Leonel Herrera Collection, 1954-2007
- Herrera, Leonel, 1947-1993 and Ellis, Norma Herrera, 1954-2008
- The Herrera Collection contain materials associated with the life and trial of Leonel Herrera, as well as materials included in the book Last Words from Death Row: The Walls Unit, written by Leonel Herrera’s sister, Norma Herrera Ellis.
- 1.27 cubic ft.
- English and English
- Preferred citation:
- Preferred citation for this material is as follows: and 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).
Access and Use
- Conditions Governing Access:
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.
- Scope and Content:
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.
- Biographical / Historical:
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.
- Acquisition information:
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.
- Processing information:
Processed in 2018 by Emily McCabe.