Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Hannah Overton Will Be Home for Christmas

Readers may remember that I’ve followed the Hannah Overton case for some time.  Her capital murder conviction was rightly overturned in September.  But her release did not come until yesterday’s bond hearing.

The three month delay in her release is hard to excuse.  But part of the delay was her defense team’s wise and successful effort to get Judge Jose Longoria recused.  He presided over the 2007 trial and has demonstrated he cannot be trusted to be a fair judge of this case.

One result of said recusal is the success of yesterday’s bond hearing.  Bond was set at a reasonable $50,000 with no onerous conditions.  So, finally, Hannah Overton is home with her family after seven long years.

Nueces County DA Mark Skurka has said he intends to retry Overton for capital murder.  But a development during the bond hearing would make much a foolish task even more difficult:

Arguably the most dramatic moment of the hearing came when Hannah’s attorneys revealed that one of the state’s star witnesses at trial, Dr. Alexandre Rotta—who had treated Andrew on the night he was brought to the hospital in 2006 in a coma—had recently contacted Hannah’s defense team. Dr. Rotta told Hannah’s attorneys in an email that seven years after Hannah’s trial, her conviction still kept him up at night. This complicates matters for Nueces County District Attorney Mark Skurka, who has vowed to retry Hannah on capital murder charges. The fact that key prosecution witnesses such as Dr. Rotta— along with Dr. Edgar Cortes , another physician who examined Andrew on the night he was admitted to the hospital—now question Hannah’s conviction casts doubt on whether Skurka can win his case . . . .

Skurka would be wiser to clean up his office.  Yet another indication of the corruption of the Nueces County DA’s office has come out.  Eric Hillman is suing said office.  The former prosecutor claims he was fired for following the law:

Eric Hillman prosecuted drunk driving cases, but, when he uncovered a witness who had the potential to help someone he was prosecuting, he claims his bosses told him not to share that information with the other side.

 He did and the lawsuit he filed Monday claims it cost him his job.

"It is unlawful to fire or terminate an employee because they refuse to commit a criminal act and that's exactly what happened here," said Hillman's attorney, Amie Pratt with the Gale Law Group.

Prosecutors are required by law to share any evidence that may help the defense.  This legal requirement was also alleged to have been violated in the 2007 Hannah Overton trial. 

Was that violation inadvertent and isolated?  I think not.  And I am not alone.

[Hillman’s] attorneys say this case could point to bigger problems in the pursuit of justice in Nueces County.

"Nueces County seems to be in favor of withholding evidence from defense counsel which is a huge problem," Pratt said.

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