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by Stephen Lendman
Thursday, Aug. 20, 2015 at 8:09 PM
Jerry Hartfield: Victimized by US Police State Injustice
by Stephen Lendman
Blacks and other people of color in America are systematically denied due process and judicial fairness. Killer cops murder innocent victims with impunity. African Americans like Hartfield are imprisoned unjustly.
In his case, for nearly four decades despite an appeals court in 1980 throwing out his 1977 conviction for the killing of Bay City, TX bus station ticket agent Eunice Lowe.
He was on death row until then Governor Mark White commuted his sentence to life in prison - despite no sentence to commute. A Texas appeals court ruling annulled it. He should have been freed straightaway.
He’s mentally impaired. At an early August hearing, a psychologist said testing showed his IQ at 67 - considered intellectually deficient below the 70 threshold.
In Atkins v. Virginia (2002), the Supreme Court ruled against executing intellectually disabled individuals - saying the practice violates 8th Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment, but let states define who’s mentally impaired.
In Hall v. Florida (2014), the High Court narrowed the discretion states can use to decide who’s too intellectually incapacitated to be executed.
Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said Florida’s “rigid rule creates an unacceptable risk that persons with intellectual disability will be executed, and thus is unconstitutional.”
Hartfield was ordered retried. In court documents, defense attorney Jay Wooten said “(r)egardless of how the time is parsed out, the delay between the initial conviction in 1977 and the trial…is extraordinary.”
Matagorda County District Attorney Steven Reis admitted partial prosecutorial responsibility for not retrying Hartfield earlier - while outrageously claiming he’s responsible “for not filing for nearly a quarter-century,” ignoring his mental inability to understand his legal rights.
He didn’t know about the appeals court ruling until 2006 - after another inmate told him. With his help, he learned for the first time to read and write.
He filed a handwritten court writ demanding retrial or release. The Texas Criminal Appeals Court rejected it twice. Hartfield appealed in federal court.
In 2009, US District Court Judge Lynn Hughes agreed his convicted was reversed. “Hartfield’s position is as straightforward and subtle as a freight train,” she said.
A US appeals court agreed. Hartfield was ordered retried. Texas District Court Judge Craig Estinbaum presided.
In pretrial motions, defense attorney Wooten argued his client was compromised because of a 30-year delay, most prosecution witnesses are dead or can’t be located, Hartfield’s so-called confession was “bogus,” and “two most important pieces of physical evidence” weren’t available: the murder weapon and victim Lowe’s car.
On August 19, justice delayed was denied. Hartfield, now aged 59, was convicted unjustly a second time. Sentencing is scheduled for August 20.
He faces additional imprisonment from five years to life. He’s been in custody since 1976, beginning days after Lowe’s murder. No credible evidence proves his guilt - for sure not after nearly four decades.
He’s eligible for parole based on time served. Prosecutors and defense attorneys withheld comments on the verdict.
During closing arguments, defense counsel Wooten said missing, unreliable evidence and likely forced confession from a mentally impaired man should automatically exempt a second conviction.
“A lot of things are missing from this case,” Wooten stressed. “Like anything you had in your home in 1976, there are parts missing. There are parts that no longer fit.”
Hartfield is one of many African Americans facing systemic injustice. Equal protection under the law is pure fantasy. The Fourteenth Amendment states:
“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”
“No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
America’s privileged alone are afforded constitutional rights. Its least advantaged citizens and residents are entirely left out.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.
It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs.
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