Chelsea Richardson was sentenced to die six years ago. She’s been on a Texas death row ever since, working on appeals. Now she may have a chance to live out here life and even potentially walk free again one day.
She was convicted of helping her boyfriend kill his parents in order to inherit their $1.56 million estate. But there were problems in the trial that indicate she may not have been afforded the due process, or fair treatment, guaranteed to her by the Constitution.
The prosecutor in her case was said to have withheld evidence, evidence that may have aided in her defense. There’s no indication of what this evidence was but it seems likely that it wasn’t anything that would’ve changed the verdict but maybe the sentence instead.
Now, because of this alleged prosecutorial misconduct, Richardson is expected to get a new sentencing hearing, at which the maximum penalty would be life in prison. In this case, she would be eligible for parole after serving 40 years.
This isn’t the first time this same prosecutor had faced allegations of misconduct. According to the Fort Worth Star Telegram, he failed to turn over evidence in a case involving the 1995 bombing death of three people. That suspect was released from prison after the Court of Appeals overturned his conviction. But he was killed in a car accident before the case could be retried.
When it comes to criminal convictions and especially those involving the death sentence, a defendant’s due process rights must be protected. In regards to this case the Tarrant County District Attorney, where the case was originally tried, said, “This office will not be a party to the infliction of death as a punishment when there is even an appearance of impropriety on the part of a prosecutor who formerly worked in this office.”
Even when the case in question isn’t a death penalty case, however, a defendant’s rights must be protected and watched after. While the prosecutor must rely on their own ethics and moral compass to keep them in line with those constitutional rights, a defendant can look to their criminal defense lawyer to help ensure their rights are protected.
This is true whether you are facing something as serious as a murder charge or something as seemingly minor as a drug possession case. Your rights are equally important no matter the charge.