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Former Death Row Inmate Imprisoned for 30 Years in Texas With No Conviction:

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.
How the fuck does this happen, seriously?

H/t Digby

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Comment Preferences

    •  It's not just Texas, you can be sure of that. (0+ / 0-)

      Nor is he the only learning-disabled person lost in the system. This is sadly what happens when you have no advocate or are otherwise incapable of acting in your own behalf -- you effectively lose your habeas corpus right.

      YES WE DID -- AGAIN. FOUR MORE YEARS.

      by raincrow on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 10:40:14 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  True story, Federal District Judge William Wayne (53+ / 0-)

    Justice ordered the Texas State Prison System into federal receivership only after hearing the evidence of the bodies of diappeared inmates being dug up in a field outside the walls at Huntsville.  None of this is right, but, I gotta tell you, the dude in your story is lucky to still be alive.

    There can be no protection locally if we're content to ignore the fact that there are no controls globally.

    by oldpotsmuggler on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 08:38:18 PM PST

  •  Yeeesh. (32+ / 0-)

    5th Cir opinion here.  I will note this, however:

    On September 17, 1980, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals unanimously reversed his conviction. Hartfield v. State, 645 S.W.2d 436, 441 (Tex. Crim. App. 1980). The court held that the State had violated Hartfield’s constitutional rights by striking a juror for cause because of her reservations about the death penalty. See Witherspoon v. Illinois, 391 U.S. 510 (1968); see also Adams v. Texas, 448 U.S. 38, 43-45 (1980) (extending Witherspoon to the specific procedure Texas employs in capital cases).

    Witherspoon only affected the sentence and not the determination of guilt. Nonetheless, Texas law at the time of this conviction required an entirely new trial.

    Also:
    On March 14, [1983] the Board of Pardons and Paroles sent a recommendation to the Governor urging him to commute Hartfield’s sentence from death to life imprisonment. The next day, the Governor issued a proclamation the sentence. The Board of Pardons and Paroles notified the Court of Criminal Appeals in a letter sent with a copy of the Governor’s proclamation.

    The clerk of the state trial court returned two form postcards to the clerk of the Court of Criminal Appeals. The first form postcard, dated March 9, 1983, stated, “I have this day received the mandate of the Court of Criminal Appeals in Case No. __,” and had a space in which Hartfield’s name and case number were written. The other form postcard, dated March 23, 1983, stated, “Please return this card when the execution of the enclosed mandate has been carried out.” The date inserted in the blank for stating the date of compliance with the mandate for a new capital-murder trial was March 16, a week after the mandate was received. Further, the person who was identified as having executed the mandate for a new trial was Governor Mark White, with the notation added “Death Sentence commuted to Life by Governor.”

    It may have been the state trial court’s view that the Governor’s action was a sufficient execution of the mandate, but there was never any effort by the State or Hartfield to determine if the Court of Criminal Appeals had the same view. No caselaw has been found that in any similar circumstance, commutation did or did not suffice. For 23 years, the State treated the proclamation as effectively canceling the judgment that reversed the conviction and remanded the cause for a new trial. Seemingly, so did Hartfield.

    •  I am confused by this. (21+ / 0-)

      For 30 years no one noticed he was supposed to have a new trial?

      The only foes that threaten America are the enemies at home, and those are ignorance, superstition, and incompetence. - Elbert Hubbard -9.62/-8.15

      by GustavMahler on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 08:46:14 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I think somebody needs to take a hard look (22+ / 0-)

        into Wharton County's handling of this too.

        LBJ, Lady Bird, Anne Richards, Barbara Jordan, Sully Sullenberger, Ike, Drew Brees, Molly Ivins --Texas is no Bush league! -7.50,-5.59

        by BlackSheep1 on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 08:48:14 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  See below. (13+ / 0-)

        The state (and the prisoner) thought that the commutation effort eliminated that right.

        •  If that is the case did he have effective counsel? (6+ / 0-)

          Shouldn't his lawyer have known that the conviction was overturned, therefore not to go for the commutation effort?

          I'm not sure I get all the facets of this yet, but it seems like there is a huge mess here.

          The thing is, did he actually kill the people or get railroaded?  I don't think anyone is arguing he didn't commit the murders, or am I mistaken?  

          At any rate, with an IQ of that level, it doesn't sound like he had a lot of mental capacity.

