Andrew Cohen writes, "Texas has been holding this man hostage for 12,600 days," of the Week. Here's the beginning of this must-read:
Last week, in a decision that contorted both law and fact, a state judge ruled against an illiterate, intellectually disabled black man named Jerry Hartfield.
Hartfield has been imprisoned for more than 33 years — without a valid conviction or sentence authorizing his confinement. In the latest decision, the judge ruled that even though state and local officials clearly were negligent in letting Hartfield slip through the cracks all these decades, there is nothing in the Constitution that provides him with any protection from being retried. Not the Sixth Amendment's guarantee of a speedy trial. Not the undisputed fact that key evidence in that long-ago trial — like the alleged murder weapon, for example — has disappeared. Not the fact that there is no proof that Hartfied, with an IQ testing far below standards for mental retardation, strategized to keep himself in prison for 30 years as a way of avoiding a retrial.
It's not just the third of a century of unlawful confinement that is egregious here. It's the fact that 10 months have passed since the state courts in Texas (after many years of prodding) first acknowledged the terrible mistake that was made in this case. Even this lesser period of delay is unconscionable. Jerry Hartfield, who first would have been eligible for parole in 2003 had Texas followed the law, should be free.
Earlier coverage of Jerry Hartfield's case begins at the link. You can also jump to Andrew Cohen's earlier commentary on the case.