Santiago Ventura Morales

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Santiago Ventura Morales
Born 1968 (age 48–49)
Occupation Migrant farm worker
social worker

Santiago Ventura Morales (born 1968 ) is a Mexican social worker in the state of Oregon. Born in Mexico, he was falsely convicted of murder in Oregon in 1986.[1] The conviction drew national attention when some jurors worked to overturn the conviction, and he was released from prison in 1991. He later graduated from the University of Portland.

Early life[edit]

Santiago Ventura Morales was born in 1968 and grew up in San Miguel Cuevas in the Mexican state of Oaxaca where he completed school through the sixth grade.[2] At the age of 14 in 1982, Morales left his hometown in Mexico along with five cousins.[2] An indigenous Mexican of Mixtec heritage, he moved to the United States to work as a migrant farm worker.[2]

Murder conviction[edit]

In 1986, Morales was accused of murdering a 19-year-old migrant farm worker in an Oregon strawberry field after a fight.[1] Ramiro Lopez Fidel was found dead on July 14, 1986, from a stabbing in Sandy, Oregon.[2] Morales was arrested and put on trial in September. He was convicted on October 2, 1986, and sentenced to ten-years to life in prison after a trial in which he was provided a Spanish interpreter, despite the fact that as a Mixtec, Spanish was not his native language.[2] He maintained his innocence and several jurors later had second thoughts about the conviction and began advocating that he be released from prison.[2] Morales repeatedly appealed after the conviction, but these appeals were denied, with future Oregon Supreme Court justice Virginia Linder opposing the appeals for the state of Oregon.[3][4] However, the lack of an appropriate interpreter and other deficiencies in his trial led to his conviction being overturned when it was shown that a different person was responsible for the murder.[5]

While in prison he learned English and hoped to become a lawyer. The reinvestigation drew intense media attention locally and nationally.[1][6] Paul De Muniz, who became Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justice in 2001 and retired in 2013, was Morales’ primary defense attorney on the successful appeal.[1][6] On January 9, 1991, Santiago Ventura Morales was released from prison, and all charges were dropped in May.[2] Oregon governor Neil Goldschmidt had offered a conditional pardon for Morales after the conviction was overturned in case Oregon Attorney General Dave Frohnmayer appealed the decision that overturned the conviction.[7] In 1995, the state of Oregon passed a law that requires testing and certification of court interpreters as a result of the Morales case.[8]


After his release, but while waiting for the charges to be dropped, he enrolled at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon.[6] Morales briefly returned to Mexico before moving back to Portland, where he accepted a scholarship to the University of Portland.[2] While imprisoned he had earned his GED and taken some college level classes, which along with the injustice led to the school offering him a full-ride scholarship to the Catholic university.[9] He graduated in May 1996 from the school with a bachelor's degree in social work and a minor in political science.[9] The legal injustice to Morales led the Oregon Supreme Court to adopt changes in the way language issues are dealt with to avoid future problems.[5] Morales would work in Oregon briefly before returning to Mexico. He later worked for the California Rural Legal Assistance in Fresno, California,[2] before returning to Oregon to work at the Oregon Law Center.[10]


  1. ^ a b c d "Profiles". Willamette University College of Law. Archived from the original on May 25, 2005. Retrieved 2006-12-03. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Pulaski, Alex. Laboring in the field of human rights – Santiago Ventura Morales rises from a nightmarish encounter with the justice system to be an advocate for his fellow indigenous Mexicans working in Oregon. The Oregonian, November 17, 2002.
  3. ^ 93 Or.App. 202, 761 P.2d 555 (1988).
  4. ^ 307 Or. 303, 767 P.2d 443 (1989).
  5. ^ a b "Press Release regarding Oregon and Ohio". Retrieved 2006-12-09. 
  6. ^ a b c Ellis, Barnes C. Ventura murder case dropped. The Oregonian, April 12, 1991.
  7. ^ Ellis, Barnes C. Attorney general Dave Frohnmayer say his office won't appeal the ruling after Gov. Goldschmidt offers a pardon. The Oregonian, January 8, 1991.
  8. ^ Oregon Mandates Testing for Court Interpreters, The Oregonian, December 26, 1995, at B4.
  9. ^ a b Koglin, Oz Hopkins. From cell block to sheepskin. The Oregonian, May 6, 1996.
  10. ^ National Latino Research Center: Oaxacan Community Workshop Aims to Educate Agencies in North County. California State University San Marcos, Fall 2004. Retrieved on February 22, 2008.