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Jerry Guerinot: Most Dangerous Defense Attorney Ever?

Electric chair
Electric chair
Brian Stull,
Senior Staff Attorney ,
ACLU Capital Punishment Project
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May 19, 2010

An article in Monday’s New York Times underscores an observation we have made before: one of the biggest predictors of who gets sentenced to death has nothing to do with relevant factors such as the heinousness of the crime, the culpability of the accused, or the life history of the accused. Rather, the quality of the lawyer representing the accused very often predicts who lives and who dies.

The Times reported that Jerry Guerinot has represented 20 people sentenced to death in Texas, more people than on death row in half the 35 states that have the death penalty. The article begins with this horrifying fact: “A good way to end up on death row in Texas is to be accused of a capital crime and have Jerry Guerinot represent you.”

Guerinot’s horrible record stems from his “failure to conduct even rudimentary investigations,” say Texas death penalty experts who have examined his work. “He doesn’t even pick the low-hanging fruit which is hitting him in the head as he’s walking under the tree,” said David Dow, litigation director of the Texas Defender Service (and my co-counsel in the Max Soffar case). Dow has represented former Guerinot clients before.

One of the 20 unlucky people to have been assigned Guerinot as counsel is Linda Carty, a British national on Texas’s death row. The Times article illustrates some of Guerinot’s abysmal failings in the Carty case. You can support Carty by petitioning against her execution, or ask Texas Governor Rick Perry to spare her life.

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