Judge Rejects Appeal Of Death Row Prisoner Whose Lawyer Slept During His Trial

George McFarland will remain on death row, although his lawyer slept through his trial.

When George McFarland was sitting his trial for murder in 1991, one of his lawyers repeatedly slept during the trial while the other had never dealt with a capital murder case before.

According to Chron, last week, a Houston judge rejected McFarland’s appeal, despite his claim that he is innocent, his inept lawyers, and the fact that his conviction was mostly based on the testimony of a single eyewitness.

McFarland was sentenced to death row in 1992 for robbing and murdering a local 43-year-old grocer. There was no physical evidence that tied McFarland to the grocer’s death. His attorney prepared hastily for the case, offered no evidence, and slept through some parts of the four-day trial.

"I'm 72 years old," defense attorney John Benn told a court. "I customarily take a short nap in the afternoon."

U.S. District Judge Lynn N. Hughes said Tuesday that the attorney’s sleeping through the trial was “appalling” and “regrettable” but it doesn’t matter because at least one of the two defense attorneys was always awake so McFarland always had counsel.

Carolyn Bartie, a Houston Police Department worker, witnessed the shooting. She hesitantly identified McFarland in a photo line-up. Her initial description of the shooter didn’t match McFarland.

McFarland, who had a background of drug use, was arrested six weeks later when his nephew, a teenager at the time, called and said he heard McFarland confess to the robbery. The nephew recanted after McFarland was sent to death row.

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