Leonel Herrera was born September 17, 1947. He was the second of five children born to parents Jose and Maria Herrera in McAllen, Texas. He attended local schools from 1954-1963, and then in 1967 enlisted in the Armed Forces of the United States until given an Undesirable Discharge in 1969.
Leonel Herrera was arrested in 1981 and sentenced to die for the shooting to death of Enrique Carrisalez, a police officer who stopped him for speeding in the Rio Grande Valley. Leonel Herrera petitioned against the death penalty, eventually claiming to have additional evidence that proved his innocence and proved that his late brother, Raul Herrera, committed the murder. The additional evidence was not accepted by Texas judges, who argued that regardless of what new evidence might be presented, Herrera was given a fair trial and therefore the jury’s decision could not be overturned. Herrera's advocates claimed that keeping Herrera on death row, despite evidence that might prove his innocence, was a form of cruel and unusual punishment and therefore a violation of the Eighth Amendment. The case ultimately went to the Supreme Court of the United States which denied Herrera’s appeal in the 1993 decision Herrera v. Collins. The Supreme Court ruled that a claim of innocence does not entitle a petitioner to habeas corpus relief by way of the Eighth or Fourteenth Amendments. The State of Texas executed Leonel Herrera on May 12, 1993 at 4:49 a.m.
A retired nurse, Norma Herrera Ellis (1954-2008), Leonel Herrera’s sister, published Last Words from Death Row: The Walls Unit in 2007. Last Words from Death Row: The Walls Unit is a biography following Leonel Herrera’s trial and press coverage. Norma Herrera Ellis wrote Last Words as part of a promise to tell her brother’s story. She continued to advocate for his innocence until her death on January 14, 2008, at age 54.
The Leonel Herrera Collection contains research materials on the death penalty in the United States with a focus on the right of the convicted to submit evidence of their innocence to delay their own execution.
The collection, donated by Leonel Herrera's sister Norma Herrera Ellis, includes photographs, court documents, news clippings, official and personal correspondence, VHS tapes, and religious memorabilia either owned by or involving Leonel Herrera. Additional materials are included because of their usage in Norma Herrera Ellis' book Last Words from Death Row: The Walls Unit. Many newspaper clippings refer to the drug cartel the Herrera family and local police were involved in. Other newspaper clippings discuss the Leonel Herrera Case with a focus on opinion pieces about later courts refusing Herrera’s additional evidence to demonstrate his innocence. Photographs are mixed family photos, postcards, and rally photos, with the bulk being family photos.
The collection is organized chronologically. There are no series.
The archivist transferred one monograph: Last Words from Death Row: The Walls Unit by Norma Herrera Ellis to the book division of Special Collections. It will be catalogued and included in Minerva, the University Libraries Catalog.
All items in this collection were donated to the University Libraries, M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives in 2007 by Norma Herrera Ellis.
Processed by: Emily McCabe
Collection record created by: This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on
Published: 2018-06-14 23:00:30 -0400
Collection-level record encoded in EAD by Brian Keough, 2016 December 22
Archival materials can be view in-person during business hours in our reading room, located on the top floor of the Science Library on the Uptown Campus.
We can also deliver digital scans for remote research for a fee.
Access to this collection is unrestricted.
This page may contain links to digital objects. Access to these images and the technical capacity to download them does not imply permission for re-use. Digital objects may be used freely for personal reference use, referred to, or linked to from other web sites.
Researchers do not have permission to publish or disseminate material from these collections without permission from an archivist and/or the copyright holder.
The researcher assumes full responsibility for conforming to the laws of copyright. Some materials in these collections may be protected by the U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) and/or by the copyright or neighboring-rights laws of other nations. More information about U.S. Copyright is provided by the Copyright Office. Additionally, re-use may be restricted by terms of University Libraries gift or purchase agreements, donor restrictions, privacy and publicity rights, licensing and trademarks.
The Department of Special Collections and Archives is eager to hear from any copyright owners who are not properly identified so that appropriate information may be provided in the future.
Preferred citation for this material is as follows:
Identification of specific item, series, box, folder, Leonel Herrera Collection, 1954-2007. M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University at Albany, State University of New York (hereafter referred to as the Herrera Collection).
|1||1||Leonel Herrera Report Cards, Elementary to High School||1954-1963|
|1||2||Photos and Postcards, Leonel Herrera and Family||After 1959|
|1||3||Military Service Records of Leonel Herrera||1967-1969|
|1||4||Notice of Overpayment to IRS by Leonel Herrera||1970 May 22|
|1||5||Raul Herrera Judgement||1973 May 22|
|1||6||Food Establishment Permit Issued to Leonel Herrera||1976 February 13|
|1||7||Original Indictment, Leonel Herrera||1981 October 14|
|1||8||Precept to Serve||1981 December 29|
|1||9||Judgement of Conviction, Incomplete||1982 January 21|
|1||10||Newspaper Clippings||1982, 1989-1990, 1992-1993|
|1||11||Craft Arts and Cards Created by Leonel Herrera||1982-1983, 1987, 1990, Undated|
|1||12||Legal Correspondence Regarding Leonel Herrera Case||1982-1985, 1992-1993|
|1||13||Injury Report and Solitary Confinement Physical Examination||1983 June|
|1||14||Affidavits, Leonel Herrera Case||1983-1992|
|1||15||Inmate Files, Leonel Herrera||1983, 1985, 1993, 2002|
|1||16||Polygraph Reports, Leonel Herrera Case||1983, 1993, Undated|
|1||17||Ex Parte Motion for Compensation||1990 December 12|
|1||18||Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, Appendix (1 of 2)||1990|
|1||19||Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, Appendix (2 of 2)||1990|
|1||20||Judge Clinton Response to Habeas Corpus Application||1991 May 29|
|1||21||Habeas Corpus Application Response||1991 August 07|
|1||22||Amended Order on Application for Writ of Habeas Corpus||1991|
|1||23||Correspondence to Leonel Herrera||1991, 1993|
|2||1||Open Letter by Robert McGlasson||1992 February 19|
|2||2||National Public Radio Transcript||1992 October 07|
|2||3||Newspaper Clippings, Kept by Leonel Herrera||1992 May|
|2||4||Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, Appendix|
|Video-Tape 1||CBS Evening News "Leo: Eye on America"||ca. 1992|
|2||5||Petition for Stay of Execution||1992-1993|
|2||6||CBS Evening News "Eye on America" Transcript||1992, 1995|
|2||7||Leonel Herrera and Gary Graham Rally Memo||1993|
|2||8||Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus||1993|
|2||9||Request to the Governor for Ninety Day Reprieve of Death Sentence||1993|
|2||10||Leonel Herrera Funeral Pamphlets||ca. 1993|
|2||11||Personal Correspondence to Norma Herrera||1993-1995, 1997, 2002|
|Oversized 1||Herrera Family Album||Undated|
|2||12||Herrera Family Album (1 of 2)||Undated|
|2||13||Herrera Family Album (2 of 2)||Undated|
|2||15||Photos of Anti-Execution Rally||Undated|
|2||16||Photos of Leonel Herrera Grave||Undated|
|2||17||Religious Memorabilia Owned by Leonel Herrera||Undated|
|Video-Tape 2||Video Made for Leo's Appeal||Undated|