
take care of those children

and try to be a
good aunt to them.

I don't even know, I
can't even, 16 years later

I still can't even tell myself.

You ask me the question why, I
don't have an answer to that.

- [Cassie] 'Cause Elizabeth
was sentenced to 37

and a half years they wanted
us to take a plea bargain.

And we wouldn't take it.

We were like, no we
didn't do nothing,

we're not gonna do that.

- [Kristie] I felt like the
whole trial, I felt like

my sexual orientation with
me and the rest of us,

it was used against us.

- There was homophobia
in the police department,

among the investigators.

There was homophobia
in the trial.

And there was homophobia
in the whole city.

- I was convicted
and given 15 years

for sexual assault of a child.

And I was also given 10 years
for indecency with a child.

- [Woman] See how
run down it is?

- [Debbie] One of them, Liz
Ramirez, was already in prison.

But the other three were
still out on appeal.

They were desperately still

trying to get
exculpatory evidence.

- [Anna] Nobody
was gonna help us,

so we had to help ourselves.

So we tried going
back to the apartment.

- [Anna] But those
apartments were torn down.

- One of the children said
that there was a a lock

where you she couldn't undo
to get out of the house.

There wasn't a lock where
they couldn't reach.

- It's outrageous.

Just being innocent,
you wanna prove,

you wanna do everything you can.

It was just let
down after let down,

'cause there wasn't
nothing we could do.

- To my great shame parental
support for all the girls

involved was not existent
because we parents

did not understand or
support their lifestyle.

So these four young women,
barely out of high school

were struggling to
help their friend Liz.

- We reached out to
the gay community.

Unfortunately we reached
out a little too late.

- And if we can't make a
change, they're gonna spend

the next 15 years of
their life in prison

because they're lesbians.

- I thought if
other people heard

they would understand
and relate to us.

We just wanted people
to hear our story

'cause it was unbelievable.

In closing arguments they
made a statement saying, well

the defendants are gay, that
is why the victims are female.

Just because this is
the way we want to be,

does not mean that
we are perverts.

And that is the way so
many people look at us.

During then, we were
just trying to live life.

It was real hard knowing
that those were gonna

be our last memories
with families.

Ah he's gonna be handsome.

Look at me.

- [Anna] Even though the
charges were devastating to us,

it brought us together.

- They were very young,
but I would still tell 'em

that there was a possibility
I was leaving, you know,

and that they would have
to stay with my mom.

My kids were very, very
close to Anna as well.

They asked if they
could stay with her.

She was coming to, so I had
to explain that to them.

(waves crashing)

I was so young before
I got locked up.

We all were.

(somber music)

- [Anna] My dearest Cass.

I leave you now for the next
13 years to suffer in a cage.

To conform to the codes
and rules of prison life.

To feel fear everyday.

I leave you Cass
sweet and innocent

and soon you fueled
with rage will change.

We've been devastated my love.

I'm sorry that I won't
be there to protect you

inside these prison walls.

- [Police Officer] Turn
around, hands behind your back.

- [Man] Be strong girls.

We're still fighting for you.

We're not gonna give up.

We know you're
innocent, we know.

- [Anna] I love you Cassie.

- [Cassie] I love you.

- [Man] We know you're innocent
Anna, we're gonna fight.

Be strong.

- [Cassie] We are devastated.

I mean this is like
the most horrible crime

you can accuse somebody of.

- God, I'm dying.

I'm dying 'cause I cannot
believe that this has actually

gone on this far and I'm going
to spend 15 years of my life

in prison for a crime
that I never committed.

It's very hard to swallow.

It's very hard to not think,
let's just leave, you know.

Let's just go.

But at the same time, if I
did run, how would that look?

- Satanic cults,
satanic ritual abuse

has become the fastest
growing and most controversial

psychological phenomenon
in the country.

It's a modern twist
to an ancient story.

- Investigated their world
of covens and sacrifices.

- In the United States
starting the early 80's

until the early 90's,
the country was convulsed

with this idea that there
were, there was some kind

of an international satanic
cult that had infiltrated

daycare centers and preschools
and that their mission was

to sexually abuse children in
order to destroy their minds.

And then later on when
the kids would be adults,

somebody would like snap their
fingers and all of a sudden

these kids would line
up and join the cult.

As completely insane
as this sounds,

this belief got into
child protection services,

it got into police departments,
it got into psychotherapy.

- [Debbie] It got
into DA's offices.

