State Courts: The Darker Side

>> Friday, September 18, 2009

For less encouraging news about state judiciaries, we can turn to the state of Texas, where a man was sentenced to death in a trial in which the prosecutor and presiding judge were having an affair. You don't have to be a legal scholar to see the, ah, rather obvious due process problems with a trail in which the state's representative is literally having sexual relations with the allegedly neutral arbiter, and indeed even the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals can't quite bring itself to deny it. Rather, it falls back on the tool so beloved by reactionary jurists everywhere, the arbitrary procedural Catch-22:

But Wednesday’s decision overturned the findings of a district court judge who had found that Mr. Hood should be allowed a hearing on a new trial. The decision did not discuss whether the affair had prejudiced his first trial; instead, the court rejected Mr. Hood’s claim on the ground that he should have raised it when he first appealed his 1990 conviction.
Yes, if Mr. Hood wanted to contest his unfair trial, he should have acquired a time machine, obtained the evidence that emerged 18 years later, returned, and presented it to the courts. If he was too lazy to do that, we can't help him. The logic is impeccable.

If you submitted a novel based on the injustices of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, I'm sure it would be rejected as just too crude and implausible. Maybe this will be the sort of thing that shocks Tony Kennedy's sporadic conscience....


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