HOUSTON, TEXAS – Lawyers for Max Soffar today asked the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to recommend that Gov. Rick Perry commute his death sentence, arguing that Soffar, who was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer, has spent the last 34 years on death row for crimes he did not commit.
Arrested in 1980 for an infamous robbery-murder at a Houston bowling alley, Soffar was subjected to a three-day marathon of aggressive, unrecorded interrogation, which culminated in a false confession, typed by police, that the officers convinced a worn down Soffar to sign. At the time, Soffar was 24 years old, but because of a long history of brain damage and substance abuse, he had the mental capacity of an 11-year-old.
“Plain and simple, the facts are irrefutable that the wrong man was convicted. Even worse, the State of Texas knows this and refuses to act,” said Brian Stull, senior staff attorney at the ACLU’s Capital Punishment Project. “It falls to Governor Rick Perry to show Max mercy by using his power to grant him clemency. This innocent man should be allowed to die at home with the support of his friends and family.”
The false confession is the only piece of evidence linking Soffar to the crime. As noted in the petition for clemency, several judges have concluded that the confession is inconsistent with other evidence in the case, which clearly points to a man named Paul Reid — a serial killer who died last year on Tennessee’s death row. Reid can be linked to the scene and confessed to the crime to one of his accomplices.
“Absolutely no DNA, fingerprint, identification, forensic, or any other reliable evidence held by the state exists to link Max to this crime, apart from his forced confession,” said Andrew G. Horne, partner at Kirkland & Ellis, LLP. “Unfortunately, the state has turned a blind eye to the mountain of evidence implicating Paul Reid, who committed a series of similar crimes and admitted to the bowling-alley murders.”
Soffar is imprisoned on death row at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Allan B. Polunsky Unit in Livingston.
“Since Max Soffar will never receive the fair trial and due process guaranteed by our Constitution, I hope that Governor Perry will grant his request for clemency,” said Terri Burke, executive director of the ACLU of Texas. “The clemency won’t give Max the pardon he deserves, but it will permit him to die at home in the care of friends and family.”
View the clemency petition: https://www.aclu.org/sites/default/files/assets/2014-08-11_petition.pdf.
View more on Max Soffar’s case: https://www.aclu.org/capital-punishment/state-texas-v-max-soffar.