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San Antonio Four Exonerated After Decades-Long Fight To Prove Their Innocence

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AARON SCHRANK/TPR
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Anna Vasquez, Cassandra Rivera and Elizabeth Ramirez, 3 of the 'San Antonio Four,' react to news of their exoneration on Wednesday November 23, 2016.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Wednesday exonerated the women known as the ‘San Antonio Four,’ nearly two decades after they were convicted of child molestation and incarcerated.

The four lesbian women were found guilty of sexually assaulting two young girls in the '90s. Today, Anna Vasquez says her long journey for justice is finally over.

“To have our name cleared was everything,” says Vasquez. “I went from Anna Vasquez, convicted aggravated sexual assault of a child to exoneration. You have no idea what those words can do to a name.”

Homophobia and hysteria about so-called ‘ritual abuse’ played a role in the prosecution, which was based on testimony from the alleged victims and a doctor’s testimony that the girls showed signs of trauma.

After the doctor and one of the girls recanted, the women were released on bail, but until now, they could not claim innocence.  

“Being found to be actually innocent, which is what the Court of Criminal Appeals did with this opinion—acknowledging—and really this opinion declares the fact that they did not do this,” says Mike Ware of the Innocence Project of Texas, who took the San Antonio Four’s case in 2011. “It means everything in the world to them. It’s called justice.”

Liz Ramirez says they’ve been in limbo in recent years.

“And now we’re finally free that we don’t have to ask for permission to go anywhere or do anything,” says Ramirez.  “We can just get up and go at any time.”

Under Texas law, the wrongfully convicted and imprisoned women are now eligible for compensation. The women spent between 12 and 16 years behind bars.