I was recently contacted by an individual concerning the case of Paul Cortez. Paul was convicted of murdering his girlfriend and is serving a 25 years to life sentence. The individual who contacted me has setup a website/blog to help raise funds for his appeal. Paul’s supporters claim that he was wrongfully convicted.
My first thought was that maybe this was the type of story I’ve been looking for. I’ve been looking for another book project. Truth is, finding a story worthy of a full length book treatment, that hasn’t already been told, is a difficult task. And as I investigated further, I discovered that this particular story had, in fact, been covered already by 48 Hours along with a book. So much for my book plans.
But what about Paul’s case? Is this a case of wrongful conviction? The fact that there are supporters, who have no connection to Paul, who are willing to donate their own time and money in his defense, lends some credibility to the claim of innocence. But what about the facts?
The website lays out the case with plenty of details. And the 48 hours episode, Death of a Dream can be found on Youtube in six parts. Click hereto view Part 1. After spending just a couple of hours on the website and watching the 48 Hours episode, it certainly looks like a case of wrongful conviction. One of the most glaring problems I see is the lack of DNA testing that was not done either by the police or the defense. I got the impression that this evidence is still in existence. If so, what’s the problem?
Paul’s conviction was based almost exclusively on two bits of circumstantial evidence: Phone records that indicate that he was in the area around the time of the murder. (Paul lived in worked in the neighborhood.) And testimony from an individual that claimed to have seen Paul immediately after the murder wearing boots that matched footprints found at the scene. Problem is, 48 hours interviewed this same witness before the trial and he claimed that he had no idea what he was wearing. Think about it. If you’re having lunch with a friend, could you testify months later what type of shoes he was wearing fourteen months earlier?
In the 48 Hours episode, a number of jurors were interviewed. From the interview it appears that they made their decision based mostly on a grainy security video of Paul taken a few hours before the murder. The defense supplied the video to prove that he wasn’t wearing the type of boots that left a footprint at the scene. The juror’s, however, came to the conclusion that he was wearing boots. I don’t have a problem with jurors looking at a case that closely. In fact, I think it’s good that they took that extra step. But they made a decision based solely on their own interpretation of what they saw. I looked at the video and I couldn’t tell whether he was wearing boots or the shoes he claims he was wearing. Seems to me that jurors shouldn’t be playing detective when a man’s life is in question. If they were really concerned about what they were seeing, maybe they should have requested a review by an expert. Of course, that probably would not have been allowed since the defense attorney’s didn’t take that step.
So there it is. You can view the website and videos and make up your own mind. In the mean time, I’ll keep looking for my next book project.
Alpha Darling says
I encourage you to reconsider shelving this case and take another look. The book already written was helpful but contains many factual errors. It would be enormously positive for a book to be written that provides the factual information on this case and that shows conclusively he was wrongfully convicted.
Or perhaps a collaboration? Contact me if you’ll consider digging a little deeper than what you presented in this article. It’s not too late…
Kido Tc says
I do not understand why you would NOT write a book on Paul Cortez? I did not know anything about Paul Cortez until I watched Dateline – The Last Dance, in Australia in 2013 July. I then visited the freepaulcortez.org site, which is comprehensive re the case, trial, evidence, updates etc. I am convinced the Police should re-investigate the ex live-in boyfriend David. David said that he considered Catherine to be like a Mum or parent, which is rather creepy to me!! Sadly, David had an awful upbringing with his Mother, hence growing up in foster home’s. Paul, from what I can see, grew up in a large extended nurturing family and had a full and productive life. I urge you to please reconsider and take a look at the freepaulcortex.org site before you dismiss this tragic case. It was an unfair Trial and is an unjust imprisonment. Thank you. PS Again, I have no connection to Paul Cortez personally. Your link to Death of a Dream is no longer available in my country Australia, it has been taken down by CBS.
Kido Tc says
After sending you my above message I then read through selected Transcript of Paul Cortex’s character witness’s on freepaulcortex.org. Paul’s heart must have been sinking to the floor, as was mine, listening to the proceedings unfold with regard to the irrelevant, somewhat ridiculous and extremely limited questioning by the Defence and Prosecution. Basically the ill-prepared Defence asked one question: Do you think Paul is a peaceful person? The seemingly arrogant Prosecutor’s ridiculous, limited and irrelevant questioning upon cross-examination was: Did you know Buddhism caused the bloodiest war re the Tai Ping uprising in China? As Paul did meditation/yoga, wresting, football, and also ballet after school, he kept asking Paul’s old School Teacher and Mentor, who was the one who taught him ballet, something on the lines of: Did she consider there was a connection between a swan and ballet? What I am trying to get across here is that if a Jury can put Paul Cortez in prison for 25 years to life on this as an example of evidence alone then I am devastated. The Judge I found to be repeatedly biased and a Police Officer on the stand didn’t even have or know where his notes were when asked if he had them in Court. I feel a man’s life has been so tragically stolen, and if this wasn’t such a tragedy one would say the Trial, Prosecution and Defence was laughable. I have never before in my life supported a convicted murderer but the more I discover about this case I would bet my life on his INNOCENCE. My heart is with Catherine’s family, they lost sadly
their most beautiful girl, but I would like to see this case re-investigated and the allocated but never used $25,000.00, meant specifically for testing the DNA, forensics and the Caucasian hair in Catherine’s hand etc, be used as it should have been in bringing the true killer to light.
