Death Watch: Longtime Death Row Inmate Dies

Max Soffar has died of liver cancer


Max Soffar passed away Sunday under medical supervision at the Polunsky Unit in Livingston, after spending 36 years on death row. Soffar, 60, had long suffered from liver cancer. In Aug. 2014, and again in Aug. 2015, the American Civil Liberties Union and his attorney unsuccessfully filed appeals asking the governor to grant Soffar clemency, so that he could return home and die by his wife's side. At the time of the first appeal, Soffar had been given eight months to live.

Previous efforts to keep Soffar from the gurney argued that Soffar was innocent of the crime for which he received a death sentence. In 1981, he was convicted of capital murder for the killing of three teenagers at a Houston bowling alley. A controversial, three-day police interrogation – of which there was no audio recording – produced a confession from Soffar. However, Soffar, who at 24 had long been impaired by brain damage and chemical dependency, has said publicly that he didn't confess; he intended to accuse a friend of the murder in order to receive the $15,000 award Houston Police were offering. Not a single shred of physical evidence connected Soffar to the murders.

Soffar was granted a second trial in 2006 after an appeals court ruled that he'd had ineffective assistance at his original trial. (Soffar's original attorneys had declined to call a fourth shooting victim, Greg Garner, who lost an eye but was not killed, to testify.) But when Garner took the stand in 2006, he said that the killer he remembered looked somewhat like Soffar (even though he couldn't pick Soffar out of a lineup six weeks after the murders) and the Harris County D.A.'s Office was able to convince the jury that Soffar knew details about the murders no one else could provide. Soffar was once again given a death sentence.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

death row, Max Soffar, Houston

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