Dallas Morning News, July 11, 1999
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles has voted to exclude lawyers and other onlookers from the board's personal meetings with execution-bound inmates seeking clemency.
"We intended these sessions to be direct interviews with the inmate, not some slick presentation by an attorney or someone else speaking for an inmate," said Gerald Garrett, a board member who will become chairman of the 18-member panel on Monday.
Under the new rule passed last week, only the condemned inmate, board members and prison employees may be present during the meetings.
Laura McElroy, general counsel for the board, said that lawyers and other members of the public are currently not allowed into the meetings. The rule simply reinforces current policy, she said.
Critics of the rule said it was unfair and warned that barring lawyers could set up a new avenue of appeals for death-row inmates.
Opponents of the policy said attorneys or others could help inarticulate inmates present their cases for final mercy.
"It just doesn't pass the smell test," said Bill Habern, a Huntsville-area attorney representing the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association.