The Case

The Case

Clinton Lee Young has been sentenced to death at the age of 19 for two capital murders which took place in November 2001, in Texas. Four young men between the ages of 18 and 22 were arrested by the police. Clinton was the youngest of them all. Having just been released from juvenile prison, Clinton did not really know the three young men he was with. However, they are close friends.

After being arrested, the other three men quickly point to Clinton as the shooter in both murders. Because of the culture Clinton grew up in, he decides not to speak to the police at all. Clinton did not want to betray the people he was with. What he did not know at the time was that the other three had already made statements to the police, framing him for the murders. 

At trial this does not end well for Clinton. The jury in Clinton’s trial never heard his side of the story and they go along with the testimonies of the co-defendants. The other three men change their stories numerous times, their testimonies contradict past statements, and forensic evidence does not get tested, is not shown to the jury or gets lost. Despite all of this, the jury finds Clinton guilty and they sentence him to death.

Two of the other men admit after trial that they made a deal with the District Attorney. Under oath, one of them admits he fired the last shot in the first murder. While in jail and in prison, one other tells four cellmates that he was the actual killer in the second murder. This does not change Clinton’s fate: he is still on death row.

Now, at age 37, Clinton has spent more than 18 years on death row.

On June 5th, 2017, the district judge in Clinton’s case set an execution date for October 26, 2017. On October 18, 2017, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals stayed Clinton’s execution and remanded the case to a Midland District Court to determine if Clinton’s conviction was based on false testimony given by one of Clinton’s co-defendants and the prosecution’s star witness.

In August, 2019, it was discovered that for 17 years, the Assistant District Attorney Ralph Petty, while prosecuting Clinton, simultaneously and in secret, worked as a paid law clerk for the judge who presided over Clinton’s case. In his role as a paid law clerk for the judge, it is alleged that he drafted rulings in Clinton’s case, advised the judge on legal matters, and had access to confidential case information that would otherwise not be accessible to a prosecutor. Petty, it seems, was working Clinton’s case from both sides, the prosecution and the judge, which made the roles of the state and an impartial court one and the same. This is a huge violation of the separation of powers, an incredible conflict of interest, and a never-seen-before type of prosecutorial and judicial misconduct. On December 18, 2020, the CCA reopened Clinton’s case based on his claim of prosecutorial and judicial misconduct and remanded his case back to the Midland District Court.

In January 2021, an evidentiary hearing was held to determine the facts of Petty’s dual role. The trial judge made his recommendation on the spot; he ruled that Clinton’s convicted and death sentence should be vacated and that he should get a new trial. That recommendation was sent to the CCA. The CCA makes the final decision about whether to grant Clinton a new trial.

In April 2021, the Texas Supreme Court revoked Petty’s law license after establishing that the professional misconduct was “conclusively established.”

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