Scores of people were
convicted who were just working

in daycare centers and
preschools on the basis

of no conventional
evidence whatsoever.

- I never, never, never did it.

I never did, I never did.

- [Woman] Okay Vi, okay.

- [Debbie] I've looked at
a lot of cases all over

the country and it's quite
common for either the defendants

to be gay or the defendants
to be suspected to be gay.

The first daycare
conviction in 1985

was of a young man
in Massachusetts.

He was working in
a daycare center

and when he was 18
years old he came out.

There were parents of
children at the daycare center

who were very
anxious and disturbed

by the fact that he was gay.

- Did Fran touch
Christie anywhere else?

Where, show me, point to
it on your dolly for me.

Right here, all over here?

What was she doing?

- [Reporter] Biased
interviewers, the suggestibility

of children, and pressure
from police and parents

led to problems with the
children's testimony.

The modern version of
the witchcraft trials.

- Fake stories, folk tales,
will look the same over time.

It'll be like a certain
motif, a pattern.

And I really sense that
with Vanessa's account.

It has certain aspects that
certainly sound like a story.

You know Hansel and
Gretel or Sleeping Beauty.

Vanessa's outside
playing with her sister.

The door opens,
it's her aunt Liz,

come in, come into my
cottage little girl.

And then she starts yelling
and screaming at her.

So she becomes this ogre.

On the floor are
three nude women.

They got on the bed and
they started touching me.

What did they say?

They were silent.

So it's imagery.

It's too bizarre, it's
almost dream like.

- Liz called us into the
apartment and I looked and I saw

Anna and this other girl,
they didn't have any tops on.

They take each others hands
and they go into this bedroom

and suddenly they're making out

and they're
caressing each other.

If you take the little
girls out and you replace

the little girls with a man,
the whole scenario sounds like

a porn movie and it sounds
like a man's version

of what women do in
their spare time.

- The case, it went off track
in about every way you could.

Credulous people believing this.

Little tinged with a
little satanic abuse.

- By 1994 when the San
Antonio case broke,

most of the satanic ritual
abuse panic was over.

But the pediatrician who
examined these little girls,

because the alleged
perpetrators were four women,

that kind of fit
the satanic thing.

And she wrote in her record,
possible satanic abuse.

And that got the police
even more excited.

So I can say that this case
is probably the last gasp

of the satanic
ritual abuse panic.

(somber music)

- [Anna] When I walked
into prison dormitories

for the first time, of
course I was scared.

I had to put on this mask of
no nonsense, fearless, and

hold my head up and just walk
like I knew what I was doing.

- I was angry at God.

I felt like, how could
this happen, you know.

Always, I feel like the truth,
you know, will set you free.

You tell the truth,
you'd be alright.

- [Cassie] My first
years of incarceration,

I acted out, I was hurt.

I lost my kids, my father
had just passed away,

I left my mom raising
my kids by herself.

It was really, really hard.

The way we have to get up,
and the way we have to go

to work, and the way we
have to strip, and I mean,

you know, just
it's all degrading.

- And here we are.

(somber music)

- Me not having contact
with them and things,

I didn't know how they
felt about everything.

But I knew for myself
that their whole life

had been taken
away because of me.

And that bothered me so much.

- I've been coming
here for six years.

I come every year and
visit the four women.

Some are here in Gatesville
and some are about

60 kilometers away in
a place called Marlin.

Seven years ago this month
I came across the story

about four women who'd been
accused of this bizarre

sexual assault on two
little girls in Texas.

And I'd been doing some
research on that type of crime

and this one just
didn't make sense.

And so I started doing research.

And I came across a video in
the library in the college

where I teach about
female sex offenders.

More specifically women who
offend against children.

- [Woman] That only five percent
of all sex offenders are women.

- The majority fall into what
are called teacher lovers.

What you have is an adult
female with an adolescent male.

When you have a single woman
assaulting a small child

the majority of the time she
has major mental illness.

This case you've got four
women offending against

two children, it just
didn't make sense.

It just didn't fit
the pattern at all.

This is the first
time I'd actually

worked up the nerve
to contact somebody.

I wrote this letter and
then three weeks later I got

this response, this fairly
thick letter back in the mail

and it was from this
woman Elizabeth Ramirez

and what I got kinda shocked me.

It was very upbeat,
very friendly.

I wrote back and I said,

I'd like to hear your
side of the story.

Would you be willing to
talk to me about your crime?

The next letter said, well
there isn't much to tell

because the allegations
against me are false,

they never happened.

