Death Penalty

Six Executed Inmates Lost Appeals Because Lawyers Were Late

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Nine death-row inmates in Texas, including six who were executed, lost their appeals because their lawyers missed filing deadlines.

Two inmates had the same court-appointed lawyer, who used the same excuse for blowing the deadline in both cases, the Houston Chronicle reports. The lawyer, Jerome Godinich, said a malfunctioning filing machine caused him to file late, but 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals criticized the lawyer for relying on the device when he knew it was broken, the story says.

The Chronicle reviewed records in the nine late appeals and found that in most instances, lawyers or judges miscalculated the deadlines or misunderstood them. Other problems were due to “computer failures or human foible,” according to the article.

Lawyer Stephen Bright, director of the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta, said courts should bar lawyers who miss habeas deadlines from taking other cases and should refer them to the bar for possible discipline. “Any decent judges would be deeply ashamed of the quality of legal representation in most capital cases in Texas,” he told the Chronicle.

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