Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Texas Justice

Truly the most just in the world:
A former death row inmate with intellectual disabilities has languished in the Texas prison system for over 30 years despite having no valid criminal conviction. Jerry Hartfield, an illiterate man with an IQ of 51, had his capital conviction overturned in 1980 because the jury at his trial had been improperly selected. A Texas appeals court ordered a new trial for Hartfield, but that trial has never happened. In 1983, then-Governor Mark White attempted to commute Hartfield's former death sentence to life without parole. However, a federal court has recently ruled that the commutation was irrelevant since Hartfield was not convicted of a crime. No action had been taken on the case until 2006, when another inmate helped Hartfield file a handwritten motion, asking that he be either retried or set free. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rejected the petition, but a federal judge agreed with Hartfield, saying the decision overturning his conviction still stands. U.S. District Court Judge Lynn Hughes said, "Hartfield's position is as straightforward and subtle as a freight train....The court's mandate was never recalled, its decision never overturned, the conviction never reinstated; yet Hartfield never received the 'entirely new trial' ordered by the court." The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit called the state's defense of Hartfield's incarceration "disturbingly unprofessional" and returned the case to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals for further action. Given the Sixth Amendment's right to a speedy trial, it is not clear that Hartfield could be re-tried.


Anonymous said...

And sad to say, I doubt anyone would be surprised if Rick Perry turned around and signed a death warrant for the guy.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised they didn't execute him to cover for their screwup. They probably would have except for the publicity now.
Texas, it's like a whole other third world country.

pansypoo said...


Montag said...

There's no mention in the article that the Texas public defender's office massively dropped the ball on this one, and kept on dropping it.

The only way any of us would have known about this was that a jailhouse lawyer who helped the guy--51 IQ and completely illiterate--write a writ of habeas corpus.

The police and the entire criminal justice system in Texas is pretty much corrupt and incompetent. And these guys think they'd be better off without the Feds, that they can do things better by seceding?

That's a fuckin' laugh.

Anonymous said...

Hard to believe that anyone would truly be put out by the secession of the Banana Republic of Texas from the US.