The QueQue: Castro smooths way for solar rebate negotiations, SBOE voters and the name game, Salt in the wound for shoddy Overton trial
Published: June 6, 2012
A longtime Austin-based Democratic strategist and consultant credited the Latina vote for pushing her to victory (nearly 80 percent of Texas public school teachers are women, and polling shows Latinas are some of the staunchest supporters of public ed). Perez now faces hard-right social conservative David Williams of San Antonio, a man who recently took to the Facebook page of the Family Research Council, an organization identified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, to tout how he helped shutter a gay-straight alliance at his son's school in 2006. The gay-switchers over at Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays glowingly point to Williams in a 2005 article, swooning over his "ten-step plan to deal with homosexual activism" in schools. "I would assume David Williams has got a tough hill to climb because this is a heavily Democratic district," Quinn said of the race. "Having said that, [Perez] is probably still going to need to campaign, at least some."
What are her plans now? A week on and Perez has yet to return the Current's calls for comment.
Salt in the wound for shoddy Overton trial
Whether due to faulty science, shoddy defense, or contradictory evidence that the prosecution either ignored or possibly hid, there's growing concern that Corpus Christi mother of five and convicted "salt killer" Hannah Overton never got a fair shake at her 2006 capital murder trial. State District Judge Jose Longoria, however, shot down those concerns one by one last week following an emotional April evidentiary hearing in the case. Longoria, who oversaw Overton's initial trial, rejected claims of a botched trial in a 14-page list of recommendations sent off to Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which will give the final ruling in the case.
Overton was arrested and charged with capital murder after the mysterious death of her four-year-old foster son, Andrew Burd, was ruled a rare case of salt poisoning. Prosecutors claimed Overton snapped under the weight of motherhood and forced the child to eat 23 teaspoons of Zatarain's Creole Seasoning, equal to six teaspoons of salt. She was sentenced to life without possibility of parole.
Since her conviction, Overton has garnered a formidable pro-bono defense team clamoring for her exoneration, including Cynthia Orr, a San Antonio criminal defense lawyer who in 2001 scored the first ever confession of error by the State of Texas in a death penalty case. Orr's joined by John Raley, who led the team that secured Michael Morton's high-profile exoneration last year, exposing alarming evidence of prosecutorial misconduct in Williamson County, and legendary Texas attorney Gerry Goldstein. The legal team, along with razor sharp coverage by both the Express-News and Texas Monthly, has raised serious questions into the state's handling of the case. "I'm trying real hard not to engage in rhetoric here, but I'm just not sure where the judge's findings came from," Orr told QueQue of Longoria's findings. "Everything in these findings, almost without exception, is incorrect based on the records we prepared, the evidence we showed, and the testimony given." She plans to file objections with the Court of Criminal Appeals as early as this week to urge the CCA judges to ignore Longoria's recommendations.
Overton's lawyers have discovered evidence suggesting the child had an undiagnosed eating disorder called "pica," marked by a desire to consume things with no nutritional value. A pediatrician and prosecution witness who treated the boy believed the death accidental, but was never called to testify. And a leading salt poisoning expert would later concur, stating in an a sworn affidavit that "there is not a single piece of evidence which suggests that Hannah Overton salt-poisoned Andrew." Overton's attorneys also argued that critical evidence was withheld from the defense at trial — including the boy's stomach contents, which Orr discovered only in 2010 while digging through the prosecution's case file.
The CCA judges will now decide if Overton's conviction should stand, be overturned, or if she should get a new trial. •