Outside of her family,
I was the first contact

out of prison she'd
had in nine years.

Took me a long time to
understand everything.

How did this get past the media?

I mean how did this
get past the jury?

How did this get past
the appeals process?

How did this get past
their defense lawyers?

- Darrell Otto is a man that

truly believes in our innocence.

Has actually stuck by us and
helped us and pushed for us.

- It took this guy in
Canada to figure out

what was wrong with
a case in Texas.

He tells us that he's living
in the Yukon territory

with a bunch of mush dogs.

We get countless emails and
letters from people saying,

my son is innocent, my husband's
innocent, I'm innocent,

please take my case.

And Darrell's was
one of those emails.

- Just to believe.

Just to finally believe that
we're actually innocent.

- So we're in the back of our
main office here in Lubbock.

This is our big storage room.

Files starting here, they
wrap all the way around,

thousands of more files
back here that are closed.

files back there.

We've been in existence
since early 2007.

Since then we've
received over 10,000

unique requests for assistance.

These are peoples lives you

These are peoples cases.

This is what has them
in prison right now

and ostensibly for something
they didn't commit.

You know, we don't
know whether or not

every one of these
people are innocent.

- If this was an easy case,

someone would have snapped it
up a long time ago probably.

If this was a case that involved
DNA and just a DNA test.

But it's a very
difficult case without

a magic bullet such as DNA.

This is a case in which
no crime at all occurred.

- I look at these cases as a
great chance to show a deeper

more persistent bias in the
criminal justice system,

a bias against gay people, that
I think we refuse to admit.

You know we like to pretend
that there's no racism

in the criminal justice system.

- [Reporter] 46
people were arrested,

all but five of them black,
indicted for selling drugs,

but no drugs were found
in any of the houses.

- The Tulia case involved
a racist cop that framed

pretty much the entire
African American population

of a little town in Texas.

We got 38 pardons, the largest
mass pardon in US history.

I saw how much of a difference
once case could make

if you approached
it politically.

We've gotten a lot of cases
done and we've changed a lot.

A lot of lawyers jump into
these cases and they think

that just 'cause their
client's innocent,

their cause is just,
they're gonna win.

The truth, that is so
far from the truth.

If people only knew how
little truth and justice

had to do with the way
the legal system works.

They'd probably would mass

at court houses with
lighted torches.

- Since May 17th, I arrived
at the Hilltop unit.

I knew that with my
charge eventually

this sex offender
program would come up.

I refused to do it.

I have refused two classes.

I'll be in a different
custody level because of it.

You know and I've
fought so many years

to be able to have
privileges, you know.

And now I'm going to
have to give all that up.

But I'm okay with it.

I'll lose this battle,
but not the war.

- It's a cross, it's a rosary.

And it's like withered,
it's been beaten

and it looks like it's damaged
and that's why I chose it

because, you know, we've
been through so much.

And I saw it and I was like,
that's pretty I want that.

- No.

- No we got separated.

It wasn't, we haven't had
closure, I'll say that.

We haven't had closure.

Are we together now?
No we're not.

It wasn't, you know,
a bad breakup and
it's very unfortunate

but that's what
life dealt to us.

- If we were still out there,
I believe that we would

still be together because
we were already together

for seven years and
then all this happened.

We didn't separate by choice,
the system tore us apart.

- Do I love her?
I'm always gonna love her.

You know me and her
have had a past.

We raised two kids
together, you know.

Will we ever be back together?

I can't tell you that.

- Hey Deb it's Mike Ware.

It's Saturday
morning about 9:45.

I just got off the
phone from Stephanie.

Jeff and I are talking about
driving out to Houston tomorrow

to talk to her.

She's ready to make this right,
get her aunt out of prison.

So I'm pretty excited.

Give me a call.

- That's my cell, okay?

And email and all
that stuff's on there.

A couple of preliminary's like,
we're not paying you money.

- [Stephanie] No.

- Or threatening you
or anything like that?

- No, as a matter of
fact my Dad's the one

that's threatening
me that he will get

my children taken away
if I open my mouth.

- [Mike] Why don't you
start at the beginning.

- Um.

- Or wherever you think is
a reasonable place to start.

- Okay so my sister had
dolls, you know, Barbie dolls.

We're young, we're stupid,
we're gonna experiment.

We're gonna see what
you show us, you know.

And my grandma caught us.

And they locked us in a room,
they sat there for, I dunno,

what seemed like forever, like,

what happened there,
what happened there,
you know something

happened there, yes you know
something happened there.

