Texas prison inmate Jerry Hartfield was convicted of murder and put on death row in 1976. He has claimed innocence for many years and has an IQ or 51, about on par with the average first-grader’s ability to reason. Mr. Hartfield’s conviction was overturned in 1980 based upon misconduct in dismissing a juror who indicated he had issue with capital punishment.
Usually this would result in a new trial, and either release or a new conviction. In this case, Mr. Hartfield’s sentence was commuted to life in prison.
That means he has served the last 34 years without being lawfully convicted of a crime. He has recently been assisted by the Texas Innocence Project, who claimed that taking 34 years to bring a defendant to trial constituted a violation of his right to due process and a speedy trial. However, the court ruled against him, claiming that Hartfield did not “ask” for a new trial!
Even though Hartfield’s sentence was commuted— this was after his conviction was overturned. Presumably the lawyers and prison officials involved in this process had IQs higher than 51. Hartfield’s attorneys are not sure he even understands what is happening and are appealing the ruling.