TDS Wins Reversal of Death Sentence at Texas’s Highest Criminal Court
We all won on December 9 when Texas’s highest criminal court concluded that Clifton Williams, a TDS client, is a person with intellectual disability whose execution is prohibited by the 8th Amendment
Mr. Williams did indeed have a strong ID claim, and he lost that claim before a jury, then before a state trial court judge, then before the Court of Criminal Appeals, and then before all the federal courts. In 2015, he came within hours of being executed before the Court of Criminal Appeals granted a stay related to the State’s having disclosed the day before a problem with the FBI population statistics used to calculate DNA probabilities in the case which were ultimately immaterial to Williams’s actual case. But for that fluke–and it was a fluke brought about entirely by the timing of the disclosure–he’d have been an Eighth Amendment violation committed by Texas that nobody would have known or cared about. By the time that fluke issue was finally adjudicated, it was September 2017, and Moore had been decided by SCOTUS.
Even still, the State quickly set another execution date and Williams came within a couple of weeks of being executed in 2018. Two weeks before the execution, Texas’s highest criminal court stayed the execution again, this time to permit readjudication of Mr. Williams’s intellectual disability allegations under the appropriate, constitutional standard. In 2018 TDS’s mitigation unit was retained and developed the evidence of intellectual disability. Working alongside the esteemed lawyers of Fish and Richardson, Annie Hamdani, TDS mitigation specialist, worked tirelessly collecting and reviewing records, interviewing witnesses, and working with experts. All of this ultimately led to the State conceding that Mr. Williams is, as has been asserted since 2006, an intellectually disabled person whom the 8th Amendment does not permit it to execute.
As supporters of TDS’s work I wanted to share Annie’s response to the news yesterday.
“On a personal note, this case taught me a lot. I learned the investigative utility of Big Gulp™️ diet cokes and I learned one fat ticket later, not to fly through a speed trap town at 2 AM. But most importantly, I learned to find joy and inspiration in the minutia of the job— to appreciate witnesses’ stories about their garden, or car, or dog, or ex, or to absorb the scenery (be it trees or neon signs) on long drives across a state that seems to expand in real time, or to discover which hobbies, books, or games our clients enjoy and try to enjoy those things too. I’ve seen all of my colleagues participate in these small gestures of love and I’m beyond lucky to be in your good company.”
It’s impossible to understate this amazing result. Thank you for your support.