Which, nothing happened,
and we told them

nothing happened, nothing
happened, nothing happened.

They didn't buy it.

And she goes, you know,
who touched you there?

Who taught?

And my grandma was putting
stuff, my grandma Fina

was putting stuff in
our head, you know.

Somebody touched you down there.

- [Jeff] You think
this all started

because the Barbie doll thing?

- I think, yes honestly,
I think it all started

because the Barbie doll thing.

- Okay.

- And um, we were,
we got threatened.

You're gonna get taken
away, you're gonna end up

on the street, no
one's gonna want you.

You like or you're
gonna go to prison.

And I swear to god I'll
beat you if you don't listen

and you don't do
exactly what I tell you.

- [Mike] Now who's
telling you this?

- My dad and my grandma.

And I realize now as an
adult, my dad would do

inappropriate stuff in
front of us with women.

I've come to him in the
past and I've told him that

I don't remember
anything happening to me.

And he says it did, you're
stupid, you don't know,

you don't know anything.

And I said, I do remember.

I asked him, how is it I
remember all the good things

she's put me through,
but never the bad things.

And he says that I'm crazy.

He says that I don't know
what I'm talking about,

that I'm just crazy.

I mean.

It's just wrong.

It's wrong to have let my dad
scare me, and finally it just.

I'm scared of him still,
don't get me wrong,

and I will always
be scared of my dad.

- What's it gonna take to at
least maybe get some kind of

objective conversation with
your sister about all this?

I mean will she talk to us?

- She won't talk.

Is this the same one?

(background chatter)

She is my aunt and I wanted
her to know that you know what,

I am there for here

and I'm sorry that it
took so many years.

She never told us no.

Her fixing my hair
in the mornings

when we went to work with her.

And me telling her I didn't
want her to touch my hair

and she's like, no,
you need to look nice

and I wasn't used to that.

And her singing me to
sleep when we'd go to bed.

She'd be in there and
she'd sing us to sleep

and then she'd walk our the
room and close the door.

Making me eggs with cheese.

Man I've never had that before,
but I love that to this day.

I have so many good memories
of her and nothing bad.

- [Reporter] One of the
victims has actually recanted.

The cameras were rolling
as one of the victims

with lawyers in the room
says that she made it all up

and was afraid to tell the
truth for all those years.

- [Newscaster]
One of the victims

has recanted her testimony.

And the discovery of
flawed scientific.

(dramatic music)

- Last night I got the official
notice that I made parole.

How can it be?

I had my mind set on
doing two more years

and now it's two months.

I have a lot of
questions about this.

Why did I make parole?

My heart hurts when I think
of Cass, Liz, and Kris.

I don't want to
leave them behind.

It doesn't feel right.

Why should I be
the one to leave.

Cass and Liz have children.

Haven't they suffered enough?

I think about what my plans
will be when I get out of prison

and I really don't
have any clue.

I don't know if I
will be exonerated.

I don't know if I'll have to
register as a sex offender.

So I try and take
everything day by day.

- I kinda froze it.

Because the words were kind of

melting off.

And it says welcome home Anna.

And I haven't seen her where
I can be able to hug her

because she's been
behind the glass.

So I'm gonna finally
get to hug her

and I'm like not
gonna let her go.

Okay you're taking
the blankets for her?

- [Maria] Yes.

- [Rose] In case she gets cold?
- [Maria] Yes.

- So we're taking the blankets.
I got everything in the car.

- [Maria] Okay Bobby lock up.

- Okay.

- [Bobby] No Mom, I'm
gonna throw a party.


- Just make sure not
to go in Anna's room.

Okay I can't believe it,

we're like two minutes
away from reception.

(dramatic music)

(police radio chatter)


- [Rose] I love you.

- [Anna] I love you too.

- [Rose] We're not gonna let
you go every again, okay?

- How you feeling?
- [Rose] Are you okay?


- You have the windows open?

No getting nauseous.

- [Rose] Put the
windows up Chris.

- Are you glad to
be out of there?

- [Rose] I love you.
- I love you too.

- Oh baby.

- [Rose] Here Juicy Fruit.

- [Maria] They may want to
take some pictures of us

or something, I don't know.

- Oh this is the bomb.

I have not chewed
gum in 12 years.

I am out in the world.

- [Chris] Well how does it feel?

- Exhilarating.


- [Rose] Okay welcome home babe.

- Oh wow.


Everything looks so small.

That's the Anna wall.

