November 06, 2018

Fall Pro Bono Opportunity Spotlight: Harris County, Texas Post-Conviction

The Project is urgently seeking pro bono assistance with the Harris County, Texas case of a man who was sentenced to death for the shooting-death of a store owner during a robbery more than 20 years ago. At the time, Harris County was known for leading the country in death sentences, and was often referred to as the “buckle of the death belt.” Although there has been a dramatic decline in death sentences out of Harris County, as in many other places in the country, the majority of the individuals sentenced during that time remain on death row and are still fighting to challenge unfair sentences, due process violations, and numerous other errors that have plagued their cases. The Project is seeking pro bono assistance for one of these individuals who very likely would not receive the death penalty today given the same set of facts, but who will face almost certain execution without pro bono assistance.

Although the case has already been through the regular habeas process, significant questions remain about whether the shooting in the case was intentional, as the State posited, or whether the gun accidentally discharged in the course of a struggle. Newly discovered evidence suggests that the conviction may have been obtained using false forensic testimony and wrongful allegations of involvement in a prior offense. Development of this evidence may open the door to new court proceedings that could provide relief. The client urgently needs fresh eyes to look at the case, review the evidence, and identify new issues that have not been presented that may still be cognizable. An experienced capital defender who is very familiar with the case and the client is available to assist a pro bono law firm in understanding the issues and maintaining the relationship with the client.

For more information about this case, or to receive information about other matters in need of pro bono assistance, please contact Project Director Emily Olson-Gault at emily.olsongault@americanbar.org.