Frank Basil McFarland (Texas) Case Summary  Case Chart

Allegation

On April 29, 1998, the State of Texas, with the acquiescence of the federal government, executed Frank Basil McFarland by lethal injection. The state and federal governments failed to ensure McFarland’s right to a fair and impartial trial by not providing effective counsel, withholding exculpatory evidence, permitting perjured testimony, making deals with witnesses, and using jailhouse informants. The unfair trial and refusal of the state to hear new evidence resulted in McFarland’s execution.

Crime

On February 1, 1988, Terry Hokanson, a shoeshine girl at a topless bar, was seen near a parking lot by three boys. She called for help, stumbled, and fell to the ground. She had been stabbed repeatedly. Before she died, she told the boys that she thought she had known her assailants, but realized she did not know them when she accepted an invitation to get in their car and go partying. She was quite conscious. She gave her name and other details to a police officer, who inadvertently arrived at the scene of the crime while on routine patrol. McFarland was arrested over a month later.

Salient Issues

The Trial

Michael Wilson, McFarland’s co-defendant, was killed a month after Terry Hokanson. Two witnesses came forward and testified that Wilson had "confessed" to his involvement in the Hokanson murder and had implicated McFarland as the killer. One was Wilson’s girlfriend, Rachel Revill, who was an illegal immigrant, and the other was Mark Noblett, a known police informant who was able to walk away from an arrest warrant a day after the trial ended. Noblett gave perjured testimony about Wilson’s confession that could have been rebutted by his own mother and Larry York, who were not called to testify. Both Revill and Noblett were questionable witnesses. The prosecution used Wilson’s murder in the trial to suggest the possible involvement of McFarland in another violent crime, although McFarland was never formally charged.

Of the people who spoke with the victim before her death, two boys who had provided sworn statements during the investigation were never called by the state to testify. Furthermore, the state failed to turn the boys’ statements over to the defense as exculpatory evidence. Neither boy ever mentioned a blue car, only a white car. Yet, five police officers and a dispatcher testified at trial that the boys had seen a blue car. A police officer used hypnosis to elicit quite different testimony from the original sworn statements.

Forensic evidence showed that McFarland was in a group of 6% of Caucasians in the U.S. who could have left semen in the victim. Hair in her hands was not from Wilson or McFarland, according to tests available at that time. The hair from a rabbit skin coat found in McFarland’s car could have been from the victim’s coat. It was not until sentencing that it was brought out that McFarland’s girlfriend had a similar coat.

McFarland was convicted and sentenced to death.

Appeals

In 1993, McFarland had an execution date and no lawyer because Texas law at that time did not require the state to provide legal representation after his first automatic appeal. He contacted the now defunded Texas Resource Center, and they agreed to help him find counsel. State and federal courts, including the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, denied him both appointment of counsel and a stay of execution without the filing of a habeas petition. Hence, he filed a pro se writ of habeas corpus. The U.S. Supreme Court stayed the execution and ordered federal courts to appoint him habeas counsel. State courts and the Court of Criminal Appeals denied both the petition for writ of habeas corpus and requests for discovery on November 15, 1995. Petition for writ of certiorari was filed in 1995 and a Motion for Certificate of Probable Cause to Appeal in April 1998. All were denied and McFarland chose not to file a Clemency Petition.

Conclusion

Frank McFarland was executed despite compelling evidence of his innocence and evidence that his trial was unfair. His trial counsel failed to raise issues that would have been exculpatory. This occurred at the same time that the state suppressed evidence favorable to McFarland. Perjured testimony from police officers, key witnesses, and the use of an informant enabled the state to gain a conviction and death sentence.

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