Injustice prevails when good men do nothing.
Lucian Price says
Don’t you think the “Free Paul Cortez” Site is a bit biased? Since I wrote my comments I looked into the court transcript. I think he is guilty as sin.
If you read the real transcript you’d think he was guilty too. The trial put Catherine’s profession on the stand to make her not likable. It was a disgusting tactic. It also revealed that Paul Cortez called her boss repeatedly to ask her to fire Catherine (could you imagine if someone did that to you?) A retraining order was talked about between father and daughter. For you to blame a man (David) with more then one alibi simply because he had a bad childhood is so narrow minded.
Paul Cortez murdered Catherine. Shame on his supporters. It is not surprising that those who would support someone like him don’t hesitate to try to paint the other young man as they do. Paul is a conman who would murder again if ever released from his rightful place in prison.
Lucian Price says
Although I believe that Paul Cortex is innocent, there are problems I have with some comments. A jury’s job is to look at details that closely.
Also, don’t blame David because he came from a foster home. My foster sister is doing better then most of my siblings. I completely understand his comment that she was like a parent to him. You’re very judgemental in proving that some else was wrongfully convicted. David was given those cards, and he has to work with them. I believe it was someone who stalked her from the strip club.
People who are rich and/or beautiful get more attention in general. There are many murdered people whose lives are never praised. Today is Martin Luther King Day. I suggest you look at other cases of wrongful imprisonment as well.
Savannah tomasine says
anybody out there?
this is an old web site, but i thought i would give it a shot. i usually write without caps and punctuation because i can capture the thoughts free-fall. sometimes they rush into my mind and if i don’t write them down they could elude me, forever-maybe
I’m intrigued with your thoughts and your discussion. i certainly have thoughts about this case, and have found myself increasingly perplexed as more evidence or the lack thereof has become apparent
i am the victim of a violent crime;
in my country, the USA, one is supposedly presumed not guilty and has the right to a fair trial, with a jury of usually 6-12 persons, and alternate jurors depending on the state where the alleged offense was committed.
i write “in my country” because i see that some of you are from abroad.
i reflect on how much time i have been able to search for and process evidence on cases that i have become fascinated by-days-weeks-months-and i look at the jury system, which i believe is a very good one, to a degree
however, juries, 6 or 12 individuals have to do it, decide someones culpability, and fate, in a matter of hours, days, and sometimes weeks.
they have to agree unanimously or in a majority vote depending on the state.
i have studied this case and i have sought information for years partially because it took so many twists and turns, and because
i need more information.
Paul Cortez, David Haughn, and Katherine Woods, were folks in a relationship triangle at the very least. i have been checking on this case every 6-8 months since i watched 48 hr the year the murder ocurred.
I am respectful, thoughtful, and intrigued. i wonder if any of you would be interested in exploring it together, sharing information- basically take the case apart-bit by bit.
i have worked in corrections, a men’s maximum security prison, have been a nurse for decades, am a family oriented person.
i am looking for persons to relate to whom are interested in exploring cases together, having fun, stretching our collective minds, and possibly solve some crimes.
If you could let me know if you are interested it would be great. i am seriously interested in collaborating and respectfully pushing the info around and discovering the nuggets of truth and speculation that i know are waiting for us
thanks for the thoughtful contemplative writing
Douglas Hamilton says
The most incrementing piece of evidence is Mr. Cortez diary where he wrote about killing Ms. Woods because she was working as a stripper. Another piece of evidence is a surveillance video that captured Mr. Cortez close to Ms. Woods apartment at the time of the murder. Both were left out of the Dateline episode. Instead they talk about violent “poems” or lyrics Mr. Cortez wrote.
I came across this to see if there were any new comments and yours was the latest. I was a friend of Catherine’s and it’s a shame to see people support Paul. The evidence in the trial was even more damning than how they make it out to be.
What about the hairs? DNA? I really don’t see evidence to convict anyone.
David def. Killed catherine n the police dept. should b ashamed of therselves for letting get away w this brutal murder.. poor paul. I hope somone takes his case n reopens it. Cause the proof is right there and the judge n police n jurors how cannyou slee at night???????