Today's Texas edition of the New York Times reports, "A Death Row Struggle Between Advocates and Lawyers." It's written by Maurice Chammah of the Times's reporting partner, the Texas Tribune, where it is also posted. Here's the beginning:
Preston Hughes III, a death row inmate, is 46 but seems much older, with white hair, thick glasses and a quiet, slow voice that rises only when the subject of his lawyer comes up.
Mr. Hughes, convicted in 1989 of fatally stabbing two young people, has tried multiple times to dismiss his court-appointed lawyer, Patrick McCann. He said that Mr. McCann, who has been his lawyer for 14 years, had not raised his claims of innocence and is “helping the state cover this up.”
Mr. McCann says he cannot comment on why he will not pursue these claims, which were not introduced in Mr. Hughes’s original trial. But Texas and federal law set a high burden of proof for new claims of “actual innocence” so late in the judicial process, a bar that Mr. McCann said was “almost impossible” to meet.
Mr. Hughes, who says he did not commit the murders, is scheduled to be executed Nov. 15. He says all of his lawyers have failed him. “They just want to do things on their own,” he said recently from death row in Livingston.
While Mr. McCann is suing the state over lethal injection procedures, arguing that prison officials would be “experimenting” on his client, a handful of advocates are publicizing what they believe is new evidence of Mr. Hughes’s innocence.
The advocates, who do not have legal training, are campaigning for Mr. Hughes’s exoneration and supporting his efforts to have Mr. McCann fired.
The issue of advocates’ doubting the work of lawyers is common in death penalty cases, especially as an execution date nears.
“Once the lawyers do the spadework, a lot of people want to come in,” said Jeff Blackburn, a lawyer who runs the Innocence Project of Texas, “and they don’t understand that we’re limited with the art of the possible here.” He called Mr. McCann a “great lawyer.”