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turbojet

Justice gone wrong

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HOUSTON — The crime Aaron Hart confessed to was undeniably repellent.

Last September, the 18-year-old man was charged with sexually assaulting a 6-year-old neighbor boy behind a tool shed in the small east Texas town of Paris. A relative of the victim said she walked outside and saw Hart with his pants pulled down, standing next to the boy.

Police read Hart his Miranda rights and he quickly admitted his guilt. On Feb. 11, Hart's court-appointed attorney entered guilty pleas to each of five related felony counts, a jury recommended multiple sentences and a judge then ruled that the prison terms be served consecutively, for a total of 100 years.

That might have been the end of Cause No. 22924 in the 6th Judicial District Court of Lamar County, Texas—just another dismal criminal case on the docket of an obscure town.

Except that now, less than two months after Hart was sentenced, every court official who had a hand in the case seems to agree that he doesn't really belong in prison for what amounts to the rest of his life.

That's because Hart is profoundly mentally retarded. He has an IQ of 47, and his parents say he functions at the level of a 9-year-old. The boy he confessed to molesting is mentally retarded as well.

What's more, the judge and the jury never heard any expert testimony about Hart's diminished mental functioning, his capacity to understand his Miranda rights or his ability to assist in his own defense, because his defense attorney never subpoenaed any experts.

And since he has been in jail, Hart himself has been repeatedly raped, according to his parents. The first assault, allegedly by an inmate who is serving a far shorter sentence of just 8 years for sexual indecency with a child, so disturbed the alleged rapist's mother that she called Hart's parents to apologize.

"I have nightmares thinking about Aaron in prison and how he is going to survive in there," said Robert Hart, Aaron's 70-year-old father. "He's the type of kid who his whole life people beat him up, took stuff from him, and he wouldn't defend himself. He can't read or write. He can't hardly talk."

Hart's complex case is threatening to once again bring unwelcome outside scrutiny to the functioning of the criminal justice system in Paris.

The town of 26,000 drew national civil rights protests in 2007 following a Tribune report contrasting the judicial treatment of a 14-year-old black girl, who was sentenced to up to 7 years in youth prison for shoving a hall monitor at her high school, with the treatment of a 14-year-old white girl, who was given probation for the more serious crime of arson. More racial tensions erupted last year after the slaying of a 24-year-old black man, allegedly at the hands of two whites.

This time, though the issues are not racial—both Hart and his victim are white—black civil rights leaders in Paris are still advocating on Hart's behalf, because of their concerns that he was not treated fairly by the local justice system.

A spokesman for the local prosecutor, Gary Young, acknowledged that more serious sexual offenders have received much shorter sentences.

"You don't want to send [Hart] to prison for life, but you cannot put him back on the street and worry about what he may do to some other kid," Allan Hubbard, victim's advocate for the district attorney, told the local newspaper, the Paris News. "Speaking for myself and not for the district attorney's office, this illustrates the need for some system between probation and life in prison for someone like this."

Hart's court-appointed defense attorney, Ben Massar, said he had recommended that Hart plead guilty only because he thought his client would be sentenced to probation.

"To me, this was a punishment case," Massar said. "And usually, in order to gain the benefit of more lenient punishment, like the probation we were hoping for, juries and judges like it when people plead guilty and take responsibility for their actions."

The judge who stacked Hart's prison terms to run consecutively for 100 years, Eric Clifford, said he's still agonizing over his decision, which was driven by his concern that Hart poses a danger to society.

"It was a sad situation. I was about to cry. The jury was crying," Clifford said. "Everybody looked at everybody like, 'What the hell do we do?' The only option we were presented was prison. We don't have any facilities in the state of Texas for any type of care for somebody like that. That's the problem. It's a terrible problem. I don't know what you do with him other than what we did."

On Tuesday, Hart's newly appointed appellate attorney is scheduled to go before Clifford with a motion seeking a new trial on the grounds that Hart could not have understood any of the legal proceedings for his arrest, guilty plea and sentencing.

Clifford sounded like he's inclined to grant the motion. "I approved [the appellate attorney] to hire all the experts he wanted on competency," he said. "I said, 'Whatever you need moneywise, I will sign the order.' If they can work something out on that appeal, I'm not going to be hard on them."

Source

When I read this article, I was sick to my stomach. Not only was the kid, wrongly sent to jail,but he is getting raped 24/7 by a guy who has been convicted for having sexual relations with a minor for a total of 7 years. This whole town is also in the shitter when it comes to racial injustice.

Edited by turbojet

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This whole town is in the shitter when it comes to racial injustice.

I'd like to see some proof of this, thank you. Barring two throwaway sentences that are themselves completely unrelated to this case, that statement really has nothing to do with the article in question. Unless you know something we don't, I can't understand what made you claim such a thing.

