Naked City

No Appeal

The House Criminal Jurisprudence committee on March 18 considered HB 1734 by Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, which would strengthen competency requirements for attorneys appointed to state habeas appeals. In such proceedings, a defendant can raise new issues not based solely on trial proceedings, including claims of prosecutorial misconduct. The appeal is integral to securing an inmate's right to federal habeas review -- claims not raised at the state habeas level are generally forfeited. The essence of his bill, Gallego said, is to ensure that each inmate gets "one very well-represented habeas appeal." Among the proposed reforms are allowing the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association to compile the list of qualified habeas attorneys, a measure Gallego called "peer review," and a provision that would require that two attorneys be appointed to handle each habeas case. The second provision appeared to get the nod of the committee chair, Rep. Terry Keel, R-Austin, who said he thought that would be a good way to continually generate new, qualified habeas counsel. However, the proposal that the TCDLA compile the list drew criticism from varying sources, among them the ever-present Harris Co. DA's office.

The way attorneys are appointed now, Gallego said, "is not very well suited" to the defense of death row inmates. The current list of habeas attorneys, kept on file with the Court of Criminal Appeals and appointed by local trial judges, has been a subject of ongoing controversy. Until recently, the list of just over 100 "qualified" lawyers contained the name of an attorney who has been dead since 1999. "This means that someone who had been dead for nearly two years was ruled competent by the Court of Criminal Appeals," Gallego said. CCA Presiding Judge Sharon Keller made a brief appearance before the committee as a reference witness and conceded that until recently the state's highest criminal appeal court had not reviewed the list to verify the eligibility of any of the lawyers.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More by Jordan Smith
'Chrome Underground' Goes Classic Car Hunting
'Chrome Underground' Goes Classic Car Hunting
Motoreum's Yusuf & Antonio talk about the biz and their reality TV debut

May 22, 2014

APD Brass Shifts Up, Down, Across
APD Brass Shifts Up, Down, Across
Musical chairs at Downtown HQ

May 9, 2014

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle