Buting ,Williams & Stilling ,S.C. | A Criminal Defense Law Firm

Call Today for a FREE Consultation


Texas appeals court: common sex crime recidivism statistic is wrong

by | Oct 31, 2022 | Sex Crimes

How likely is it that someone who committed a violent sex offense and murder at 18 will commit another one? It may be impossible to say. What we do know is that there is no evidence the likelihood is 80%, as was claimed by the prosecution in one 2006 Texas case.

In this case, it could make the difference between the death penalty and life in prison without parole. In Texas, once a person has been convicted of capital murder, a jury is asked to decide which penalty the defendant will receive. One of the factors the jury considers is the likelihood the defendant would reoffend, if given the chance.

Ramiro Gonzalez was convicted of kidnapping, raping and murdering Bridget Townsend when they were both 18. The appeal in his case doesn’t focus on whether or not he is guilty, but on whether he should have been sentenced to death.

At trial, a prosecution expert witness testified that Ramiro would be very likely to commit a similar crime if he were given the opportunity. He told the jurors that a person who commits forcible rape is 80% or more likely to do it again.

“However, we now know this statistic to be inaccurate,” the expert wrote in a report on Ramiro’s behalf this May.

Where did that damning 80% statistic come from? According to the expert, there was no scholarly citation or peer-reviewed statistical study to point to. In actual fact, the number was a “bare assertion” in a 1980s psychology magazine. The article was written by someone without credentials and contained no citations.

Actual peer-reviewed statistical studies have demonstrated that the recidivism rate is far lower than that, especially among young offenders like Ramiro. As the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized, the adolescent brain is still developing and doesn’t reach full maturity until around age 25. As a result, younger people are more likely to act impulsively and fail to predict the outcome of their decisions.

Conservative court orders new sentencing

No defendant should have their fate determined by a made-up statistic. Even the highly conservative Texas Court of Criminal Appeals agrees. Just two days before Ramiro was set to be put to death, that court put the execution on hold and remanded the sentencing back to the trial court for reconsideration.

The likelihood that Ramiro would commit another forcible rape is almost certainly far less than 80%. In prison, he has focused on faith and has arguably rehabilitated himself, at least in part. As he has a rare blood type, he recently offered to donate a kidney to a person who needed one in order to save a life after having taken another.

Practice Areas

“I just want to say thank you for the outstanding work you have done for him and let you know how much we appreciate the time and attention you gave to his case. We are obviously overjoyed by today’s dismissal!” (Child pornography case dismissed after motion to suppress was granted)”

“After having had time to exhale, we thank each one of you and all the others who contributed to the exemplary Supreme Court presentation. We are proud of your efforts on our behalf and, equally important, on behalf of the many present and future defendants statewide.” (Client’s comment after Supreme Court oral argument)

“Thank you. Thank you. I am so pleased to hear that we won. It doesn’t seem that it was even a close call. I appreciate your efforts.” (Oconto County defendant after Buting, Williams & Stilling got his prison sentence overturned in the court of appeals) ”

“Your time and advice was appreciated more than words can express at a time when we really needed someone to guide us.” (Client)

“The outcome was amazing, one unavailable even under identical circumstances in probably 98 percent of federal courtrooms around the country. Separate and apart from the outcome, though, I am supremely impressed by your efforts on your client’s behalf. Your comments in support of the requested sentence were perfect in tone and, having now reviewed the extensive sentencing memorandum you filed, your work in that regard was exemplary as well. Your client was certainly fortunate to have you as his attorney.” (Local federal court attorney present at a sentencing)

“I can’t thank you enough, not only for all of the tireless work that you and your staff put into my case, but for telling me what I needed to hear, at a time when I absolutely had to hear it. I consider myself blessed for everything turning out the way it did, especially since I blindly picked you out of a phone book! You helped me, my family and friends in many more ways than the money ever could.” (Child pornography client)

“I think you will find that in any circles where Kathy’s name is raised, people will always respond positively and identify her as an extremely hardworking, knowledgeable and ethical lawyer who is timely and effective with any endeavor she takes on. These circles would include colleagues, friends, prosecutors, judges, professors and others who have crossed paths with Kathy. They would also include the many lawyers like me who have referred numerous cases to Kathy, invariably with positive feedback from the clients regarding her knowledge of their case, empathy, professionalism and fair-mindedness in addressing their concerns.” (Fellow attorney)

“Thank you for giving [our son] back to us. Wonderful work!” (Family of client accused of armed robbery after charges were dismissed)

“Yes, His perfect time and perfect place, you were a part of this plan. I almost didn’t hire you, but I took a step of faith trusting Him and look what happened? Praise God. Our Lord put you in your vocation for a reason, continue to help those He brings your way. May He bless you in ALL you do!” (Client who was wrongfully convicted of sexual assault in a northwestern Wisconsin county. He was released from prison after attorneys got his conviction reversed.)

“I really cannot thank you enough for your past help. You really know your stuff. It is actually funny when I think about my other past attorney’s knowledge and then when I talk with you. It’s like night and day. You’re like a walking book of knowledge with a purpose-driven life. Thanks.” (Brown County client of attorney Buting)

“A year later and I still believe your defense is the single best example of lawyering I have ever seen.” (Television reporter commenting on attorney Buting’s defense of Steven Avery)

“You have a certain brilliance that makes me sure that when you talk, it is good information and I am in good hands. You tell it to me like it is even when the things you say are not always the things that I would like to hear. You keep it REAL!!!” (Brown County client)

“Thank you, thank you, thank you! I feel like this was one of the biggest blessings that happened in my life. I put this along with my children being born healthy and when I survived that horrific shooting. I appreciate everything you have done for me. I couldn’t ask for better lawyers. I want to say thank you to everybody at your firm. I owe you more than the fee you so rightfully deserve. … You gave me back hope. Thank you, man! Out of my 36 years … I have never seen such kindness before. I don’t know what I did to deserve this; I’m very thankful nonetheless. Thank you for giving me hope again. Thank you for your generosity. There are still some really good people around.” (Federal criminal appeal client)

“There is no other attorney I’ve ever even heard of I’d rather have as chief counsel and leader of my defense/appeals than Jerome Buting. You’re the best. Period.” (Dane County client)

“Your advice and counsel were greatly appreciated. We appreciate you taking the time on your Sunday and evenings to help us. We are SO happy about the results! Thanks again.” (Waukesha County client)

“Thank you again … for everything. Five and one-half years of commitment, so many ups and downs and an outcome like that. You did a GREAT job.” (Waukesha County felony drug offense client)