"Inmate whose conviction was overturned in 1980: ‘I’ve been waiting ever since’ for retrial," is the AP report, via the Washington Post. It's written by Michael Graczyk.
Jerry Hartfield was still a young man when an uncle visited him in prison to tell him that his murder conviction had been overturned and he would get a new trial.
Not long afterward, he was moved off of death row.
“A sergeant told me to pack my stuff and I wouldn’t return. I’ve been waiting ever since for that new trial,” Hartfield, now 56, said during a recent interview at the prison near Gatesville where he’s serving life for the 1976 robbery and killing of a Bay City bus station worker. He says he’s innocent.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned Hartfield’s murder conviction in 1980 because it found a potential juror improperly was dismissed for expressing reservations about the death penalty. The state tried twice but failed to get the court to re-examine that ruling, and on March 15, 1983 — 11 days after the court’s second rejection — then-Gov. Mark White commuted Hartfield’s sentence to life in prison.
At that point, with Hartfield off death row and back in the general prison population, the case became dormant.
“Nothing got filed. They had me thinking my case was on appeal for 27 years,” said Hartfield, who is described in court documents as an illiterate fifth-grade dropout with an IQ of 51, but who says he has since learned to read and has become a devout Christian.
A federal judge in Houston recently ruled that Hartfield’s conviction and sentence ceased to exist when the appeals court overturned them — meaning there was no sentence for White to commute. But Hartfield isn’t likely to go free or be retried soon because the state has challenged a 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision favorable to Hartfield, arguing he missed a one-year window in which to appeal aspects of his case.
A 5th Circuit panel of the New Orleans court agreed with the district court in an October ruling, but last month it made a rare, formal request to the Texas appeals court asking it to confirm its decades-old decision to overturn Hartfield’s conviction.
Hartfield’s current attorney, Kenneth R. Hawk II, recently described the case as a “one-in-a-million” situation in which an inmate has been stuck in the prison system for more than three decades because no one seems to know what to do with him.
The ABA Journal posts, "Inmate Has Been in Prison Awaiting Court-Ordered Retrial Since 1980," by Debra Cassens Weiss.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned Jerry Hartfield’s murder conviction in 1980. He is still in prison waiting for his retrial.
The state court twice refused state requests to reconsider the ruling, the last one in 1983, the Associated Press reports. Eleven days later, the governor commuted Hartfield’s sentence to life in prison, though technically there was no sentence to commute.
“Nothing got filed,” Hartfield told AP. “They had me thinking my case was on appeal for 27 years.”
The Texas court had ruled in 1980 that the state had violated Hartfield’s constitutional rights by striking a juror for cause because of her reservations about the death penalty, the 5th Circuit opinion (PDF) said. The determination affected only the sentence, but state law at the time required a new trial, according to the 5th Circuit.
Though the 5th Circuit said Hartfield needed to present his claims to state court, it did find that his claim is not time-barred because he was not in custody pursuant to the judgment of a state court
An earlier AP report, "Jerry Hartfield, Texas Inmate, Waits 30 Years For Retrial," also written by Graczyk is via Huffington Post.
A Kansas man who remains in a Texas prison more than 30 years after his murder conviction was overturned has become the subject of a fight between the state, which insists he's being legally held, and a federal appeals court that says he's wrongly imprisoned.
Jerry Hartfield, whose conviction was overturned in 1983, maintains his constitutional right to a speedy trial has been violated after the state failed to retry him but also didn't set him free.
A federal appeals court has agreed with him, but he's unlikely to receive a new trial soon after the same court, in a spat with the state attorney general's office, sent his case back to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday with a request that it define the status of its ruling overturning Hartfield's conviction. If the Texas appeals court accepts the federal appeals court's request, it could set off a new series of legal proceedings that ties up the attorney general's office and drags out the case.
"Hartfield's position is as straightforward and subtle as a freight train," U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes said.
The state had claimed that Hartfield was legally serving the life sentence ordered by White. It said he had had one year under federal rules to file an appeal on any aspect of his case, and that year started when the retrial was ordered in 1983.
Hughes disagreed, saying the clock on an appeal doesn't start until there's a conviction, and none exists in this case.
"The court's mandate was never recalled, its decision never overturned, the conviction never reinstated; yet Hartfield never received the `entirely new trial' ordered by the court," he wrote.