          "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

          by YucatanMan on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 10:40:28 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  He didn't have a lawyer as I remember (15+ / 0-)

            The really remarkable thing about this challenge, which by the way was roundly ignored by the less than useless Texas Court of Criminal Appeals TWICE, is that it originated in a pro se challenge (ie one filed by the appellant himself without the help of a lawyer), he was only assigned a lawyer at all once it got to the Federal level.

            hope springs eternal

            by ahyums on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 01:06:03 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  So He Represented Himself at Trial? (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              YucatanMan, raincrow

              He's free to do that but this would explain why no one on the outside was trying to set a new trial right after the 5th Circuit ordered a new one.

              "The problem with posting quotes off the Internet is you never know if they're genuine."--Gen. George Washington at the Battle of Gettysburg, February 30, 1908

              by Aspe4 on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 06:23:11 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  he had a trial lawyer, but not for appeals. (7+ / 0-)

                Just a jailhouse friend who helped him with the pleadings.

                •  Yikes! His Lawyer Let this Happen?? nt (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  YucatanMan, raincrow

                  "The problem with posting quotes off the Internet is you never know if they're genuine."--Gen. George Washington at the Battle of Gettysburg, February 30, 1908

                  by Aspe4 on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 06:42:45 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Let's go back to that 1983 Tx Ct Crim App opinion (5+ / 0-)

                    Voila. There were timing issues involved:

                    The State's only meritorious issue raised in this regard is whether appellant failed to properly preserve his error as to the exclusion of this venirewoman. The State now maintains that while appellant's trial counsel made "an exception" to the court's ruling, this constituted nothing more than a general objection and he therefore waived any possible error. We do not agree. It must be kept in mind that the voir dire examination in question took place in June of 1977, three full years prior to the June 1980 decision in Adams, supra. Therefore, at the time Hlozek was excused, Sec. 12.31(b) was considered constitutional even to the extent that it allowed exclusion of prospective jurors on a broader ground than Witherspoon, supra, and consequently there was no reason for appellant's counsel to strenuously attempt to preserve his error. We find that appellant did not waive his error. The improper exclusion of even one juror requires that the death sentence not be imposed. Davis v. Georgia, 429 U.S. 122, 97 S.Ct. 399, 50 L.Ed.2d 399 (1976). The State's contention is overruled
            •  Texas courts are a mess, particularly the appeals (4+ / 0-)

              courts.  Elected judges are just a bad idea in any place, but a particularly awful idea here in Texas.  Imagine being on trial and your judge is a tea-bagger buffoon.

              "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

              by YucatanMan on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 09:09:32 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

          •  Also to try and shed some light on your other (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Philpm, codairem, Aspe4, YucatanMan

            questions. ( really wish we could edit comments so I could add it to the above)

            The way this happened as far as I understand it, is that his conviction was overturned on the basis of an inappropriate juror who was biased in favor of the death penalty being on the jury. The way Texas law was at the time that meant the whole conviction as gone, nowadays a similar challenge would result in a new penalty phase trial ie. life or death, but either way he would still be in prison. His death sentence was then commuted by the governor and as far as Texas were concerned that was the end of the matter, I assume they just treated him as if he was sentenced to life.

            So the short answer is no idea if he is innocent or not, though I would note the low IQ would man he would trouble effectively defending himself and there it has been established that those with a pro death bias are more likely to vote to convict in the first place.

            hope springs eternal

            by ahyums on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 01:56:07 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  regardless of result, he'd be in prison. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        VClib

        its almost a no harm no foul situation.

        •  Only no harm if you think incompetent or (10+ / 0-)

          illegal application of our Constitutional rights doesn't matter.  Texas is also notorious for convicting and possibly executing innocent people as well. A new Trial with a competent attorney would give him the opportunity to raise defenses related to his mental state. With an IQ in that range it's easy to imagine that his abilities to meet legal standards for a conviction of first degree murder are impaired. If so, and he is only guilty of a lesser homicide then he wouldn't still be in jail necessarily. It's one of my frustrations with the people upset by the Bradley Manning situation. Our legal system didn't just start being unfair when he was arrested. And the things that have happened to him are not as bad as things that happen to other people accused of crime every day. That doesn't make it right. But "fixing" the Bradley Manning situation shouldn't make anyone feel better about the system either.

