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Jerry Hartfield
Jerry Hartfield
TEXAS (USA): ALL CHARGES AGAINST JERRY HARTFIELD DISMISSED

January 19, 2017: The Texas Court of Appeals for the 13th District, an intermediate state appellate court, has dismissed all charges against Jerry Hartfield, 60, Black, an intellectually disabled former death row prisoner.
In 1977, a jury convicted Hartfield, an illiterate Black man with an IQ of 51, of the Sept. 17, 1976 rape and murder of Eunice Lowe, a white 55-year-old woman.
Three years later, Texas’s highest criminal appeals court overturned the conviction, citing jury selection issues, and ordered a retrial, an order the prosecution fought for years. After years of legal wrangling, the high court ruling took effect in March 1983.
Before that retrial began, however, then-Texas Governor Mark White commuted Hartfield’s death sentence to life imprisonment in 1983. There was only one catch: Because Hartfield’s original conviction had been vacated, he legally had no death sentence for the governor to commute.
But since no one realized this at the time, or for decades afterward, Hartfield stayed in prison and served the commuted life sentence without retrial. 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 (U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes) agreed with Hartfield, saying the decision overturning his conviction still stands.
In June 2013, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that Hartfield was indeed in prison without a sentence. Prosecutors then announced their intention to retry him—more than three decades after his original sentence was tossed out—and kept him in prison until then.
In 2014, a state judge (Craig Estlinbaum) ruled that Hartfield’s Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial had not been violated during his 35-year incarceration because he had not sought out a new trial. He was finally tried and convicted again in 2015, but on Thursday, Mr. Hartfield moved closer to freedom than he has been in decades.
A state Court of Appeals today ruled that he was not only denied his constitutional right to a speedy trial, but to a degree the court had neither seen nor imagined before; it noted that the important precedents dealt with delays of three years, six years, eight years — not 32.
The three-judge panel dismissed the indictment against Mr. Hartfield, in effect erasing the recent conviction. But it is still not clear whether, or when, he will get out of prison. Prosecutors could appeal Thursday’s ruling to the Court of Criminal Appeals, Texas’ highest criminal tribunal.
If they do not, Hartfield's exoneration from death row will become final. Whether the District Attorney’s Office understood what had happened at the time is unclear, but it never took steps to retry him, and the case lay dormant for the next 23 years.
Prosecutors have argued that Mr. Hartfield had legal representation all along, because his original defense team remained his lawyers of record until a court formally dismissed them in 2013.
But Mr. Hartfield’s new lawyers say he had no legal counsel from 1983, when the original team thought they were done with the case, until a federal court appointed a lawyer in 2008. Starting in 2006, a fellow inmate helped Mr. Hartfield file motions in various courts. Some were rejected outright, and at least one apparently went to the wrong office. One federal judge ruled in his favor, but another said he had to keep trying in state court.
Finally, in 2013, Texas’ Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that Mr. Hartfield’s conviction and life sentence were void, but his motions were also void.
The motions were filed under a law applying to people who have been convicted, the court said, and there was no valid conviction on record in his case. He refiled under a different provision, and prosecutors finally sought a new trial. Mr. Hartfield’s lawyers said the charges should be dismissed because he was denied a speedy trial.
Prosecutors argued that while the government was negligent, the defendant was partly to blame for the delays. For more than two decades, they said, he acquiesced in his imprisonment without trial, as a ploy to avoid the death penalty and to make it harder to mount a case against him. (The Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that intellectually disabled people cannot be executed).
At the time of the first indictment, Mr. Hartfield signed a confession that he later disavowed, and, crucially, investigators said he told them where to find Ms. Lowe’s car. Because of his very low I.Q., his lawyers contend it made him easily coerced by detectives, and unable to understand his rights or his confession.
At the time of his retrial, the District Attorney’s Office was able to locate just one of the 16 evidence exhibits used at the original trial, several witnesses had died, and at least one had dementia. The murder weapon was lost, along with blood and semen samples that could have yielded DNA. Ms. Lowe’s car no longer existed.
But the trial court ruled that the case could proceed, and in 2015, 38 years after his first trial, Mr. Hartfield was convicted again and sentenced to life in prison. If that sentence were counted from the start of his time in prison, he would have been eligible for parole long ago. (Source: DPIC, nytimes.com, 19/01/2017)

JORDAN: COURT OF CASSATION APPROVES DEATH SENTENCE OF AUTHOR’S KILLER
IRAQ: SYRIAN SENTENCED TO DEATH FOR FINANCING ISLAMIC STATE
KENYA: NAKURU COUSINS TO HANG FOR SH300 ROBBERY WITH VIOLENCE
MISSOURI (USA): MARK CHRISTESON EXECUTED
BANGLADESH: TWO GET DEATH, 12 GET LIFE OVER BARGUNA FISHERMEN MURDERS
MALAYSIA: MAN SENT TO GALLOWS OVER DRUG TRAFFICKING CHARGE
IRAN: FOUR PRISONERS HANGED ON DRUG CHARGES
TEXAS (USA): TERRY EDWARDS EXECUTED
BANGLADESH: 4 GET DEATH PENALTY FOR KILLING RANGPUR BUSINESSMAN
IRAQ: TWO ISIL MILITANTS SENTENCED TO DEATH
KUWAIT: ROYAL FAMILY MEMBER AMONG SEVEN HANGED
BANGLADESH: MEN SENTENCED TO DEATH FOR KILLING TWO IN CHUADANGA
GAZA: TWO NEW DEATH SENTENCES
AFGHANISTAN: TWO EMPLOYEES OF DEFENSE MINISTRY SENTENCED TO DEATH
NIGERIA: COURT SENTENCES MAN TO DEATH BY HANGING FOR ROBBERY
UAE: DUBAI COURT UPHOLDS DEATH SENTENCE FOR OBAIDA'S KILLER
INDIA: BANGAON COURT GIVES DEATH SENTENCES TO 3 TERRORISTS
IRAN: TWO PRISONERS INCLUDING A DISABLED MAN HANGED
IRAN: TWO PRISONERS HANGED ON DRUG CHARGES
IRAQ: 31 CONVICTS EXECUTED FOR SPEICHER'S MASSACRE
INDIA: 3 YOUTHS SENTENCED TO DEATH IN HARYANA FOR GANGRAPE, MURDER OF 9-YEAR-OLD
DELAWARE (USA): ISAIAH MCCOY EXONERATED FROM DEATH ROW
FLORIDA (USA): SUPREME COURT OVERTURNED THREE DEATH SENTENCES
IRAN: NINE PRISONERS HANGED ON DRUG CHARGES
PAKISTAN: 2 ACCUSED AWARDED DEATH SENTENCE, 2 ACQUITTED
EGYPT: 35 SENTENCED TO DEATH FOR MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD MEMBERSHIP
IRAN: FIVE EXECUTED, INCLUDING 2 AFGHAN NATIONALS
BANGLADESH: THAKURGAON MAN SENTENCED TO DEATH FOR KILLING FATHER
VIRGINIA (USA): RICKY GRAY EXECUTED
NIGERIA: ARMED ROBBER SENTENCED TO DEATH BY HANGING

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