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Monday, October 17, 2011

The Conviction Mill

In 2000 Brandy Briggs, a young mother from Harris county, was tried for murdering her baby son. The medical examiner, Patricia Moore, decided that she had shaken the 2 month old, named Daniel, causing his death. The DA’s office allowed her to plead guilty to the lesser charge of ‘injury to a child’ for a reduced sentence of 17 years.

Much later another medical examiner named Luis Sanchez reviewed the case and changed the cause of death from ‘homicide’ to ‘undetermined’.

Eventually the Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that she had insufficient legal representation, and tossed out her conviction. After a long, drawn-out investigation, in which their own pediatric pathologist told them he didn’t see any evidence of trauma, the DA’s office decided not to press charges again.

Now, the original trial took place under Rosenthal’s predecessor. There was no reason for Rosenthal to make excuses about it, but he did.

"It's not a situation where I can say she's completely innocent," Rosenthal said Monday. "It's a situation where we can't prove our case."

Wait just a damn minute. I thought that the judicial system was supposed to proceed under the assumption of innocence; innocent until proven guilty, right? If the state can’t prove its case then you HAVE to say she's completely innocent.

Brandy Briggs plead guilty out of fear and spent 5 years in prison. She lost custody of her other son. Her life was ruined because the DA’s office was able to prove a case using an incorrect medical report. When it all finally came to light the best that Rosenthal could do, being too proud to offer an apology, was to accuse her of not being ‘completely innocent’.

Briggs is not the only one that has been royally screwed by Patricia Moore’s autopsy reports. In 2009, Judge Mark Ellis decided that in the case of another woman imprisoned for ‘felony injury to a child’, the fact that the report was changed from ‘homicide’ to ‘undetermined’ was not enough to get her out of jail. It did not “unquestionably establish her innocence”, he said.

What? If the report had not claimed there was a murder back when the case was taking place, would there even have been a trial? What the FUCK? Once you’re found guilty you lose the right to be presumed innocent, even if you can prove that the evidence against you was a lie.

This is like some sick cult. Convict whoever you can, whenever you can, by whatever means you can. Don’t worry about the Appeals Court, they’re our buddies.

The good news here is that although no one seems to give a rat's ass about a Medical Examiner who can't do her fucking job, apparently someone WAS able to get their conviction overturned after it became obvious their trial lawyer was a dipshit...So at least we know it's possible.
Maybe Carlos Coy will never be given another trial; maybe the state has too much to lose by revealing how his conviction was obtained. However, it's possible the TCCA will overturn his conviction based on the conduct of his original lawyer and let him go free.

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