          "Speak the TRUTH, even if your voice shakes."

          by stellaluna on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 04:56:38 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  facts not in evidence (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Aspe4, VClib

            I don't believe there was a competency-of-counsel objection in the habeas petition.

            •  No Im not saying there was poor lawyering at (0+ / 0-)

              the first trial. Though a person could be forgiven if they made that assumption given the many horrible examples of ineffective assistance that come out of Texas. I was saying there could be a different result at a second trial. That is, one that wouldn't result in a life sentence. What we know now about cognitive disabilities and how they impact the ability to form the specific intent to kill, especially to deliberate, could provide a first phase, or guilt/innocence defense that I seriously doubt was raised at his original trial. Not because of ineffective assistance but because of changes both in psychology and the forensic application of those changes.  The fact is, with an IQ of 51 he isn't even death sentence eligible now. A conviction of a lesser included offense would give him a sentence that would make it possible that he wasn't any longer likely to be in jail either way, as the comment I was responding to mentioned. As far as counsel's effectiveness goes, I'm sure the commutation felt like a victory at the time. But, as he is entitled to a new trial, and if the State chooses to retry the case, I think it is not a forgone conclusion that he will end up with the same result.

              "Speak the TRUTH, even if your voice shakes."

              by stellaluna on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 12:16:17 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

          •  I Think He's Still Capable of Forming Malice (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Adam B, JesseCW

            to be convicted of murder, however, his IQ may make him unable to assist his lawyer in a defense. I don't think low IQ alone can negate intent to kill and malice aforethought. But who knows, maybe a jury would disagree but the defendant never got the chance to see.  

            "The problem with posting quotes off the Internet is you never know if they're genuine."--Gen. George Washington at the Battle of Gettysburg, February 30, 1908

            by Aspe4 on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 06:27:25 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Yes, but in most states you can have malice but (0+ / 0-)

              Not premeditation or deliberation and then have some other form of homicide other than first degree murder.  Maybe second degree murder. IQ can negate the intent to kill if the person isn't able to deliberate. Depending on how case law defines deliberation, a person's cognitive deficiencies can affect that.  His ability to assist his attorney would go to a different, but important, issue--competency to stand trial. Most people with IQ deficiencies, even in that low range, are ultimately found competent to stand trial. Though, in my opinion they shouldn't be.

              "Speak the TRUTH, even if your voice shakes."

              by stellaluna on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 12:22:49 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Malice aforethought isn't an element. (0+ / 0-)

                He was convicted of capital murder. Texas doesn't have the traditional felony/first degree/second degree distinction, but basically capital murder is first- or second-degree murder comited during the course of a dangerous felony.

                All the State would need to prove is intent to kill or cause serious injury during the course of a robbery. Diminished capacity wouldn't normally preclude forming the necessary intent.

                Competency is probably the bigger issue, but that usually comes up in the context of mental illness. Someone with the mental age of a 9-year-old can still truthfully answer an attorney's questions, whereas someone with severe paranoia or who is completely delusional cannot.

                •  It has been my experience as well that IQ rarely (0+ / 0-)

                  forms the basis for a claim related to competency. Though I generally think that there is more to assisting counsel at trial than answering questions truthfully and understanding the nature of the proceedings, I always find that the Courts don't agree with me.

                  I am interested to know if you are saying that the only capital murder cases are ones where the defendant is guilty by virtue of of the felony murder rule. I know many states include felony murder in the category of first degree murders but didn't know that Texas doesn't have a separate capital offense that goes to state of mind. I can't tell if that is what you are saying because in most states intent to kill is still distinguished by premeditation and deliberation.

                  "Speak the TRUTH, even if your voice shakes."

                  by stellaluna on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 04:11:37 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                •  And yes, if there is felony murder diminished (0+ / 0-)

                  capacity is not a defense. I don't what the jury was instructed on and what they found the defendant guilty of in this case.

                  "Speak the TRUTH, even if your voice shakes."

                  by stellaluna on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 04:13:49 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

        •  Probably, but ... (5+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Robobagpiper, Philpm, codairem, Aspe4, VClib

          ... the argument is that even at the guilt phase, excluding leaning-against-death-penalty jurors tilts the scales too much.

