The number of Texas prisoners cleared by DNA evidence grew Monday, after the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office announced that recently tested DNA evidence proves that a Fort Worth man who spent 23 years in prison for rape could not have committed the crime.
Texas Board of Pardons and Parole granted parole to a full 31 percent of inmates up for review last year, continuing a ten-year trend that was applauded by state legislators and criminal justice groups. (In 2003, 27 percent of inmates up for review were granted parole.)
As the state of Texas endures another sweltering summer, so do its 160,000 prisoners.
Two lawsuits over sweltering conditions in Texas’s prisons are now working their way through the federal courts.
A month after the conclusion of the dramatic, six-day evidentiary hearing held in the capital murder case of Hannah Overton, state district judge Jose Longoria has issued his recommendations to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. In a fourteen-page opinion issued late in the day on Thursday, Longoria stated that he saw no new evidence that would have altered the outcome of Hannah’s trial.
One of Texas’s most high-profile district attorneys, Williamson County D.A. John Bradley, faced a resounding defeat last night in the Republican primary—a race that became a referendum on his handling of the Michael Morton case. Morton, as you may recall, was exonerated last year after serving nearly 25 years behind bars for the murder of his wife, a crime that DNA testing revealed he did not commit.
Just how fallible are we? How badly do we mess up when doing something as fundamentally human as using our eyes, words, and memories?
Very, very badly. Especially when we’re under stress, when we’ve witnessed something terrible like a violent crime, and when the police are hanging on our every word—and maybe, just maybe, pushing us to finger a suspect.
Day four of Hannah Overton’s evidentiary hearing got off to an emotional start when attorney David Jones, who was on Hannah’s defense team during her 2007 capital murder trial, broke down and wept on the stand. “I failed miserably,” he said, looking directly at Hannah as he testified. “There’s probably not a day since this verdict that I haven’t–that I don’t regret not spending more time on this case. I should have done more.” He bowed his head as he was overcome with emotion. “I failed, and I am so sorry,” he whispered.
Things took a dramatic turn in Hannah Overton’s evidentiary hearing on Wednesday when ex-prosecutor Sandra Eastwood (pictured above) reluctantly took the stand to be questioned about whether or not she had withheld critical evidence from the defense. The once-confident and commanding assistant D.A., who had aggressively pursued capital murder charges against Hannah in 2007, seemed far different yesterday than she did at trial.
The second day of Hannah Overton’s evidentiary hearing began with compelling testimony from Dr. Michael Moritz, one of the world’s leading authorities on salt poisoning. As I explained in my January 2012 article on Hannah’s case: