Pretrial Justice Institute
featured Texas exoneree Chris Ochoa this week in a photo project exposing the devastating effects
the cash bail system has on those accused of crimes, especially those already in financial turmoil.
campaign includes portraits and interviews with people whose lives were disrupted because they could not pay their bail and had to remain in custody to await trial.
Ochoa and his roommate Richard Danziger were arrested in connection with a robbery, rape and murder which occurred at an Austin-area Pizza Hut in 1988. Unable to post bail and unwilling to confess to a crime he did not commit, Ochoa was held in jail for nearly a year. His court-appointed attorney thought that taking a plea deal was Ochoa’s only chance to avoid the death penalty.
“He was calling my mom every day,” Ochoa said. “[saying] ‘He’s gonna die, you don’t wanna lose your son, do you?’”
Ochoa’s mother suffered a stroke in 1989 and, unwilling to put his family through more legal strife, he agreed to testify against his roommate and take a plea deal.
“I didn’t want her to suffer anymore,” Ochoa said. “The biggest reason why I pled was because my mom was getting sick. It was the hardest decision I have ever had to make. But I had no choice; my mom was already in the hospital; the stress got to her.”
Ochoa was exonerated in 2002 after the actual perpetrator of the crime confessed. His story illustrates how the cash bail system and pretrial detention can contribute to wrongful convictions by putting pressure on innocent people to take plea deals and confess to crimes they did not commit.
The Pretrial Justice Institute seeks to advance safe, fair, and effective juvenile and adult pretrial justice practices and policies that honor and protect all people.
See the campaign page