  •  Short version of what the 5th Cir did (20+ / 0-)

    They agreed with the prisoner that when his original conviction was reversed, it really was reversed, and the Governor's commutation of his death sentence to life-without-parole didn't reinstate it.

    However, as to getting him out of jail now, the prisoner has to first petition the state trial court, and can't trouble the federals with this.

    •  What if Texas doesn't play ball (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      YucatanMan, Mindful Nature

      a writ of habeas corpus in Federal Court?

      I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
      but I fear we will remain Democrats.

      by twigg on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 09:51:03 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Texas has demonstrated it lacks the moral (7+ / 0-)

      authority to stand in "judgement" on anybody, yet again.

      Every DA in the state should be thrown into the general population of the nearest prison with the words "District Attorney" burned into the foreheads.

      Most of the judges too.

      •  Actually, if you knew about some of TODAY's (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        IreGyre

        good DA's you'd qualify your statement.

        Today, there are a number of District Attorneys taking positive steps to release wrongly convicted prisoners by going over old cases.  In fact, I believe the Dallas DA has obtained the release of more innocent people than any other place in the country.

        So, it is important not to make broad sweeping statements about all of Texas or all DAs without knowing what's really taking place at the present.

        The older system of good ol' boy government and railroading convictions is being upended in the blue major cities.

        And many other states have similar problems.  As I noted in other comments, New York convicted and locked up for the full terms of their sentences five teenagers for the Central Park "wilding" case.  None of the five were involved in any way.  They were railroaded.

        A murderer/rapist later admitted he did it, the evidence was tested and his DNA was found on it.

        So, does New York state "lack the moral authority to stand in judgement on anybody?"

        This particular case is a travesty, but ... that's not a reflection of every DA or of every citizen any more than the Central Park Jogger Wilding case is of NYC.

        "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

        by YucatanMan on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 09:18:56 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  And society is served how by holding him? nt (9+ / 0-)

    "I feel like I'm still waiting to meet my true self. I'm assuming it's gonna be in a dark alley and there's gonna be a fight." ---Rachel Maddow

    by never forget 2000 on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 08:51:06 PM PST

    •  Well, I'm just playing devil's advocate here (0+ / 0-)

      because I agree this is a travesty, but....:

      What if he actually did the murders and as a result of his low IQ (and possibly other factors we don't know about), he is a danger to the public because he might murder again without really understanding what he is doing?

      Again, I'm not arguing you can hold a non-convicted man in prison because you feel like it, but as far as how society is served, there may be an answer to that question, outside procedural legal matters.  

      It is possible that keeping him in prison prevented other murders.  Not that it is ever right to keep unconvicted people in prison.

      "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

      by YucatanMan on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 10:44:00 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  We don't use cognitive disability (10+ / 0-)

        -- the assumption that someone doesn't understand what they might do -- to lock up people, YM.

        I understand you're playing devil's advocate, but intellectual capacity and moral/ethical capacity are two completely separate things.

        I don't believe it's the goal of Americans (other than the Texas penal system) to lock up people who can't legally form intent anyhow. We stopped institutionalizing developmentally disabled and cognitively impaired individuals decades ago.

        Even if this man does pose a danger, putting him into a maximum security prison with hardened criminals of average intelligence sets him up to be victimized. He does have a constitutional right protecting him from such unusual punishment.

        No matter how you slice it, this situation is extraordinarily troubling.

        © grover


        So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

        by grover on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 11:14:10 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I agree. And I'm not arguing that. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          grover

          But if he did do this horrible crime, regardless of the legal status (which AdamB has pointed out is somewhat confusing), then it has not been possible for him to commit other crimes.

          I don't mean to state that mental capacity has to do with moral capacity.  At the same time, there are people who do not understand the impact of their actions.

          I personally don't know enough about this person or case, but IF he did actually commit this horrible murder, he seems to be a dangerous person.

          The key is that the rules of justice must be followed and it seems clear that neither the rules nor the spirit nor the letter of the law has been followed.  

          That is an injustice.  The whole thing is disturbing.

          "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

          by YucatanMan on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 09:06:47 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Criminals routinely freed on 'technicalities' (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Adam B, YucatanMan

            which is an ugly word, IMHO. Either we are a people of laws or we are not.

            Even if he had normal cognition, the ignoring of a deliberate order for re-trial for these years merits his release. He has been deprived of his black letter Constitutional rights--not a trivial matter or a technicality.

