Friday, July 23, 2010

Reversed and aquitted: 80-year drug sentence overturned based on 'Tulia law'

Liberty and Justice for Y'all brings word of a case out of the 11th Court of Appeals where the appellate court overturned a guilty verdict and an 80 year sentence over 3.7 grams of cocaine, ordering acquittal because an informant's testimony in a drug case wasn't corroborated. (See the opinion.)

The snitch in the case had "agreed to buy drugs in exchange for an agreement that, if he made three cases, he would not be prosecuted for his offense," said the court. But in the instant case, even though there was a recording of the supposed drug deal, only the confidential informant could independently identify who was speaking or what they were talking about. The court ruled the evidence presented did not independently corroborate the informant's testimony.

I mentioned in the comments at LJ4Y that I was deeply involved in the inception of then state-Rep and now-state Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa's "Tulia" legislation back in 2001 (along with many, many others, notably including frequent Grits commenter Rev. Charles Kiker), so it's good to see it actually still has some teeth so many years after implementation. You don't see appellate courts reverse jury verdicts to acquit defendants too frequently in Texas criminal cases.

MORE:  Just for kicks, or perhaps more out of nostalgia, I pulled this somewhat notorious flyer out of my files which was distributed at the Texas Lege back in 2001 among religious conservatives, in support of the Tulia legislation. (There was also a more mainstream flyer that most legislators received.) Though it seems quirky on its face, the religous angle turned out to be a far more effective approach than we could have anticipated. The headline announced, "The Bible and the ACLU Agree: Require Corroboration for Drug Sting Testimony!," and it went on to quote Moses, Jesus, and Rev. Charles Kiker in support of the legislation. (The Apostle Paul, FWIW, also backed requiring corroboration for any witness to support a criminal allegation - pretty good company for Rev. Kiker.) State Rep. John Shields from San Antonio read the Bible quotes aloud from the flyer on the House floor, and his support sealed a lot of other Republican members' votes who held similar views. WWJD, baby!

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Those were the days, my friend!"

I do remember testifying before some committee or other down in Austin that I thought I was in pretty good company with Moses, Jesus, and Paul. If I didn't add better than Larry [Stewart], Terry [McEachern], and Tom [Coleman], then I should have.

The Rev. Dr. Charles Kiker (retired)

Hook Em Horns said...

Thank God!

Alan Bean said...

Actually, the biblical references were first used in a letter to the editor I wrote for the Tulia paper in April of 2000. It was to the credit of the godless ACLU that they incorporated the biblical argument into their flyer. I was amazed at how effective the scriptural references were with conservative Republicans. They took the Bible more seriously than I had supposed.

R. Shackleford said...

As it should be.

Anonymous said...

Well, Paul is basically responsible for all of the hatred Christians have for non-believers, gays, Muslims, etc... He's the standard bearer for many Baptists because it lends legitimacy to their fears and bigotry. And almost none of his writing is in line with what Jesus taught. So maybe he isn't in good company, after all.

Rage

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Well Robert in this case Paul and Jesus were on the same page. :)

TDCJEX said...

Interesting opinion and good news for people who were convicted on the word of some one who often had a reason give perjured testimony and go so far as to create evidence to get either a lesser sentence now at all.

One thing that should be added to this bill is that any one who testifies for the state must be sentenced an allocate as official record The must also disclose that they are receiving a lesser sentience in exchange for testimony . That might reduce the snitch/ perjury problem . I tend to dismiss any I uncorroborated testimony given by a accomplice or any one who will receive something in exchange for testimony . Often it is both perjury and has been fabricated by the prosecution .

The problem is determining if in fact the person is telling the truth . I can think of a number of cases out of of Smith ,Harris and Wilco That involve highly unreliable and fabricated accomplice wittiness testimony. In each, the witnesses had reason to perjure themselves. Discovering this is harder to do .

This is one of the main a reasons we need to allow for more appeals as often it is not until years later that it is discovered a person has committed perjury or worse fabricated a crime for something . Usually it is after and criminal statues for perjury or evidence / wittiness tampering etc have run out . I know of such a case and I wish I could get help .

The case would come apart should the states star witness . Will be shown for what they really are . They committed perjury and out rightly crated testimony out of nothing but the coaching of a few win at all cost prosecutors and cops . They will walk free in 8 and 1/2 years others will remain in prison . The other part is the perjurer was the main actor along with one other person who so far has at least owned up to that . If he was a man how would step up to the plate and tell 5he truth . Those people deserve to have some justice. some just want to be free. That person wants nothing more to do with any one who put them in prison and just wants what is right . Is that too much to ask ?

Grits what about hearsay evidence that still manages to find its way into the courtroom and how do we solve the problem of verifying that the accomplice witnesses is telling the truth cooperation n should be more than a cops word or tending to connect a person to a crime that is far to low of a bar . How about that the evidence of a accomplice witness should be irrefutable and also thy must have to discloses in court and at sentencing that they received a lesser sentence and conviction in exchange for helping the state . Lets say that will cut down on ti drastically because a good lawyer will say no chance you are sentencing my client to death . Or at least cruel and unusual punishment . If you know how such low life it is treated in prison they are below child molesters and rapist and slightly above cops and prosecutor in the prison world a place you do not want to be. .

We also need a much better way of handling discovery and evidence apparently to cops,and prosecution cannot be trusted to do this . Maybe there should be both a state and defense forensic investigation teams as at one set up and run by defense lawyers and we can have a blind trust fund .

I'd like to see some way of dealing with uncorroborated testimony in every case and getting rid of the tends to connect a person to the crime . That is very subjective and it is very easy to use creative wording to connect a defendant to something .

I'd like to have near irrefutable proof when using a accomplice . Far too many a accomplice witness have reason to perjured themselves and give false testimony if not make it up . This is just another reason to restore the ability to file writs of Habeas as much as needed .

I doubt Jesus would convict people using lies .

OT , Charlie O I wold like to contact you .

Hook Em Horns said...

Hey Grits...how about coverage of Allen Porter's case out of Houston?