- [Rose] Yes the Anna wall.

- That's the Anna wall.

(moving music)

- [Rose] Welcome home.

- Wow.

Oh wow.

(women talking over each other)

Oh this is nice girl.

Uh what is that?

- [Chris] It's a router.

- Oh.

- [Rose] Oh it's a router.

Oh that goes, yeah we'll
talk to you about that later.

You can open your closet.

- [Anna] Open my closet?

Oh girl I got some clothes now.

I got some color.

- [Rose] Yes you do.

- Nothing white.
- Nothing white.


(dramatic music)

- We have created a permanent
class of false accusers.

What we have got here,
and not just here,

but in a lot of cases,
is a government agency

that deliberately attracts
bad people to it who have

their own petty personal
agendas and find that

through using agencies they
get to advance those agendas.

- [Woman] Do you feel like
you have something to hide?

- No, nothing at all.

- [Woman] Do you have
something to fear?

- No, no, no.

And this is what
I tell Stephanie.

Stephanie, whatever
it is you're gonna do,

do it more quickly.

That's what I say to Stephanie.

And, but understand Stephanie
that when you do this,

you gotta remember
what you're gonna do

and what's gonna come to be.

You're gonna have
to deal with it,

you're gonna have
to live with it.

And I'm not saying that in
any form or fashion that it's

a threat, it's the fact that
Stephanie does these things

out of anger and doesn't know
what is gonna come to be.

And when it comes
to be, usually,

it winds up hurting
her and her kids.

- When I met with Javier
a couple of weeks ago

I was in Houston.

Just about everybody
he's been involved with,

he's somehow or
another manipulated it

and made the mothers
look really bad

so that he could have
custody of the children.

We're on our way to
go meet Serafina Limon

who is the grandmother
of the two girls.

The first adult that
supposedly was told about this.

- I never questioned my
daughters at all, I didn't.

Because of the fact that,

I was not, I wanted
to remain fair

and impartial to everything.

I didn't want people to say,

well this is what
you said to them.

I did nothing other
than take them

to where I was instructed.

They did the interviewing,
they did the questioning.

All I did, and they
did the examinations.

All I did was take them
and support my daughters

and was there for my daughters.

Did nothing else other than
doing what a dad would do

in this kind of situation,
in any kind of situation.

So that's what I did.

My mother was the one
who they questioned.

(dramatic music)

- This is.

- That is right here?

- At Christmas.

- She celebrated his
first birthday with him.

And after that, that's
when she was incarcerated.

He was just barely
walking and crawling.

The reason he accused them,
I think, is the rejections.

He doesn't like to be rejected.

He sent her some love letters
and then when I confronted

him one day with the
love letters, I had
the original ones.

I said, what's
going on with this?

He looked at me and like,
how did you get 'em?

Because Elizabeth
had given them to me.

- So he was angry.

- Yeah, surprised.
- Surprised.

- That I had the letters.

- I didn't write them, okay.

Those letters turned up.

Gloria had them in her hand.

Okay Gloria had
them in her hand.

She spoke to me about and I
said I didn't write anything,

I didn't write anything.

- A week out here in the world
is like a year in prison.

You know where in the
world you're working,

you have errands to run,
you maybe are dating.

But in prison it's like
you're just stuck there.

A lot of these prison shows

I'm like constantly
watching them.

I mean like episode
after episode in that.

It's like I can relate.

It's weird.

The way she's making
characters out of the eggs,

that's so true.

When you're locked up alone
and there's nobody you can

talk to, you long for that,
you long for some kind of,

I don't know almost like human
contact and stuff like that.

When I was in solitary, oh
my god I was losing my mind.

That was the hardest
time I've ever done.

In almost 13 years, that
was the hardest time.

- [Woman] Why were
you in the SHU?

- Because I had been kicked
out of the sex offender program

for refusing to participate.

It's one of the rules
required by parole,

I have to register
as a sex offender.

I cannot have any
friends that have a child

that is 17 years or under.

So what I'm doing right
now is trying to find

the travel route to go to the
HEB on 24th and Calabera Road.

I have to follow this
as it is written.

Obviously when you go to HEB
there's gonna be children and

I think I fear the
parents of the children.

When I walk down an
aisle wherever I may be,

I'll pick an empty aisle
just to avoid anything,

any kind of confrontation.

- I hurt for Anna 'cause I
know that she struggles in the

things that she has to do,
it's not comfortable for her.

I mean she's living
life, she has her family,

it's all great.