            If he were to kill a loved one, of course I would be angry. But your rights, my rights are not to be parceled out like a favor from the king.

            "I feel like I'm still waiting to meet my true self. I'm assuming it's gonna be in a dark alley and there's gonna be a fight." ---Rachel Maddow

            by never forget 2000 on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 02:22:32 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  Well, he is probably guilty. . . (0+ / 0-)

      The original objection was that one juror was improperly excluded because of her opposition to the death penalty. It's fairly unlikely that one juror would affect the result during the guilt phase (and he only had a constitutional right to a new sentencing verdict, his right to a new trial arose under Texas law). And he would have been risking a new death sentence by demanding a new trial (the ban on executing the mentally retarded is pretty recent).

      But that's not to say that the State's behavior was anything other than excusable.  

    •  Heh, I was going to say somehting like this. (7+ / 0-)

      It's amazing how some things are just so obvious that several people will make essentially the same comment at the same time.

      You'd think Texas could show more compassion for the mentally challenged, especially as they keep electing such individuals to the governor's mansion.

      If there is no accountability for those who authorized torture, we can no longer say that we are a nation of laws, not men.

      by MikePhoenix on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 09:51:00 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Those governors you refer to.. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MikePhoenix

        don't want to risk the competition.

        A winning campaign? You didn't build that...

        by SilentBrook on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 08:42:27 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  The average IQ (0+ / 0-)

        of death row inmates is in the 80s, lower than the ordinary average.  And with that as an average, we can assume that a number of death row inmates are mentally retarded and that this was never used as mitigation in their cases.  

        An interesting book: Conviction, by Richard North Patterson. It's a novel about death penalty law in California. Patterson is a lawyer and his research is always good. The novel includes a fictional Supreme Court which includes fictional versions of Scalia and Ginsberg.

        Republicans want to make government small enough to fit in your vagina..

        by ramara on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 08:45:01 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  It's Texas (4+ / 0-)

    The turd stain on the underpants of America

    •  Democrats in Texas object to that kind of talk. (14+ / 0-)

      The justice system is horrible here. No question.  The Attorney General is a clown and the governor is a brain-dead jerk.

      But there are decent people here.  So, you know, try to consider that.

      "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

      by YucatanMan on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 10:45:24 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  This. (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Philpm, Noddy, Wee Mama, YucatanMan

        © grover


        So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

        by grover on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 11:14:50 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  The problem I have with Texas (6+ / 0-)

        Is two fold:

        1. The arrogance so often exhibited by Texans about their "wonderful" state/republic.

        2. The horrible, terrible things that come from or occur in that state, of which the subject of this diary is but one example.

        I'm not a big fan of any state.  I've moved countless times in my life and have lived in several states, all of which have problems.  But Texas is so uniquely terrible. And the dissonance between the tiresome Texas boosterism and the sad, tragic reality of that state is unequaled, in my opinion.

        The only state with more ardent and unquestioning boosters than Texas, in my experience, is Utah.

        And even Utah, with its Mormon-dominated culture, isn't as bad (in my opinion) as the citizens of Texas have allowed their state to become.

        I know there are decent people in Texas. I love and respect one of them very much, but he is tied to his family, his family demands he live there, and his love for them cements the deal.

        I feel sorry for him and other Texas residents. I hope their lot improves. And I expect, in time, it will; as demography finally overcomes the deeply-embedded and recalcitrant stupidity.

        Perhaps then that state can embark on a better course.

        •  Utah's a paradox (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MKinTN, NYFM

          At least along the Wasatch front area around Salt Lake City where 85%+ of Utah's population is concentrated, Utah is a surprisingly pleasant place for non-Mormons and even progressives to live, in part because the Mormon share of the population is diluted to only around 50% in the SLC/Park City area.  NEVERTHELESS, Utah's general deep-red GOP-dominated political leanings that show up on national radar are mixed with surprisingly progressive nuts-and-bolts pragmatism on a local level.  For but one example, despite national GOP hostility to mass transit, Salt Lake City has one of the best bus and light rail systems in the country, and is just completing a new light rail line from downtown out to the airport.  The unmatched outdoor recreational opportunities and physical beauty of the setting have drawn a large community of hippies, rock-climbers, hard-core skiers, and other outdoor adventuring people to live in Utah, and they pretty much get left alone by the local LDS community.  Another oddity: SLC has more homeless people and drifters hanging on around the metro area, in part because of the Mormon Church's relatively supportive attitude toward helping people in need.  I tell you, Salt Lake City is a strange place in many ways, not what outsiders who haven't spent more than superficial time there on a ski trip to Park City or only know it second-hand from media accounts.