Anyways, this case seems to simply be the fault of the incompetent defense lawyer for not making Hart's condition known, and its clear that everyone involved wants a retrial now that the facts have come out. There was no foul play here, and the unfairness of the trial was accidental. Mistakes do happen, and all we can do is hope that they get this mess sorted out as fast as possible.

Edited by Tornado

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I'd like to see some proof of this, thank you. Barring two throwaway sentences that are themselves completely unrelated to this case, that statement really has nothing to do with the article in question. Unless you know something we don't, I can't understand what made you claim such a thing.

I have to agree, I see no inclination of race in this. So why hasn't this case already been run through again if there's so many things that were left out?

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Perhaps I should rephrase what I meant.

Chit-Chat, is not his personal blog. LiveJournal exists for a reason. And this article will not make 3 pages in length.

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I'd like to see some proof of this, thank you. Barring two throwaway sentences that are themselves completely unrelated to this case, that statement really has nothing to do with the article in question. Unless you know something we don't, I can't understand what made you claim such a thing.

Anyways, this case seems to simply be the fault of the incompetent defense lawyer for not making Hart's condition known, and its clear that everyone involved wants a retrial now that the facts have come out. There was no foul play here, and the unfairness of the trial was accidental. Mistakes do happen, and all we can do is hope that they get this mess sorted out as fast as possible.

In the same town there has been cases such as a black girl given 7 years in youth prison for shoving down a hall monitor while giving a caucasian female probation for arson. The town has volatile race tension that erupted when two males, white, killed a 24-year old Black male. Sorry, I thought that the article made light of this.

Edited by turbojet

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Perhaps I should rephrase what I meant.

Chit-Chat, is not his personal blog. LiveJournal exists for a reason. And this article will not make 3 pages in length.

I never knew people posted stuff on Live Journal for stuff other than themselves warp.png

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One thing that people should know is the mentally challenged are often mistreated in care homes. My aunt works in such a care home, and she has lots of tales of workers there doing things such as just laying on the couch watching tv. to leaving people sitting in their own filth.

About the article, it disgusts me. I'm glad you made us aware of it, the mentally challenged

The judge who stacked Hart's prison terms to run consecutively for 100 years, Eric Clifford, said he's still agonizing over his decision, which was driven by his concern that Hart poses a danger to society.

100 years??? Threat to society? Trust me, the mentally challenged and the mentally ill have the same rights to fair trials and the right to live in society if they don't need to be in a care home as anyone else!

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In the same town there has been cases such as a black girl given 7 years in youth prison for shoving down a hall monitor while giving a caucasian female probation for arson. The town has volatile race tension that erupted when two males, white, killed a 24-year old Black male. Sorry, I thought that the article made light of this.

Name me a town in America where this doesn't happen, or get off your soapbox. The article did make light of the fact that racial tension has occurred a couple of times in the past few years. It then went out of its way to say that those two cases were completely unrelated, and that this particular case was not racial at all. If you want to make a thread about how race relations in America, I suggest you choose a story that at least partially supports your opinion.

100 years??? Threat to society? Trust me, the mentally challenged and the mentally ill have the same rights to fair trials and the right to live in society if they don't need to be in a care home as anyone else!

I don't think anyone said anything to the contrary. I'm not sure what your point is.

Edited by Tornado

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Name me a town in America where this doesn't happen, or get off your soapbox. The article did make light of the fact that racial tension has occurred a couple of times in the past few years. It then went out of its way to say that those two cases were completely unrelated, and that this particular case was not racial at all. If you want to make a thread about how race relations in America, I suggest you choose a story that at least partially supports your opinion.

Did the town have bad racial problems? Yes. Did the article make light of that? Yes. So me saying that the town is in the shitter in the racial injustice department is entirely justified.

I don't think anyone said anything to the contrary. I'm not sure what your point is.

He/she was talking about what the judge concern about the victim of this injustice. You clearly didn't read throroughly in the article.

Edited by turbojet

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Did the town have bad racial problems? Yes. Did the article make light of that? Yes. So me saying that the town is in the shitter in the racial injustice department is entirely justified.

Entirely justified and completely irrelevant.

He/she was talking about what the judge concern about the victim of this injustice.

<_< No shit.

Agnix posted as if someone was disagreeing with Hart's right to a fair trial. Because no one was, I asked him why he thought someone had said something to the contrary. Nothing difficult to understand.

You clearly didn't read throroughly in the article.

:rolleyes:

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Angnix pretty much hit the nail on the head. Given that the person charged and sentenced has a profound mental disability, he deserves a fair trial, and 100 years in jail is way too harsh.

