Sunday, February 26, 2012

Former TX judge scrutinized for deal to rush death penalty case

Attorneys in Texas will argue that Stephen Barbee, a death row inmate, received ineffective counsel because of and alleged deal between his court-appointed attorney, William Ray, and the presiding judge Bob Gill.  Barbee was convicted of killing a bagel shop owner and her son, according to the Houston Chronicle.
An Associated Press story in 2010 revealed that Gill and Ray would take the unusual step of negotiating plea deals in probation cases as a means to move the docket faster.  Those pleas were between the judge and defense attorney without the input of prosecutors. Ray testified about the deals in a 2009 federal court case.
Prosecutors presented evidence at Barbee's trial, including the sentencing, and wrapped up in less than three days. In seeking a new trial, Barbee's attorneys claim the swiftness of the proceeding was because Ray and his co-counsel, Tim Moore, presented a limited and ultimately ineffective defense as an accommodation to Gill.
Barbee's application for a writ of habeas corpus in state court claims his trial attorneys tried to pressure him into pleading guilty, failed to investigate or present a case of actual innocence, fired a mitigation expert "for no apparent reason" and didn't inform a false confession expert of facts that might have changed his opinion, reported the Chronicle.
The filing contends those matters are "understandable when viewed through the prism of what we now know about Judge Gill's manner of running a court."
Gill, who left the bench in 2007 and is now an assistant district attorney in Tarrant County, declined to comment, citing the pending litigation. Ray did not return a message from The Associated Press, but he told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on Monday that he "emphatically" denied the existence of any deal with Gill.

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