        •  Stereotyping, scapegoating, reasoning from (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Calamity Jean

          specific to general, etc, etc, etc.

          Every state has horrible things.  Remember "wilding?"  The Central Park jogger who was raped and horribly beaten?

          New York City, you know, right?  A blue city in a blue county in a blue state, right?

          Five young men - teens at the time - were sentenced to prison for that rape.   None of them were involved. There was zero physical evidence of them being involved.  They were forced into confessions and/or convicted and served their full sentences.

          Oops.  Turns out another convicted murderer and rapist did it.  His DNA was found in the preserved evidence after he discussed doing it.

          So, do we condemn all of NYC / NY State for this travesty of justice?  Is it a horrible thing?  Sure it is. Awful. Five young lives were completely ruined.

          How could the good people of NYC have permitted this to happen?  

          All the commenters demanding the good people of Texas to stop these bad things from happening -- please explain how the good people of NY didn't stop this injustice from occurring there?  

          Regardless of whatever state you are in, Ernest T Bass, there are awful things being done there too.

          Most of your comment is filled with rank stereotyping: taking the behavior of a few and applying it to all.   People notice the fool-hardy loud-mouths.  They don't notice all the quiet decent people not making waves.

          "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

          by YucatanMan on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 09:00:53 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  "consider that"..... DECENT people don't allow (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Johnny Nucleo, SilentBrook

        this level of injustice to continue un-challenged. Decent people are not indifferent to the suffering and struggles of others, especially the mentally challenged and handicapped. Decent people don't continue to allow the inmates to run the asylum. Decent people don't scream to high heaven about Patriotism and then turn around and want to secede from the Union because they didn't win an election.
        Decent people, what few may be left, need to start speaking up about all the injustice, and inane childish actions and stop enabling Teh StUpid to be the status quo.
        I've been stuck in Texas since '08 taking care of my mom who won't leave, and I've observed more of a descent of the population rather than the decent. It's infuriating.

        Goodbye American Dream.... http://youtu.be/ZkTIEeGX6q0

        by Fireshadow on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 06:59:46 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  What someone wants to allow, in a democracy, isn't (0+ / 0-)

          up to that one person or a minority of the voters to decide.

          We can fund good Democrats. We can work for change locally.  And by the way, we've had lots of success at that in the cities:

          Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, El Paso, Austin all are blue cities and counties.   Houston has an openly lesbian mayor.  Dallas County has an openly lesbian Latina Sheriff.   That's pretty blue.  That's pretty far from the Republican standard fare of hate and bigotry.

          The Black Dallas District Attorney has released more unjustly convicted people from prison than any other place in the country that I am aware of.  And it is not because Texas convicts innocent people so out of proportion to any place else.   How could he do this?

          Because Dallas County happens to preserve evidence from cases much longer than many jurisdictions across the nation, it was possible to test DNA and determine people were wrongly convicted.  

          While many places across the nation have DA's who refuse to test old evidence or fight the admission of innocene-proving evidence, Dallas has a DA who goes out of his way to insure past convictions were just.

          Your "decent people" comment applies equally to you:  since you are a decent person, why don't you just march over to that prison and get the guy released?  Oh.  You cannot do that.  

          Well, why didn't you elect a different governor?  Oh.  You voted for someone else and lost?  Sorry.  So did I.

          Stereotyping and scapegoating is not the answer.  Especially your allies and friends.  

          "Texas" is not evil, but the people holding statewide power certainly are.   If we keep working to expand the Blue from the big cities outward, we'll see change.

          But do not condemn good people for the actions of bad people.

          "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

          by YucatanMan on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 08:53:23 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Texas is a fucking third world country (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mirandasright, owlbear1, Cory Bantic

    with a moronic and ignorant governor.  How long has Perry been governor?  How long can Perry remain as Governor?

    •  So far, 12 years. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NYFM

      I don't think there are any term limits for the office.  At 12 years, he's already the longest-serving governor in state history.