But all the restrictions
and people looking at you

and wondering, you know, I
think as far as her going home,

it makes me hope that, I know
that she's our voice out there

and she's doing so much
and that means a lot to me.

It means a lot to all of us.

(dramatic music)

- Inmates cannot
write other inmates.

So as a matter of
fact I haven't heard

from Kristie until I got out.

We were always at
different prisons.

It makes me feel really
good that they actually

completely trust me
and my judgement.

They know that I'm
gonna do everything

that I possibly can for them.

- [Jeff] People think
that these cases

are won or lost in
court, they're not.

They're won or lost
in the public's mind.

Without real support and
mobilization of that support

we will not win this thing.

(dramatic music)

- There are three other
women behind bars,

and I don't feel
complete without them

until they are home and we
get exoneration of this.

Being in the limelight
if I have to.

Whatever I have to do,
I'm going to do that

and they are my determination.

Now I am the voice for
the San Antonio Four

and I will continue to
fight for our innocence.

- [Reporter] Anna
Vasquez who are you?

- I am an innocent
woman fighting for

her innocence to be
proven, you know.

To finally show the truth.

- In 2009 you had the National
Academy of Sciences issue

a wide scale report where they
basically looked at almost

every forensic science
discipline across the board.

And almost every one of
these disciplines lacks

the underlying scientific
foundation that it needs

to be a valid forensic science.

That goes for arson, shaken
baby, toolmark analysis,

hair and fiber, finger prints.

They said lots of
testing needs to be done.

So much of it is left
up to a certain level

of subjectivity to the
analyst who's looking at it.

- It's the misuse of science.

People call that junk science.

We know now that the use of
phony pediatric testimony,

the finding of signs of
sexual abuse when there aren't

any is a persistent
practice and when I see that

in one of these cases, I
think okay another red flag.

- We're in the middle
of history right now.

We're the first state
allowing people to challenge

their cases based on
forensic science alone.

That's ground breaking,

it's the first of its
kind in the country.

- Now that doctors have
looked at the genitals

of normal children for
whom there's no suspicion

whatsoever that
they've been hurt,

it turns out that the same
features that were on these

little girls are often seen
on normal non-abused children.

- We decided to have Dr.
Kellogg draft an affidavit

about the changed science.

About how her testimony
back in the 97, 98 trials

were actually in error.

It's a biological fact
that hymens do not heal

like scars on a hand, like
what Kellogg testified to.

We're 180 degrees wrong
about the prosecutor

and I think things are
gonna move pretty rapidly.

- Well, we'll see.

- The women known as
the San Antonio Four

may be freed from prison to
await possibly new trials.

- [Reporter] Now that new
court documents have been filed

asking they be freed or retried.

- [Newscaster] Clear and
convincing new evidence,

inaccurate expert testimony.

- [Reporter] Documents
point to changes in science

since then disproving
crucial medical testimony.

- [Newscaster] Doctor who
examined the girls back in 94

says testimony about a scar
on the victims privates

was materially inaccurate.

That had she known then
what she knows now,

thanks to advances in
science, she never would have

testified the girls
showed any sign of trauma.

- It's awesome I mean, just like

we've always said,
it never happened.

And we always go back
to that one statement.

And finally it's coming out.

Okay, alright, bye.

She's really excited.

- [Denise] Is she?
- Yeah.

- [Woman] What'd she say?

- She's at work, can't
say much at work.

- Can't say too much,
but she's really excited.

And she was saying our prayers

have been answered
and what not, so.

It's been a long time,
it's been a long time.

For everybody, you know?

Almost 20 years.

(upbeat rap music)

♪ I'm a grown boy mama but
I'm aiming for somethin'

♪ If I came up in the world

♪ I wouldn't leave
you with nothin'

♪ We gonna change everything
by the time that we done

♪ And put a hole
in someone's heart

♪ When they see
where I'm coming from

♪ All the dreams I have at night

♪ Have been leadin' up to a sign

♪ Like da jury of da court had
decided to change they minds

♪ I was barely age nine,
possibly even eight

♪ I woulda said goodbye mama

♪ But the law couldn't wait

- The only times I was angry was

when she first got incarcerated.

But that was just children
being young and having to go

visit her, seeing her
behind the window, you know.

♪ As a child we
gotta stand together

♪ If we hope to survive

I didn't even wanna hug her
when a contact visit it's like,

I don't know man.

And then every time I see her

I'm like a good
inch or two taller.

It's crazy.