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Entirely justified and completely irrelevant.

Okay now you are starting to irritate me. You are blowing it out of proportion that since every town has a racial injustice IT IS OKAY TO HAVE ONE. Now I said more about the child being unjustly treated than the actual predijudice. I "noted" that the town also has racial problems as well in a matter of fact manner.

<_< No shit.

Agnix posted as if someone was disagreeing with Hart's right to a fair trial. Because no one was, I asked him why he thought someone had said something to the contrary. Nothing difficult to understand.

Don't you see Agnix used an excerpt straight from the article where it says the victim was a threat to society? Agnix was critiqueing that. Agnix even quoted directly what the article said. Not what anybody here said. Like I said before. IF YOU READ THE DAMNED ARTICLE THEN YOU WOULD HAVE NOTICED.

:rolleyes:

Yeah exactly be immature. <_<

Anyways, the kid didn't understand the criminal proceding. They literally had him shackled to a chair while he was making faces during the trial. So it wasn't just some big misunderstanding. Everybody in that court room should have noticed that something was off. This was no mistake or mishap by the defense attorney. This is a travesty. Did he even actually commit the crime because I doubt that he had the where withal to know what he was doing. They simply saw him with his pants down and asked him questions if he did it. Thats ridiculous and absurd. Plus I thought 100 years usually goes to serial rapists and the guy that is raping him now only recieved 7 years. Hmmm :huh:

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Okay now you are starting to irritate me. You are blowing it out of proportion that since every town has a racial injustice IT IS OKAY TO HAVE ONE.

I never said that. What I said was that this town should not be held up as some sort of sacrificial lamb for this case simply because racial problems have occurred in the past, which is what your original posts in this thread came off as. Particularly when said racial tension is completely unrelated to the case at hand.

Even changing your first post to make it come off as an afterthought statement doesn't work, because quite frankly the racial tension angle doesn't have any merit at all in this discussion. That is fact, stated directly in the article. Yes, this town has had racial flare ups in the past. Yes, you were justified for pointing that out. No, it still has nothing to do with the case proper. Ergo, the fact that you noted that point is both justified and irrelevant whether you like it or not.

Don't you see Agnix used an excerpt straight from the article where it says the victim was a threat to society? Agnix was critiqueing that. Agnix even quoted directly what the article said. Not what anybody here said. Like I said before. IF YOU READ THE DAMNED ARTICLE THEN YOU WOULD HAVE NOTICED.

I did READ THE DAMN ARTICLE. I also noticed that Agnix's word choice in his response to the post isn't really clear on what his point was. He mocks the ideas of a 100 year sentence and a threat to society, and then he goes on to talk about something fairly unrelated without explaining his reasoning behind any of it. Oh, if only someone had asked Agnix to explain himself, none of this arguing would have happened. Oh, wait...

If Agnix wants to explain himself better, then I would like him to do so. But keep in mind that I asked Agnix what his point was, not you.

Yeah exactly be immature. <_<

You act elitist by calling me out for not reading the article thoroughly because I was asking someone else to explain themselves better, and then you try to call me immature for pointing out the ridiculousness of the situation? Pot, meet kettle.

With that out of the way, I hope we can continue with the actual meat of discussion:

Anyways, the kid didn't understand the criminal proceding. They literally had him shackled to a chair while he was making faces during the trial. So it wasn't just some big misunderstanding. Everybody in that court room should have noticed that something was off. This was no mistake or mishap by the defense attorney. This is a travesty.

You cannot legally base anything off of how the defendant acts in court, because any actions done while court is in session could be a facade. May those involved in the ruling have suspected something was amiss? Probably. Could they have made a decision based on their suspisions without any proof to go on? No. Or rather, I suppose they could, but it certainly wouldn't be ethical.

Did he even actually commit the crime because I doubt that he had the where withal to know what he was doing. They simply saw him with his pants down and asked him questions if he did it. Thats ridiculous and absurd.

Which is probably why everyone involved wants to do a retrial...

Also, the validity of the interrogation process is also something that the defense attorney is supposed to investigate. I'm not saying that it is okay for staged confessions to occur for people who don't know any better; but usually when staged confessions do occur defense lawyers tear into them so fast that its like they never existed.

So either the interrogation process was fair and he did commit the crime, or the interrogation was staged and the lawyer was too much of an idiot to do anything to invalidate it. In the case of the latter, both parties are at fault; but there is a such thing as an accidental staged confession.

Plus I thought 100 years usually goes to serial rapists and the guy that is raping him now only recieved 7 years.

That is a problem, and the prison system is in incredible disrepair. I'm actually guessing that the overall length of the sentence largely has to do with the age of the child more than anything else.

Edited by Tornado

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