Below is an abridged summary of a report that Joe Hunt’s appellate attorney, Gary Dubcoff, wrote this month (August 2020) to provide to Governor Newsom. The full 26-page report is here.
My name is Gary K. Dubcoff, and I represented Joe Hunt for years as his postconviction counsel in federal court. As a result of that work, I am intimately familiar with the record facts of his case, and just how badly our criminal justice system went awry. Indeed, I have been practicing criminal trial and appellate work for over three decades, and I have rarely, if ever, seen such a concerted effort on the part of the judiciary to turn a blind eye to those facts. I will set out below a summary of the most salient of these facts, and, although it may be difficult to believe many of them, I can state with surety that they are supported by the record citations that accompany them (any or all of which documents I would promptly submit upon request).
Mr. Hunt did not receive justice. “[E]xecutive clemency exists to provide relief from harshness or mistake in the judicial system ….” (Ohio Adult Parole Authority v. Woodard (1998) 523 U.S. 272, 284-285.) Having been informed that the Governor’s Office of Legal Affairs/Pardons takes seriously that precept and believes that the presence of trial irregularities should be considered in a commutation application, I thought it worthwhile to summarize them. This narrative is rather lengthy in order to make clear just how far short of dispensing justice our system operated in Mr. Hunt’s case.
The short of it is that his trial was presided over by a trial judge who, in between making leeringly misogynistic and homophobic comments and gestures because that was who he was, abandoned all pretense of impartiality, striving mightily at every turn to ensure his conviction, the facts be damned; and Mr. Hunt was represented by an incompetent attorney – in a capital case, this lawyer performed no pretrial investigation(!) – who sold him up the river for lucre and self-interest.
One unique fact bears highlight, because it establishes the damage done by the trial judge and Mr. Hunt’s lawyer in the first of his two murder trials.
In Mr. Hunt’s second trial, the prosecution’s strategy began with trying to convince the jury that he had in fact committed the first murder for which he had already been convicted. But that effort backfired spectacularly without the burden of a biased judge and corrupt lawyer.
Even though they were informed of his earlier conviction, the second-trial jurors were convinced that there had been no murder at all, and that the alleged victim was alive following his purported murder.
It is to the everlasting shame of the judicial system that, without legal cause, every reviewing court adamantly refused to take into consideration what those actual jurors stated under oath, acting as if that stark proof of the prejudicial impact of all that went wrong in Mr. Hunt’s first trial did not exist at all. It is, in no small measure, the reason that he remains incarcerated and must plead for executive grace – in my view, his conviction should long since have been overturned.
(To see the full report, click here.)