Thursday, September 18, 2014

CCA: Texas' improper photography statute unconstitutional, Hannah Overton salt poisoning conviction overturned

Yesterday, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals threw out Hannah Overton's capital murder conviction based on ineffective assistance of counsel and ordered a new trial. See coverage from Texas Monthly and the San Antonio Express-News.

Also on yesterday's hand-down list, the court invalidated Texas' improper photography statute as unconstitutional on First Amendment grounds. See Chuck Lindell's coverage at the Austin Statesman. Last year the court struck down Texas' online solicitation of a minor statute on First Amendment grounds as well, readers may recall, and Houston attorney Mark Bennett thinks there's more to come.


Dr Hilarius said...

Therefore police will stop arresting people for taking pictures. Ha ha! I kill myself sometimes!

Lucy Frost said...

I applaud the state's highest criminal court for overturning Hannah Overton's conviction. They did their homework.

Important to note -- the court chose to rule on ineffective assistance of counsel, but that was not the ONLY issue -- acknowledged in the conclusion of the primary opinion:

"Because we are granting relief on Applicant's first claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, there is no need for us to address the second issue of whether the State failed to disclose exculpatory evidence."

The concurring opinion details what many believe are Brady violations.

Had the Michael Morton Law been in effect at the time of Hannah's trial, this miscarriage of justice -- and much taxpayer $$ -- could have been spared.

Evidence the prosecution had, but the defense did not, proved Hannah's version of events to be true. With advice from the salt poisoning expert, Dr. Moritz, It would have been clear this was a tragic accident, not a homicide.

Every time a child dies it is a tragedy. But every tragedy is not a crime.

As the list of recent exonerations grows, including that of Michael Morton, it's clear mistakes can be made in the pursuit of justice. Sadly, Morton's release was delayed for years by legal wrangling even after new evidence was discovered.

When the inevitable errors in the justice system occur, delays due to legal wrangling undermine the public's faith in the justice system.

Local authorities in the Overton case should act quickly in keeping with Ms. Overton's civil rights to post bond as they consider whether a new trial is at all warranted given the new evidence that has come to light in her case.