Boggess wrote up the following outline of his appeals process in an August 1996 letter to FRONTLINE correspondent Alan Austin:|
The appeals process was in two stages: Direct Appeal, & Collateral Appeal. Direct Appeal was guaranteed by law, with the State appointing and paying for your legal representation if necessary. No inmate dropping his appeals could "skip" his Direct Appeal. No execution date was set until the end of Direct Appeals. AFTER Direct Appeal, you could stop trying and let them execute you. Collateral Appeal was "optional" and not guaranteed by the state. If you couldn't find an attorney to represent you on collateral appeal, (also called your "Habeas" appeals), you were just "out of luck". There were 7 courts to go through, and at any time the court you were in could send your case back to a lower court for "reconsideration", although it's a rare occurrence. Here's a crude diagram of the courts. (I don't have a ruler until I get my art supplies back.)
(Writ of Habeas Corpus)
||Texas Court of Criminal Appeals or CCA. First "chance". They rarely reverse Capital cases, & have "elected" judges swayed by public opinion & pressure.
||Original Trial Court. (You have now begun your Federal appeal and can raise only Federal constitutional claims).
||U.S. Supreme Court, where you file a "Writ of Certiorari". (This is where my Death Sentence was "vacated" and my case remanded back to the CCA for "reconsideration in light of 'Penry'." CCA reaffirmed my conviction, & appeal prodeeded.
||CCA-Same Writ is filed here. (The Trial Court that sent you to DR is overwhelmed with "local" public pressure to see you executed, and almost never rules in favor of your appeal. Federal Writ always proceeds to at least this level.
||Federal District Court, similar Writ of Habeas Corpus is filed, but with federal rules, restrictions are now growing tighter as to what issues can be raised.
[This is the court where I was given a "stay" of execution, and an Evidentiary Hearing to present the "evidence" of my appeal "errors". They gave my case to a different judge who "took away" my Evidentiary Hearing before we even had it and then, after sitting on the case for quite some time, the new judge denied my Writ.]
||5th Circuit Court of Appeals, before proceeding in this court you must ask the previous court for a Certificate of Probably [sic.] Cause, getting them to say "cause" exists for you to appeal your case further. Without it, this court denies your Writ quickly, not wanting to go "against" the previous court. But WITH the certificate, you could be here for a couple of years, waiting.
||U.S. Supreme Court - Last Chance. If they deny your writ, your only chance is looking for some "new" issues that was missed, or finding a reason to ask them for a "stay" of execution so some issue can be reviewed. Once you get here your chances are "slim" & "none".
Write when you can,