Monday, December 26, 2005

Two More Texas Innocents, 12 Others Pardoned

As is traditional before Christmas, last week Texas Governor Rick Perry granted 14 pardons to people who received recommendations from the Texas Pardons and Paroles Board, including two who were actually innocent and later cleared by post-conviction DNA testing. Of the two innocence cases, according to the Governor's 12-22 press release:
Keith Edward Turner was convicted of rape in 1983 in Dallas County was sentenced to 20 years and ordered to pay a $10,000 fine. Post-conviction DNA testing has shown that Turner is innocent, and the trial court issued findings that support Turner's innocence. The district attorney, trial court, sheriff and police chief all supported the pardon. At the time of his trial, DNA testing was not used because it had not been approved for admission into evidence in Texas courts.

Entre Nax Karage was convicted of murder in 1997 in Dallas County and received a life sentence. Following new DNA testing, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals said new evidence "cast doubt on the reliability of (Karage's) conviction." The pardon for innocence was supported by the district attorney, the trial court and the sheriff.

The other cases were a motley assortment of low-level crimes for which pardons were recommended, most where the defendant committed a minor offense in their twenties and long ago finished serving their sentence. They included property crimes, family violence, a DWI, and one drug offense (marijuana possession).

I've never looked closely at that agency's criteria for recommending pardons, but one wonders why these dozen folks merited such redemption while many thousands more in the same circumstance do not? I'm not saying these twelve people don't deserve pardons. I'm thinking the agency should recommend many more, and the governor should encourage his appointees to consider more cases from these types of offenders.

Today, one in eleven Texas adults has a felony conviction on their record. Mass pardons of certain classes of youthful offenders -- say, those who committed one or two minor offenses in their twenties then had no more convictions for a decade -- could really help such folks find employment and improve their own lives and their families'. The "felon" label creates barriers to employment, housing, and community participation that follow people around for their whole lives. If the prospect for pardons were real, it would encourage good behavior while folks applied, actually improving public safety as a result. Plus, it would give the Governor more good press every yuletide, letting him look like a compassionate conservative at Christmas. I don't see a down side.

RELATED: Doc Berman had three informative posts before Christmas on the subject of clemency and pardons.


123txpublicdefender123 said...

Don't expect any more pardons from the governor's office for Dallas cases involving DNA. The DA's office here has changed their policy and will no longer write affirmative letters of support to the pardon board, even for those who have been exonerated by DNA evidence. Now, after someone receives a favorable finding from the trial court, he must apply for a writ of actual innocence through the habeas procedure, which is more time consuming, expensive, and does not ultimately result in a pardon. The DA's office has said that they will not oppose those writs, but they won't do anything affirmative to help them. Just another part of their dedication to justice, I suppose.

Anonymous said...

my husband was convicted and incarcerated with no evidence. He has been appealing his case since 2002 and its alot of time consuming for innocent persons being incarcerated while system takes their sweet time to decide if he needs a new trail. He was also not well represented by an attorney appointed by prepaid legal services. and the new appointed attorney states this is the first step, to appeal not well represented by his attorney, and than appeal for a new trail. In the meantime, I have alot of illness and not meeting my financial obligations including my mortgage and health insurance for my daugther and myself.