      "Valerie, why am I getting all these emails calling me a classless boor?"

      by TLS66 on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 07:42:57 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  disgraceful (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mirandasright, Over the Edge, Bronx59

    Got rule of law?

    -5.38, -2.97
    GOP: Government of the servile, by the deluded, for the greedy. Somewhere, Abe Lincoln weeps. --aardvark droppings

    by ChuckInReno on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 10:36:07 PM PST

  •  Anyone who can read about this travesty of (14+ / 0-)

    justice in the Texas prison system and not think the death penalty has to end because of all the many many inherent flaws in the system is just beyond me.

    The insanity of holding a man not convicted of anything in prison for 30 years!  Yes, he was convicted and subsequently the conviction was thrown out. At that point, you have to do something:  file for a new trial; file to hold the defendant pending trial, or release him

    Texas did nothing.  Meanwhile, remember this man was held during Bush's entire governorship and his administration didn't care, nor did many others.  But, recall Bush mocking those on death row and laughing about a woman about to be put to death?  And doing that while a man was held without charges or conviction on death row.  Insane.

    The Texas prison system is an abomination.

    "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

    by YucatanMan on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 10:36:51 PM PST

  •  To those Texas boosters who are defensive. (6+ / 0-)

    The title of this diary didn't mention Texas.
    I, and I suspect quite a few others, clicked on it to first confirm that
    indeed it was yet another instance of Texas "law".
    Yup. Texas, as I suspected.
    Then I read the diary.
    Think about that.

  •  Never perfect (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SilentBrook

    Since the new trial should have been held almost 30 years ago, the people who forgot to re-try this prisoner are probably long gone from their positions.

    Also, what happened to whomever won the inmates appeal?  You'd expect that lawyer to follow up.  Likely they were a PD and moved to another job or died or something.

    One of the prices of cutting government pay and term limits is the loss of institutional memory.  I'd guess something like that happened here.

    Once this prisoner's file got lost, it was forgotten.   With a 51 IQ, this guy had no ability to push the matter.

    If this was a case where the defendant had a 51 IQ and is up  against an overly zealous prosecutor, innocent or not, the defendants chances are between very, very slim and none.   Note I mention "overly zealous" and I don't have a clue what happened in the underlying case.  Its rare though for criminal convictions to be overturned.  They are almost always upheld on appeal.

    Also, while this travesty seems pretty bad, don't pass judgment on a system resolving thousands of cases based on the outcome of just one case.

  •  Is it fair to let him out? (4+ / 0-)

    An IQ of 51 means functioning with daily issues is tough. For 30 years, he has had no contact with modern society. And during that time society has changed. Radically.

    It might be incumbent on Texass to provide a controlled, safe environment for him - forever. Housing, three squares, with some limited freedom, but with lots of safe supervision and support.

    I do not suggest warehousing him in jail, but throwing him to the streets, unprepared, unprotected, would be just as cruel.

    What we call god is merely a living creature with superior technology & understanding. If their fragile egos demand prayer, they lose that superiority.

    by agnostic on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 03:58:12 AM PST

    •  But if it's what he wants ... NT (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NYFM
    •  It depends on which IQ they use (0+ / 0-)

      An IQ of 50 used to be considered average, just as a grade of "C" used to be considered average.  With everyone wanting to be all "special" and "smart" and all, those results have been skewed and skewed, so they have become virtually meaningless.

      A person with an IQ of 50 could be quite competent and average, and to portray him as less so might be a disservice to him.

      Although I do agree that 30 years in prison is a serious disadvantage - a lot has changed in 30 years and integrating back into society would be a challenge.  I don't agree, however, that he would need a controlled, supervised, with limited freedom, environment forever.

      All knowledge is worth having. Check out OctopodiCon to support steampunk learning and fun. Also, on DKos, check out the Itzl Alert Network.

      by Noddy on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 06:03:41 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not forever, but for a time long enough (0+ / 0-)

        To educate, prepare, to acclimate. If we fail to do so, nothing good will come of his release.

        What we call god is merely a living creature with superior technology & understanding. If their fragile egos demand prayer, they lose that superiority.

        by agnostic on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 07:12:11 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  That's not how IQ tests have ever been scored. (6+ / 0-)

        The Stanford–Binet was the first real IQ test, and it used 100 as the median.

