There are certain attorneys, who by urban folklore, can charm a jury to do their bidding just by gently vacillating the rhythm of their voice. Jerry Guerinot, does not, however, appear to be one of those attorneys. As defense counsel 20 clients have ended up on death row. Several additional Defendants he managed to get sentenced to death as a prosecutor. The Guardian looks in to Mr. Guerinot’s record:
In Texas, it is the jury, rather than the judge, which decides when to confer the ultimate penalty. Guerinot has acted for 39 capital murder defendants, of whom three had their charges dropped by the prosecution and six pleaded guilty in return for life imprisonment. In a further five trials, the prosecution did not ask for the death penalty when it came to sentencing. Guerinot has managed to persuade a jury to give his client life instead of death just five times since 1983. Not one of his capital clients has been found not guilty. Thirty-eight states in the US have the death penalty: former Guerinot clients have either been executed or are on death row in 15 states besides Texas.
The Guardian goes on to look at just one of his cases, that of death row Britton (who the Guardian suggests has a fairly plausible claim of innocence), Linda Carty.
Guerinot angrily rejects the criticisms of his record being made by Baker Botts. ‘Let me tell you, it’s a lot easier after the case to sit back and take a pot shot at somebody in that courtroom,’ he says. ‘These people over there filing writs, saying how ineffective this person is, that person is, they’ve never seen the inside of one of those criminal courtrooms and they’ve never sat there during a death penalty case, they’ve never prepared a death penalty case and they’ve never had the responsibility of trying it. Let that guy at Baker Botts go on down there if he thinks he’s so great. But I don’t care what they write,’ he says. ‘When you’re grasping for something that says, “I don’t want Linda Carty to be executed” you gotta say whatever you gotta say. I guess the bottom line would be this then: the only time you’re not ineffective is when they don’t get the death penalty.’ This, he adds grimly, is just ‘wrong, wrong’.
In his corner office on the 37th floor of One Shell Plaza, one of Houston’s best addresses, with photos of his meetings with both George Bushes and other world leaders on the mantelpiece, Michael Goldberg begs to differ. ‘Our argument is not a personal one: we are simply saying the defence was completely ineffective. There’s no doubt in my mind that if her trial lawyers had taken the simple, basic steps in Linda’s case – such as talking to the witnesses – she would not have been convicted of capital murder. What’s so disappointing is that the state won’t come back to court and accept this.’ Most capital defendants, he adds, are never able to assemble the combined resources of Baker Botts, Reprieve and the Foreign Office on their side. Without them, he believes, ‘Linda would surely be executed.’