Age 19 + No Prior Record + Sloppy Lawyers = Death Sentence

By Brian Evans, blog, Amnesty International USA:

Anthony Haynes, a 19-year-old at the time of the crime with no prior criminal history, is scheduled to be executed in Texas on October 18.

As noted in this space previously, there were serious issues of racial bias in his case (African American defendant, 11 white jurors, judge cleaning guns during jury selection). There were also bad lawyersand a possibly coerced confession. Despite this, the state of Texas is prepared to put this man to death for a crime he committed as a teenager under the influence of crystal meth.

Two days before Haynes fatally shot Kent Kincaid, an off-duty police officer, a friend of the family had given him crystal meth. It was Haynes’ first experience with the drug. The same friend wrote in a sworn statement that during those two days Haynes began “talking crazy,” saying he had been unable to sleep for days and thought someone was following him. When Sergeant Kincaid approached Haynes’ car, Haynes’ drug-induced paranoia really kicked in – he believed he would be dragged from the car. He shot and killed Officer Kincaid.

A doctor who specializes in psychiatry concluded in 2005 that Haynes’ actions that night were inconsistent with previous behavior and his diminished capacity was due to his first-time use of meth. The jury never heard that Haynes had used crystal meth prior to the shooting.

Sloppy Lawyers

Predicting “future dangerousness” is a prerequisite for Texas death sentences, and Anthony Haynes’ lawyer failed to offer a strong challenge to the state’s weak case for his future dangerousness.  Without the violence inducing effects of meth, there was little to suggest Haynes would be an ongoing threat.

Haynes has no previous criminal record. More than 3 dozen friends and family offered to testify about Haynes’ good character and against the claim that Haynes would be a future threat to society. Yet Haynes’ defense lawyer refused most offers of testimony and failed to even interview many family members.

Haynes’ inadequate representation continued into his habeas corpus appeal. His court appointed habeas lawyer didn’t investigate the failures of his trial lawyer. In a 2006 article in the Austin American-Statesman, the habeas attorney was cited as one of the “sloppy lawyers failing clients on death row”, due to a habit of submitting habeas corpus petitions that were “copied largely verbatim” from the prisoner’s previous appeal.

A Coerced Confession?

For Texas to obtain the death penalty in this case, the prosecution also had to prove that Haynes knew Sergeant Kincaid was a police officer at the time of the shooting. Kincaid was off-duty the day of the shooting and was dressed in plain clothes, driving his personal car. In his initial statement, for which he waived his right to have a lawyer present, Haynes confessed to the shooting and to knowing that Kincaid was a police officer.

Haynes has since maintained that this confession was coerced, and that he did not know Kincaid was an officer. During and before his interrogation, Haynes was not allowed to use the bathroom, eat or rest, and was still feeling the effects of his meth use. As we have all seen recently, it doesn’t always take much to coerce a false confession. Despite Haynes’ allegation that the confession was coerced, the judge allowed it to be used as evidence that led to his being sentenced to death in 1999.

Stop this execution

Anthony Haynes should be granted a new sentencing hearing so that the mountains of unheard mitigating evidence can finally be presented. At the least, he should be granted clemency and have his sentence commuted.  Executing Anthony Haynes after such a dubious legal process would be a fundamental injustice.

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