Monday, October 30, 2006

Ineffective Death Row Habeas and Appellate Representation in Texas?

That is what the Austin American-Statesman (reporter Chuck Lindell) charged Sunday in a lengthy and harrowing article entitled, "Sloppy lawyers failing clients on death row:  For 11 years, top Texas court largely ignored shoddy work as 273 people were executed."  It quoted examples from briefs that were gibberish largely lifted from clients' letters, and revealed recycled briefs from other habeas petitions (in state court) that did not match the facts or legal issues.  Several bad lawyer names kept popping up time and again, all on the government dole. The article lays the blame on lax oversight by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. [That court, the state's highest on matters of criminal jurisdiction, was for years--I'm reminded by my coauthor on appellate review Martha S. Davis of TSU--called the 'Texas Court of Harmess Error.']  At any rate, the newspaper gives details and specific illustrations that should be eye-popping even to seasoned appellate lawyers and courtwatchers who know there was no perfect trial below and there is no perfect lawyer; this goes way under that mark.

The Austin article was reported on here in the How Appealing blog, which helpfully links related articles in that newspaper about the state bar discipline process as well as the state Supreme Court's anticipated moves toward raising standards.  The collection is first in a series by the paper called 'Writs gone wrong.'   [Alan Childress]

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