MARY ANN STARKS
ATTORNEY AT LAW
C/O PALMER PRISON MINISTRY
PALMER MEMORIAL EPISCOPAL CHUCH
6221 SOUTH MAIN STREET
HOUSTON, TEXAS 77030
June 20, 2002
The Honorable Rick Perry Via Federal Express
Governor of the State of Texas
P.O. Box 12428
Austin, TX 78711-2428
The Texas Board of Pardons & Parole Via Federal Express
Attn: Ms. Maria Ramirez
8610 Shoal Creek Blvd
Austin, Texas 78757
Re: Initial and Supplemental Application for Clemency
Robert O. Coulson, #999115
Dear Governor Perry and Members of the Board,
As I noted in the Supplemental Application filed June 10th, I am at a severe disadvantage in this system and process. I am not privy to the inner workings of the Board, but prosecutors have unlimited “behind the scenes” access to the Board and Board members. I expressed my concern that behind the scenes pressure might be particularly strong in this case because of the heinous, high profile nature of the crime and because of Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal’s personal interest in the case. I stated my concern that prosecutors are in a position to tell you all manner of things about my client that neither he nor I can know or dispute.
My concern has now materialized. Since filing the clemency requests, I have been advised of an alleged effort by the prosecutor’s office to tamper with the Board’s independent truth-seeking process through alleged intimidation of Board employees investigating Mr.
Coulson claims. While prosecutors may certainly provide the Board with an opinion, there
should be no interference with, or undue influence upon, the Board’s investigators. If the allegations are true, then the Board’s investigation may have been limited or distorted at a
critical time for Mr. Coulson.
As one who is outside the system looking in, I am not in a position to properly investigate these allegations, verify any of the facts or take any remedial action, since the allegations involve alleged pressure brought on Board employees. Yet the facts, if I could prove them to be true,
could indicate that the state, acting through a prosecutor’s office, may be deliberately tampering with witnesses in the clemency process.
Recently in Missouri, the 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals issued a motion for stay under similar circumstances when attorneys for a clemency petitioner learned that a prosecutor had threatened a witness with employment reprisals if she offered testimony in a clemency proceeding that might have “embarrassed” the prosecutor’s office. In Missouri, as in Texas, the clemency process,
…regularly receives evidence from any and all sources in clemency matters,
and the Governor is not restricted as to the nature of the considerations he may
entertain or the evidence he may receive. Young v. Hayes, 218 F.3d 850, 853
(8th Cir. 2000)[Copy attached]
The Court found that the actions of one arm of the state – the prosecutor – interfered with the fundamental fairness of the state procedure by threatening a witness. For that reason, the Court intervened and issued a stay to protect the integrity of the state’s clemency process.
Such action is warranted in this case, so that the Board may determine (a) whether or not the integrity of its clemency process has been compromised in this case by alleged state misconduct in the form of witness tampering, and (b) how to proceed if these allegations prove true.
Accordingly, request is made for a reprieve now, by the Governor or by the Board, to permit the Board to conduct a full and fair hearing into the allegations. Such an investigation cannot be done between now and the time of the scheduled execution on Tuesday June 25, 2002.
MARY ANN STARKS
SBT No. 19071300
Tel: (713) 222?0004
Fax: (713) 222-0166
cc: Members of the Board