Inmate’s Conviction Overturned After Scandal Comes to Light

Inmate's Sentence Overturned After Scandal Comes to Light

( – A Midland County, Texas, jury convicted Clinton Lee Young and sentenced him to death in 2003 for the brutal murder of Doyle Douglas and Samuel Petrey during a 2001 crime spree. He spent the last 17+ years segregated from other inmates at the Allan B. Polunsky Prison Unit near West Livingston.

On Wednesday, September 22, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned Young’s conviction in light of recent revelations that one of the prosecutors conducting his trial clerked for the judge presiding over the matter in court.

A Clear Conflict of Interests Is Revealed

The court ruled that the relationship between then-prosecutor Weldon Petty and Midland County District Court Judge John Hyde violated Young’s right to a fair and impartial trial.

As the court explained, Petty would argue against defense motions only to later write up recommendations for rulings Hyde eventually signed. The court issued an 11-page written opinion explaining that due to the quid pro quo relationship between Petty and Hyde, it could place little faith in the overall “fairness of the proceedings on [in] the outcome of the trial.”

It also noted that the “undisclosed employment relationship” between Petty and Hyde “tainted Applicant’s entire [trial] from the outset.” The court concluded its ruling by ordering Young’s removal from death row to a holding cell in the Midland County jail while he awaits a new trial.

Ethical Considerations

The ethical considerations raised by this case cannot be overstated. Petty managed to rake in at least $132,000 by clerking for several district court judges while he prosecuted other defendants like Young.

Making matters worse, Young’s attorneys presented evidence during a Zoom hearing conducted by the Texas Criminal Appeals Court. It demonstrated that two former Midland County District Attorneys were aware of Petty’s clear conflict of interest serving as both trial prosecutor and as a clerk to judges overseeing his cases.

As a result, Laura Nodolf, the current District Attorney for Midland County, recused her office from Young’s appeal. She also sent out a notice to roughly 300 previous defendants to advise them of Petty’s misconduct. Time will tell how many of them end up having their cases similarly overturned.

Petty earned a total of $9,000 for his side work as a judicial clerk for Hyde during the course of Young’s trial. What do you think about that price tag on the morality of a prosecutor hired to represent all the people of his district, including defendants?

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