County prosecutors asked judges to cancel Perez's execution date
Efrain Perez, a Latino male, was 17 years of
age when he participated in the gang rape and murder of Jennifer
Ertman, 14, (white) and Elizabeth Pena, 16, (Latina) in Harris
County, Texas on June 24, 1993. He was subsequently found guilty
and sentenced to death on September 22, 1994.
Facts of the Case
On the evening of June 24, 1993, Jennifer
Ertman, 14, and Elizabeth Pena, 16, left a pool party and were
taking a shortcut home through the woods, when they encountered
Perez and other members of the so-called “Black and White” gang.
All six gang members were engaged in a gang initiation rite for
The gang had spent the evening drinking and
‘jumping in’ Villareal; requiring him to fight all of the other
members until he lost consciousness. At the trial it was shown
that Villareal had fought three members before losing
After stumbling across the Black and White
gang, each girl was repeatedly raped by the gang for the next
hour. The girls were then strangled, beaten, and kicked to death.
Following a tip-off by the brother of one of
the gang members, the bodies of the girls were found four days
later in dense brush along a railroad track in northeast
Houston, close to where they had been raped and killed. Efrain
Perez was one of the five gang members charged with capital
murder in the case.
His co-defendants were: Peter Cantu, Joe
Medellin, Sean O’Brien, and Raul Villareal. All were sentenced
to death for the murders of Ertman and Pena. Medellin’s brother,
Venancio, who was 14 at the time, was also prosecuted. He
received a 40-year sentence.
After the completion of the first two trials,
(Peter Cantu in January and Sean O’Brien in March 1994) – the
decision was made to try the remaining three defendants
concurrently to save time and money. Assistant District Attorney
Don Smyth believed that it was Harris County’s first
simultaneous trials of three defendants. The three trials, held
in separate courtrooms before separate judges and juries, all
started at various times on Monday, September 12, 1994.
Separate juries found Perez, Villareal, and
Medellin, guilty of capital murder and sentenced them to death
for the girls’ rapes and murders. There was intense media
coverage surrounding all three trials. Sean O’Brien’s lawyer
stated that there was “just a little too much publicity for him
to get a fair trial,” and that during jury selection more than
150 of about 180 potential jurors who were questioned had heard
of the case.
An execution date has been set for June 23,
2004, the day before the eleventh anniversary of the crime. Raul
Villareal, a co-defendant, has also received an execution date:
June 24, 2003. State District Judge Jim Wallace said he was
thinking of the victims' families when he set the date for
Perez's execution: "I wanted to put the two days together so the
families, if they are there, would not have to make two separate