I just can't wait
'til she comes home.

(people chattering)

- They're getting ready to come

- [Woman] Here they come mama.

Grandma's coming.

(cheering and applauding)


- Oh my god, hi, I'm
your grandma baby.

I'm your grandma.

You're so beautiful.

I love you.

Come here babies.

- [Reporter] What's
the first thing

you're gonna do
when you get home?

- Spend time with my family.

- [Woman] We love you Cassie.

- [Girl] It's over, thank god.

- [Cassie] Yeah.

- [Reporter] The women
met with reporters today

for the first time
since their release.

They discussed
their time in prison

and their new found freedom.

But their main concern is
having their case exonerated.

- The exoneration is
important to us because

that will say that
nothing ever had happened.

To be totally exonerated
and not have anything on us.

- [Reporter] The next step
is to appeal the women's case

to the Texas Court
of Criminal Appeals

which could lead to exoneration.

- I've been locked up 16 years.

But if I have to wait my
whole life for it, I will.

- [Kristie] Yeah definitely.

- One thing we've learned
is you never stop fighting

for what you believe in and
we're not gonna give up now.

- We're not.
- We've come to far.

- We'll never give up.

- [Elizabeth] We all come as
one package from the beginning

and we're gonna stay that way.

- Yes we are very close, we
check on each other every day.

Elizabeth is, she was my
best friend before this

and she's my best friend now.

(upbeat music)

- [Woman] How was that?

- Well it was kinda
weird at first right?

Actually we fought it right?

A little bit.

I don't know Kristie,
you answer that one.

- Why does it all
gotta be on me.

- Because I've been
talking about it all.

I mean your view
has to be seen too.

- No I don't think it was weird.

- But we weren't
supposed to be doing it.


- I think it caught
us both by surprise.

- Okay yeah, okay well
it could be too much.

Okay, that's a good answer.

- But I don't say like
weird or anything like that

'cause I think we, we feel
comfortable with each other,

you know what I'm saying,
so I don't think it was

weird in that
aspect or anything.

It was like, caught us
by surprise I guess.

- I wanna say our first
time that we were together

was pretty intimate though.

- [Man] Was it good?

- Yeah.

Well for me it was.

For you?

- Of course.

- So, um, and that kinda
was what opened the door.

This will be our first time

coming to mass since
we've been out.

I'm excited about it
that I can go to church,

'cause we did ours
in a classroom.

- [Man] Y'all coming back?

- Yeah.

- [Kristie] Yeah.

- [Elizabeth] Those
are nice pants.

You look good.

- And then this was like the
morning that I came home.

The first morning home.

I went downstairs and drank
a cup of coffee, real coffee.

There's Mikey when he was a
chicken when he was little.

That's him on one
of his birthdays.

I was still incarcerated.

I'm still mad because of
all the time that I lost.

But all I know is that
we're gonna make up for it.

And I know that, I'm
probably a pain because

I'm following them
around the house, you know.

I'll be like. Yeah.

I'll be like Mijo, and
I'll just walk in his room.

If he locks his door I'm
like, don't lock the door.

But um, I dunno, i just,
they'll be doing things and they

don't even know but I'll
just be staring at 'em you

If he leaves for five minutes
I'm like, where are you.

You know I get on my phone.

I learned how to text okay,
and you better answer me.

- The night that we
got released, that
was the first time

I held him since he
was four years old.

That's the picture.

After I had him, I
had to sacrifice,

you sacrifice for your
children, you know.

And with my son,
that's what I did.

I stopped dating
women because of that.

Because I wanted him to be
raised, you know, proper.

At that time in the
90's, mom and dad.


- [Hector] Yes?

- We actually had a heart to
heart talk about my lifestyle.

It's like he said, Mom
I'm not dumb, I know.

It was very healing
for both of us.

I can't remember
what I told you.

- You did.

- [Woman] You haven't seen
her in maybe almost 18?

- Well since 1994 when
the accusations happened.

- Well actually since we
left the apartment that night

and we dropped her
off on that Sunday

is the last time
that I ever seen her.

And then the day
that we went to court

and she waved at
us and that was it.

- She is very brave.

It takes a lot of courage
to go against your family.

I couldn't even imagine going
through a situation like that.

You know, to where you have
to be afraid of your family

and what they might do to
you for speaking the truth.

But I know that
I would thank her

for giving me my
life back, you know.

(door bell ringing)

- [Elizabeth] Hi Mija.

- Hey.

Hi Grandma.

