Sunday, April 20, 2014


Judge rules that Texas inmate still behind bars 34 years after his conviction was overturned is at fault because he NEVER asked for a new trial

A Texas judge has ruled that an inmate with the critical thinking ability of a first-grader is responsible for spending the last 34 years incarcerated on an overturned murder conviction because he never asked for a new trial.

Jerry Hartfield, 56, has been behind bars without a new trial since 1980. But in a recent ruling, Judge Craig Estlinbaum decided that his constitutional right to a speedy trial had not been violated.

While Estlinbaum found the state negligent in failing to retry Hartfield, and agreed that the man's ability to adequately defend himself had sharply diminished, he also found that it was essentially Hartfield's own fault.

As The Atlantic put it, that's more than 12,000 days waiting for justice.

The Bay City native was convicted of robbing and killing a bus station worker in 1976, the Daily News reported.

Hartfield's IQ has been estimated at around 51. He has long maintained his innocence, claiming police used a false confession in the case.

He was initially sentenced to die but in 1980 the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned the conviction, ruling that a juror had been improperly dismissed for airing concerns about capital punishment. Prosecutors have tried and failed twice to get the court to reconsider.

Since then, Hartfield's case has met with one legal obstacle after another.

In 1983, then-Governor Mark White commuted his sentence to life at the request of prison officials.

According to Jeffrey Newberry of the Texas Innocent Project, it's uncertain whether White even knew the conviction had been overturned.

But, Newberry added, the commutation was actually issued in error. 'He couldn't commute the sentence because there was nothing left to commute,' Newberry said. 'Mr. Hartfield should have had a new trial. But he didn't get one.'

Because Hartfield had no legal counsel after his trial 'he just sat there,' Newberry said. Hartfield didn't understand he needed to ask for a new trial until a fellow inmate advised him in 2006.

'Someone helped him write documents on his own saying 'Hey, I never got my new trial,'' Newberry said

Original report here




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