NEWS OF THE WEIRD

More Texas Justice

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After 37 years in prison, Jerry Hartfield goes to court in April for a retrial of his 1977 conviction (and death sentence) for murder in Bay City, Texas. Actually, the 1977 conviction was overturned, but before Hartfield could demand his release (he is described in court documents as illiterate with an IQ of 51), the then-governor commuted the sentence to life in prison in 1983. It was only in 2006 that a fellow inmate persuaded Hartfield that the commutation was illusory — since there was, at that point, no "sentence" to commute. Hartfield's lawyers call Texas' treatment a blatant violation of his constitutional right to a "speedy" trial, but prosecutors suggest that it's Hartfield's own fault that he's been in prison for 30 years.

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