- [Gloria] Hi how are you?

- [Stephanie] Good.

- [Gloria] You cold?

- [Elizabeth] Do
you know Mike, Mija?

- Yeah.

I've been talking
to Mike for awhile.

- How are you doing?

It's cold right?

- Yeah I had to get my daughter.

She bit, so they told
me to pick her up.

- Oh.

- So.

- I just want you to know Mija

I'm not mad or
anything like that.


And I do love you.

And I'm just, I'm glad
that you did come forward

with everything, 'cause
it'd been a long time.

And I just wanted to tell
you thank you for that.


And I just want you to
be at peace with that.

Here, come here.

It's okay.

- [Stephanie] No it's not.

I'm so sorry.

- I could never be mad at you
Mija 'cause you were little

and you don't know
better anyway.

I know.

It's okay.

I'm sorry that you had to
go through all that though.

You know?

But now we just have
to put it behind us

and make the best of everything.

And hopefully
everything will be good

and it will come out
okay with everything.

You know?

- [Woman] All rise.

- [Mike] We've alleged
several grounds for relief,

one of which is
actual innocence.

And the judge will just
make a recommendation

that will ultimately be
ruled on by nine judges

at the Court of
Criminal Appeals.

- The three other women
were tried together by me,

I say by me, before me by a
jury of their peers in 1998.

All defendants were
convicted on all counts.

- One of three
things can happen.

They can be found actually
innocent, which is exoneration,

a judicial finding
of actual innocence.

The court can find that
there, for whatever reason,

is not enough evidence
of actual innocence.

But they could find that
they are still entitled

to a new trial because
they had an unfair trial.

And of course the third
possibility in the universe

of possibilities is they
could be denied all relief

and have to return to prison
to finish out their sentences.

And the evidence can show the
new evidence that any rational

juror would have a reasonable
doubt at the very least.

The fantastical story
told by two little girls.

No more true than any of
Brothers Grimm's fairy tales.

- [Judge] This cause
will be the truth,

the whole truth, and
nothing but the truth.

- [Women] Yes sir.

- [Judge] Alright thank you.

You may be seated.

- We have normal play
being pathologized

and now we're gonna come
back and blame the lesbians

because oh my gosh,
this is back in the day

when people thought
homosexuals abused kids.

The proportion of
homosexuals abusing kids

is no different than
heterosexuals abusing kids.

So there's no reason to
conclude because they're gay

they would've
abused the children

unless you're kind of naive.

And maybe you have a vendetta.

Liz has rejected him
and the revenge motive

takes place throughout
the history of this case

with Stephanie, even to the
point where she's recanting.

So you have this amalgam
of history coming together

in an allegation that
is not integrated

and it doesn't make sense.

I've interviewed hundreds
of people who have been

sexually abused,
I have never heard

anything that even
came close to this.

- It's my professional
opinion that she does not

classify as a sex offender
due to the polygraphs

she did not commit the offense.

And the sex history polygraph
proves that she never engaged

in any devious sexual
behavior in her life.

- No sir, it can be anything
that would be illegal.

- Like voyeurism,
exhibitionism, rape of an adult.

- [Mike] Do you see anything
at all in this report

that would give you cause
for concern that Anna

either committed the offense
she was convicted of.

- [Maria] They all
scored minimum, they
would not be a risk.

- But I really resent anybody
referring to the testimony

she offered in the
1997 and 1998 trials

as being junk science.

She is not a junk scientist,
the science was not junk,

the science has
developed further,

and she was honest
enough to impeach herself

and her own testimony by
acknowledging that fact.

I will then make my
findings and notify everyone

what they are.

We are in recess.

- [Mike] Right
now the decision's

all in the hands of one person.

♪ Kiss me goodnight

♪ I'm gonna fly

♪ To a far deserted island

♪ So please be mine

♪ Just for awhile

♪ 'Til the day turns
into night time

♪ In the darkness

♪ You will be my light

♪ We've come so far

♪ My shining star

♪ Since the dawn of the ages

♪ And all we knew

♪ You knew it too

♪ Was burning
through the heavens

♪ In the darkness

♪ You became my light

♪ And as time floats by

♪ All those empty
years sail past

♪ I've tried everything

♪ But nothing seems to last

♪ So kiss me goodnight

♪ We're gonna fly

♪ To a far enchanted island

♪ So please be mine for all time

♪ 'Til the stars fall
from the night sky

♪ In the darkness

♪ Forever be my light

♪ Forever be my light