        All major IQ tests since have generally reported their results the same way, with 15 points variation representing each standard variation from the norm.

        This place needs a PVP server.

        by JesseCW on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 07:34:44 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  100 is average, and 95% fall within 70-130 (0+ / 0-)

        and the average has been shifting up ~3 pts per decade, so by today's standards, this man's IQ, as measured 30 years ago, would be ~40. At any rate, he would be judged as mildly to moderately mentally disabled, very likely a candidate for supervised housing, sheltered workshop, etc.

        YES WE DID -- AGAIN. FOUR MORE YEARS.

        by raincrow on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 10:54:57 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  We Work For Real Change Here (4+ / 0-)

    Texas is in the hands of lunatics from the Governor down.  Perry is an ignorant opportunist.  He is very religious but will not help others and is owned by the rich. and powerful.

    Our Legislature is controlled by right wing Republicans.  Totally.

    Our highest criminal appeals court, the Court of Criminal Appeals, is inhabited by some really strange people.  Google Presiding Judge Sharon Keller for some eye popping articles.  Then run Judge Larry Meyers for fun.  Meyers used his office, Associate Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals, and such for four years fighting a speeding ticket.

    A quick read of Branch v. Texas and Adams v. Texas shows our highest criminal court has never been right on the death penalty.  No change here.  Interestingly enough, the outcome of the Adams v. Texas case was a commutation of the sentence to life without parole also.  It took three tenacious lawyers another ten years to free Adams who was in fact innocent.  Check out 'Thin Blue Line' on Netflix for a stunning look at our Texas justice system involving Adams.

    But, we work for change still.  We will keep working.  We will change thins here one step at a time till we succeed.

    •  Good for you. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Philpm, SilentBrook

      I'm sure there are many who take the position that criminals shouldn't be zealously defended. And in Texas it seems to be even more systemic than in other states. So you have my admiration for fighting for unpopular clients about unpopular issues.  People doing that are the first line of defense for our Constitution.

      "Speak the TRUTH, even if your voice shakes."

      by stellaluna on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 05:02:53 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Communities are 'owned' by powerful families ... (0+ / 0-)

    in too many places in Texas (not a unique situation, unfortunately) & they can make people disappear into institutions. I can't give details but I trust my sources.

    Another great example of why local & state governments need federal oversight to reduce abuse of citizens & residents of too many corrupted communities.

    Something that doesn't make good sense, makes bad sense. That means someone is being deliberately hurtful & selfish. Look for motives behind actions & words.

    by CA wildwoman on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 04:38:59 AM PST

  •  The guy should get a 10-million dollar judgment (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Philpm, Fireshadow, JesseCW, NYFM

    against the state, and live in a huge mansion right next to the governor's residence.

    Buy Aldus Shrugged : The Antidote to Ayn Rand, and tear Ayn and the GOP new orifices. Plus, I get a small royalty, and Jeff Bezos and his employees get the rest. Not a bad deal, as CEO Bezos is not much of a dick, relatively speaking. @floydbluealdus1

    by Floyd Blue on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 05:25:48 AM PST

    •  Hell, give him the governor's mansion (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Fireshadow

      He can't really be any worse than what they have there now, and would likely show more compassion.

      Undecided voters are the biggest idiots on the planet. - Brian Griffin

      by Philpm on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 05:52:16 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  They're probly both fans of syrup. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Philpm

        Buy Aldus Shrugged : The Antidote to Ayn Rand, and tear Ayn and the GOP new orifices. Plus, I get a small royalty, and Jeff Bezos and his employees get the rest. Not a bad deal, as CEO Bezos is not much of a dick, relatively speaking. @floydbluealdus1

        by Floyd Blue on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 06:14:51 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Are you listening, Governor Perry? (0+ / 0-)

    You were jetting around running for president, but couldn't be bothered with this?  Disgraceful.

    Romney-Ryan: America's Rollback Team

    by Christian Dem in NC on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 07:10:15 AM PST

  •  it's texas, that makes its own reality. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Roadbed Guy, NYFM, Calamity Jean
    How the fuck does this happen, seriously?
    frankly, i'm surprised he wasn't executed. gov. perry loves to execute him some innocent people, executing one who hadn't even been tried or sentenced would a major tea party coup.

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