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The Soviet Republic of Texas Holds Man Hostage for 31 Years


"Can you tell the judge I wanna go home? He won't listen to me."

“Can you tell the judge I wanna go home? He won’t listen to me.”

In today’s absurdity the state that constantly likes to tell us how free it is, despite the occasional execution of possibly innocent men, yes, men, has been holding a mentally disabled man hostage for 31 years, one month, and 13 days.

On June 30th 1977 a Texas jury found Jerry Hartfield guilty of capital murder, but a little over three years later (17th September 1980) the verdict was set aside due to prosecutorial shenanigans to exclude from the jury a woman with reservations about the death penalty. The prosecution appealed this ruling and attempted to have the courts transform his sentence to a life sentence instead. But ultimately the state’s appeals court rejected the argument and set aside the verdict on March 4th of 1983. Unfortunately for Mr. Hartfield government ineptitude is universal, and the state appeals court never notified the governor’s office nor the Board of Pardons that the sentence had been squelched. At the same time Texas’ then governor, Mark White, decided that he was going to settle the case for once and for all by commuting the sentence to life in prison.

This is where the case veered into the NtOzone. The county prosecutor’s office saw an opening and like brownshirts everywhere they gleefully bulled their way through. When they received the paperwork from the court they “lost it” (surprise, surprise, surprise). But they sure did get the paperwork from the governor commuting to Hartfield’s sentence to life instead. For good measure they then informed the state appeals court that they’d retried Hartfield like ordered and he got a life sentence. And the court of appeals never bothered checking (well, that would be too much like work).

From March of 1983 onward Jerry Hartfield has languished in prison, despite being a free man. As he was mentally handicapped (his IQ, when tested, clocked in at 51), he himself was unaware that anything was wrong. Not until 2007 when his cellmates figured out that he was a free man, which launched the case all over again.

Now, I hear you say, “E.H., that was seven years ago? Why the fuck are you bothering to write about this all these years later?”

Well, this is Texas, where innocent men get the chair in the name of expedience. So it should be unsurprising that seven years later he’s still in prison trying to get out. The prosecutors in the county responsible for this farce have gone on to add the finishing touches to make this an NtO worthy tale. They first argued that Mr. Hartfield had one year to press his case to get out of prison, and since he left his freedom unclaimed the state of Texas was entitled to take it away from him. They then argued, with a straight face, before Judge Craig Estlinbaum that this entire miscarriage of justice was masterminded by the guy with the IQ of 51 to make certain that he couldn’t be retried. Apparently he used his vast telepathetic powers to convince Bay City prosecutors to pull their shenanigans in 1983 and then hid in prison waiting for the prosecutors to lose all their evidence and for the witnesses to die off. This being Texas, when the prosecutor argued that the retarded man had outsmarted them the judge immediately and enthusiastically agreed that Mr. Hartfield was a modern day Moriarty.

So there you have it, Texas won’t let Mr. Hartfield go. He was asking for his life sentence. If he hadn’t been such a seductive patsy the police and prosecutors wouldn’t have run a chain on him. It’s the victim’s fault. And if I make the state of Texas sound like a rapist it’s only because a guy with an IQ of 51 can’t give informed consent to getting fucked in the ass by the justice system.

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