Capital Conviction Overturned After Federal Court Finds Judicial Bias Against Defendant
U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt overturned the capital conviction of Carl Wayne Buntion, noting that the Texas trial judge who sentenced him to death had a "deep-seated and vocal bias" against Buntion. In a 61-page opinion, Hoyt stated that state District Judge Bill Harmon deprived Buntion of his constitutional right to a fair trial by bullying his attorneys, meeting privately with prosecutors and deferring to their wishes, and making remarks in court such as he was "doing God's work" by seeing that Buntion was executed. Hoyt also found that Harmon had placed a Judge Roy Bean postcard on his bench during jury selection for the trial, an act that gave the impression that he was a "hangin' judge." Hoyt noted that "Judge Harmon decided that Buntion was guilty and should die" even before the trial began.
Buntion had been sentenced to die for the 1991 killing of police officer James Irby during a traffic stop, an act he claims was done in self defense. The Texas Attorney General's Office has 30 days to decide whether to appeal Hoyt's decision. (Houston Chronicle, May 2, 2006).
See DPIC's report Killing Justice: Government Misconduct and the Death Penalty.