News Release ~ 10/18/2000

NACDL president calls on Bush to rethink confidence in Texas criminal justice, and Gore to directly address issues

  • Report (10/16/00) by Texas Defender Service critical of Texas capital cases
  • Bush office ignores confession letter that clears two who were previously convicted
  • Chance to address these issues missed by both candidates in debate

Houston, TX (October 18, 2000) -- "The debate last night indicates Governor Bush still has a misplaced confidence in our justice system here in Texas,” said National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers President Edward Mallett today.

"It looked like he was prepared for the debate by handlers who don''t even read the newspaper," said Mallett, a long-time Houston criminal defense lawyer, in reference to Monday''s report on bias and unfairness in Texas capital cases and Tuesday''s published stories about a confession letter by a Texas inmate, received by Bush''s office in 1998, which clears two men who sit in prison convicted of the crime.

Mallett also expressed concern with Vice President Al Gore''s failure to bring up the recent reports from Texas in response to Bush''s answer to a question on the death penalty. "He had a great opportunity to distinguish himself on the issue of fairness in criminal justice."

Monday''s report by the Texas Defender Service cites serious flaws in the state''s death penalty process, including inadequate counsel for indigent defendants and frequent misrepresentation of evidence by prosecutors. Incredibly, in one instance the report cites, the same prosecutor argued in separate trials of co-defendants in a robbery-murder that the defendant in that particular case was the gunman. The victim had died of a single bullet wound.

Bush''s staff confirmed receipt of the confession letter in 1998, but was quick to point out that Bush had never seen it. “The fact that his staff got that confession letter two years ago indicates he’s being kept in the dark. It''s irresponsible of them to allow him to continually brag that Texas doesn''t wrongfully convict anybody when they have this information in hand.

"Flaws in the criminal justice system aren’t limited to Texas," Mallett said. “It''s hard to see how the candidates can be expected to establish a rational and effective national criminal justice policy if they disregard or dodge glaring problems that are right before their eyes.” 

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's approximately 9,000 direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.

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