Report on Texas Death Row Appeals

"Lethal Indifference: The Fatal Combination of Incompetent Attorneys and Unaccountable Courts in Texas Death Penalty Appeals" is a comprehensive study of the quality of representation afforded to death row inmates in the state post-conviction process. Not surprisingly, as the New York Times reports, the study finds "Death row inmates in Texas are often assigned incompetent or unqualified state appellate lawyers who do not raise legitimate constitutional arguments and who fail to unearth facts that could prove the innocence of their clients."

"The overall message of the study is that our post-conviction system is broken in Texas," said Jim Marcus, executive director of Texas Defender Service and an author of the report. "Our system is so unreliable that innocent people or people with serious constitutional questions in their case are going to be executed without any real review."

The study also finds fault with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state's highest criminal court. "It accused the court of often appointing unqualified and inexperienced lawyers to handle state habeas appeals, noting that one lawyer still listed by the court as approved is dead. The study also criticized the court as being indifferent when presented with persuasive evidence that an inmate was being poorly represented."

While declining formal comment, a spokesman for the Court had this to say: "We've seen these criticisms before."

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