When we reached out to him in 2019, we weren’t optimistic that he would want to talk to us

When we reached out to him in 2019, we weren’t optimistic that he would want to talk to us

Liliana Segura: Oh, hi. My name is Liliana Segura, I’m a reporter. And I was hoping – I’ve been trying to get in touch with you.

Liliana Segura: This went on for a while. It might seem weird that a judge wouldn’t remember a death penalty case that he presided over. Sending someone to death row is obviously a pretty heavy burden. But Densen is not the only judge we’ve spoken to who didn’t remember a particular capital case. And given how many people were being sentenced to death in this era, it’s not all that surprising.

Woody Densen: Maybe another lawyer tried, another judge tried it. It’s possible that – I can’t imagine the kind of thing – maybe I went on vacation or something, and it was tried by court.

Liliana Segura: The record shows that you were the judge, so that’s why- otherwise, I wouldn’t know to get to in touch with you.

My name’s there. But I just don’t remember one with Felix Cantu being on it and this other guy, Oscar, doesn’t ring a bell at all.

Jordan Smith: Halfway through that conversation, I was like, Maybe he wasn’t the judge. He seems so certain he wasn’t the judge.

Liliana Segura: We also tried to reach Michael Fosher, Charles’s second chair lawyer, but he didn’t want to talk to us. Most of all, we wanted to talk to Felix Cantu. We wanted to know why he made the decisions he made at trial.

Jordan Smith: Cantu said he couldn’t meet up while we were in Houston because he was dealing with an emergency.

Woody Densen: Well, no, no, I can appreciate it

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Jordan Smith: We made a tentative plan to meet up the next time we were in town. But apparently, he was still having plumbing problems. After that, we left a bunch of messages for him.

Finally, in , we decided to track him down. We went to his house in a leafy neighborhood on Houston’s west side. We knocked on his door, but no one answered. So we left a note in his mailbox. Nothing.

Jordan Smith: Still nothing. At this point, it was becoming clear that the pandemic was a big deal. And we might not be able to come back to Houston for a while. We decided to give it one more shot.


Jordan Smith: We decided to wait around. There was only one way onto his street so we’d see him when he returned. We parked the car down the block and watched. No Cantu.

But then, suddenly, a man emerged from the house and checked the mailbox. He looked up and down the road. It was Cantu. He’d been inside the house the whole time – dodging us.

Jordan Smith: Well, because we’ve been trying to get in touch with you, and you said you would meet with us, and then you never got back with us, and we’ve been trying to get in touch with you.

Jordan Smith: Well, no, I mean, we prefer it if someone’s going to tell us to go away, that they just literally tell us to go away.

As it turned out, that’s the one thing he didn’t want to talk to us about

Liliana Segura: He led us to his home office. The phone on his desk rang a couple times as we talked. To be honest, after all of our anticipation and our stakeout, the conversation we had with Cantu was just a letdown. It’s not just that he didn’t want to discuss the trial – he genuinely didn’t remember most of it.

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