Thursday, March 21, 2013

CCA habeas roundup: Four more free from Salvador crime lab debacle, an actual innocence writ on pot possession, and death sentence overturned

By my count, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals issued four new habeas writs on yesterday's hand down list that will result in four more people with drug offenses from Galveston County being released whose sentences between them totaled 29.5 years because of alleged misconduct by former DPS crime lab worker Jonathan Salvador in Houston. These writs bring the total released up to 16 convictions reversed, with sentences totaling 127.5 years so far.

Also on the hand down list, the court granted a writ based on actual innocence out of Harris County, but under unusual circumstances. Rolando Garcia had:

pleaded guilty to the third degree felony offense of possession of marijuana in a quantity of more than five pounds and less than fifty pounds, and was sentenced to three years' imprisonment. He did not appeal his conviction.

Applicant contends that his plea was involuntary because he is actually innocent of the offense to which he pleaded guilty. ... Apparently, after Applicant had entered his guilty plea, the laboratory testing of the substance involved in this case were completed, and it was determined that the State could only have proved that Applicant possessed a misdemeanor quantity of marijuana. The parties agree that Applicant would not have pleaded guilty in exchange for a three-year sentence had he known that the State could only have proved that he possessed a misdemeanor quantity of marijuana. Relief is granted.
The also overturned a 1992  death sentence because "the former statutory special issues [applied at trial] did not provide applicant's jury with an adequate mechanism for exercising its reasoned moral judgment concerning whether applicant's mitigating evidence warranted the imposition of a life sentence rather than the penalty of death." 

See prior, related Grits coverage of the Salvador mess.


Chuck Curtis said...

I tried to subscribe to your blog, but the security code is buried in an ad and the process "locks up" so the subscription process is blocked. Just wanted you to know.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Chuck, looks like the ad is new. Once it runs, hit tab twice so the cursor gets to the box and enter the phrase they suggest to subscribe. Drat! I've used Feedblitz's free service for years and I guess they wanted to make more money off it. May have to start paying for the privilege.