I wrote about the Hannah Overton case on Women in Crime Ink in September 2008. She’s the Texas mother of five who was convicted of capital murder and given a sentence of life without parole for failing to obtain medical assistance quickly enough for adopted son, Andrew Burd. A harsh and incomprehensible sentence for what at worst was negligent homicide and what at best was an accident.
In October 2009, Hannah lost her appeal in the 13th District Court of Appeals. I had a difficult time believing that any judge would find her punishment fair and just–even if she was slow at addressing Andrew’s health crisis.
Now, all those questions about responsibility have been turned on their heads. Hannah was not negligent at all. In fact, Andrew did not die from an overdose of salt. Her new appeal makes it clear–the prosecution possessed a report from a medical examiner who was asked to assess the level of sodium chloride in the four-year-old’s body clearly stated “there was an indication that the gastric contents of Andrew Burd did not have a high sodium chloride level.”
The prosecution did not share this exculpatory evidence with the defense. There is no gray area here–this is a clear cut case of prosecutorial misconduct. It simply boggles the mind. The people we put in a position of trust, whom we call upon to seek truth and find justice actually hid the truth and perverted justice.
Unfortunately, it is a story that has become increasingly familiar. I wrote about another travesty of justice perpetrated by yet another ethics-fee prosecution team last week in Women in Crime Ink. Prosecutors need to be held personally and professionally accountable when they intentional subvert justice.