Legal Ethics

Capital defense lawyer suspended 1 year for late filing in death row appeal

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A prominent capital defense lawyer has been suspended from practice before Texas’ highest criminal court for one year for missing a filing deadline in a death row inmate’s appeal.

David Dow, a professor at the University of Houston Law Center, filed a motion to stop the execution of his client, Miguel Angel Paredes, “fewer than seven days” before the inmate’s scheduled execution last fall, the Marshall Project reports.

Dow filed the motion to stay Paredes’ execution Tuesday, Oct. 21, which was technically more than seven days before Paredes’ execution schedules for Tuesday, Oct. 28. But the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals issued a new rule in 2011 suggesting that such a filing would be considered untimely. Under this new rule, a “request for a stay of execution filed at 8 a.m. on a Wednesday morning when the execution is scheduled for the following Wednesday at 6 p.m. is untimely.” Since Dow submitted his motion at 12:37 p.m., this was considered a late filing.

Paredes’ execution for the murder of three gang rivals was carried out as scheduled.

Because it was Dow’s second tardy filing in four years, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals informed him Wednesday, he would be suspended from practicing before the court for one year.

Neither Dow nor the court would comment on the decision. But the Marshall Project speculates that this is further evidence of an ongoing feud between the court and the state’s capital defense bar, of which Dow is a prominent member.

That feud is ostensibly over filing deadlines. But as Texas criminal justice blog Grits for Breakfast opined in 2009 when Dow was also appearing before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to explain a untimely habeas filing, Dow and the court’s judges don’t see eye-to-eye on a lot of matters.

“Basically, these folks just don’t like each other on a level that transcends any given issue,” blogger Scott Henson wrote.

After the 2009 incident, the court issued an order finding that Dow had failed to show good cause for an untimely filing in his death row client’s case, but they declined to take any disciplinary action at that time.

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