Attorneys Seek New Trial for Houston Man Convicted of Strangulation, Soon to be Executed

In 2001, Richard Masterson was found guilty of the February strangulation of 35-year-old Darrin Honeycutt in Houston, TX.  Masterson is scheduled to be executed in less than three weeks, however his lawyers are now arguing that Masterson’s conviction was based on a questionable confession and botched autopsy, according to an article at the Houston Chronicle.  The victim was a female impersonator, according to reports.

According to Masterson, the two were engaged in sexual activity when Honeycutt accidentally died.  However, Masterson’s attorneys contend that the Harris County medical examiner erroneously classified the victim’s death as a homicide, even though while the death was attributed to strangulation the medical examiner suggested the victim’s neck had not been subject to deadly pressure.  Masterson’s lawyers claim that at the time he confessed to the crime, he was suffering from mental illness.

Masterson maintains that Honeycutt requested during sexual intercourse the two engage in “erotic asphyxiation.”  In her review of the autopsy findings, Dr. Christina Roberts, a Florida pathologist, revealed that key indicators of strangulation were not found in the victim’s body, according to the defendant’s attorneys.  She also said that in performing the autopsy, the medical examiner failed to recognize factors that may have resulted in a fatal heart attack.

Masterson may have been extremely depressed at the time he confessed to police due to substance abuse, according to the appeal.  He was also allegedly beaten in the head frequently by his inebriated father as a child, according to his sister, which could have resulted in brain damage.  Masterson’s attorneys hope to get a new trial before their client’s execution, scheduled for January 20.

While it is shocking, there are countless individuals in prison today serving decades behind bars or even facing execution for crimes they did not commit.  In most cases, those who have been wrongly convicted file an appeal, which allows their case to be reviewed by a higher court.  In an appeal, the panel of judges thoroughly review the entire case to determine whether errors were made in the criminal justice process, or perhaps the defendant’s rights were violated in some way.  While it is rare that an appeals court overturns a conviction and calls for a new trial, it does happen.

Even those accused of the most serious crimes have rights.  If you or a loved one have been wrongly convicted or feel mistakes were made by police, prosecutors, witnesses, or anyone during the process, consult with an experienced criminal appeals attorney.  When you have a second chance to right a wrong, choosing a capable lawyer is critical to the outcome.

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