Man Jailed Decades Without Conviction Is Convicted

Texas jury has found Jerry Hartfield guilty in slaying of bus station worker
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 20, 2015 11:23 AM CDT
Man Jailed Decades Without Conviction Is Convicted
In this Dec. 11, 2012, file photo, Jerry Hartfield speaks from a visiting area at the Hughes Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice outside Gatesville, Texas.   (AP Photo/Michael Graczyk, File)

A 59-year-old mentally ill Texas man imprisoned for more than 35 years despite his original murder conviction being overturned was found guilty a second time yesterday in his retrial. Jerry Hartfield, 59, was convicted of murder in the September 1976 slaying of 55-year-old Eunice Lowe, who sold tickets at a bus station in Bay City, about 100 miles southwest of Houston. An assistant Texas AG assisting prosecutors told jurors that Hartfield "butchered" Lowe "for a little bit of money" (evidence showed nearly $3,000 and Lowe's car were taken), and trial testimony showed Lowe was beaten with a pickax that left her fatally wounded and that her attacker had sex with her after she was dead. But Hartfield's lead attorney said that missing and shaky evidence and a questionable confession should have been enough to keep his client from being convicted again: The murder weapon couldn't be found and Lowe's car no longer existed, for instance.

Hartfield initially was on death row; prosecutors decided against seeking a death sentence in the retrial after evidence showed he's mentally impaired. Hartfield's original 1977 conviction was thrown out on appeal in 1980 because of a problem with jury selection. In 1983, then-Gov. Mark White commuted his sentence to life, but federal courts more recently decided the governor didn't have a sentence to commute. The sentencing phase will begin today, the judge said. Hartfield faces five to 99 years in prison or a life sentence; he could be immediately eligible for parole because of time served. Neither the defense attorneys nor the prosecutors would comment on the verdict, though the two defense attorneys fist-bumped after the jurors were let out of the courtroom. (More Texas stories.)

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