Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Hughes News: Not Representing Preston Hughes

If Preston Hughes is executed on 15 November, it will be because none of his appellate attorneys has ever filed an appeal based on his actual innocence.

Typically, a death row inmate with an execution date and a substantial claim to actual innocence has a talented legal team presenting a case of actual innocence. That legal team is typically supported by a talented team of investigators. Hank Skinner's team of eminently qualified professionals serves as but one example.

Even with a well-staffed well-funded team of professionals, scheduled executions are astoundingly difficult to stop. Once again, Skinner serves as an example. Even with his high-powered team of professionals, he came within 40 minutes of being executed.

Preston Hughes, on the other hand, has never had a single appellate attorney, much less a legal team, argue that he is factually innocent. Instead, Preston must now depend on two lay people, neither of whom is an attorney, neither of whom is a licensed investigator.

It should not come to this.

The administration of capital punishment in this county should certainly not come to this. 

I have for several months been working closely with Ward Larkin to save Preston Hughes from a wrongful needle. Ward Larkin is a sincere and dedicated abolitionist who supports his core belief with substantial amounts of his time. Working directly with death row inmates, he has filed clemency petitions for nine of them, one of them being Hank Skinner.

Note that anyone can prepare a clemency petition for any inmate, presuming the inmate so desires. It is a task not reserved for attorneys. I have myself prepared a clemency petition in the case of Michael Ledford.

It is not surprising that each of Ward's petitions have failed. All clemency petitions in Texas death row cases do fail. What is surprising is depth of Ward's commitment and the quality of his work.

Though neither of us are allowed to act as attorneys or private investigators, neither of us plan to go quietly into the night. Neither of us plan to see Preston Hughes executed without having his substantial case of actual innocence presented to the Texas and/or federal court system.

I suggest you stayed tuned.