Larry Hatten was sentenced to death by the State of Texas for the murder of a boy. According to court documents Larry Hatten would break into the home of the victim following a disagreement and would shoot the victim multiple times however he would survive but a stray bullet would hit the targets five year old brother which would cause his death. Larry Hatten would be arrested, convicted and sentenced to death
Larry Hatten 2022 Information
SID Number: 04587091
TDCJ Number: 00999181
Maximum Sentence Date: DEATH ROW
Current Facility: POLUNSKY
Projected Release Date: DEATH ROW
Parole Eligibility Date: DEATH ROW
Inmate Visitation Eligible: YES
Larry Hatten More News
The family of a 5-year-old boy killed in the ’90s gathered in a Nueces County courtroom Friday. It was a more than two-decade-old court filing that brought them there.
That filing could be the difference between Larry Hatten getting an execution date — something he has asked for in letters to the court — and him getting a new trial.
In 1996, Hatten was given the death penalty for the 1995 fatal shooting of 5-year-old Isaac Jackson. His case was back in the 347th district court Friday for arguments on the filing from 1997.
Larry Hatten sits behind bars, Jackson’s family sat and listened to attorneys in the Nueces County courtroom. For years, they’ve gone to court proceedings as the case made its way through the trial court and the appellate court system.
There’s a chance Hatten — who has been on death row longer than any offender from Nueces County — could get a new trial. Whether or not that happens remains to be seen.
Here’s what we know
Hatten was accused of breaking into the home of Tabatha Thompson and firing six shots into the bed where she and her son were sleeping. During his trial in 1996, Hatten said he intended to shoot Isaac Robinson, who lived with Thompson.
Hatten believed the man was involved in setting his brother’s car on fire, according to previous Caller-Times reports. It was after the shooting he realized Robinson wasn’t the person struck.
Hatten’s 1996 sentence was overturned by a criminal appeals court, but he was sentenced to the death penalty again in 1998.
Most recently in 2014, he was given an Oct. 15, 2014 execution date. That date was delayed after the discovery of the legal filing from 1997 that claimed his trial lawyers were ineffective.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals stopped the execution.
In recent months, the district court has held hearings on the decades-old filing.
On Friday, attorneys Ben Wolff, representing Hatten, and Nueces County Prosecutor Doug Norman presented their arguments on the 1997 filing to Judge Missy Medary. She’ll eventually make her recommendation to the appellate court, but that isn’t expected for weeks.
What’s ultimately at stake in the latest court action regarding the filing is whether Hatten gets a new trial. Granting him a new trial is one route the appellate court could take.
If he isn’t granted a new trial and the filing is denied, then prosecutors will likely ask an execution date be set, Norman said. If that happens, Hatten’s attorney could ask he be found incompetent to be executed. Hatten’s mental health has long been in question
Wolff told the court Friday that Hatten had ineffective counsel when first tried.
“So where did trial counsel go wrong?” he said. “The snapshot is they failed to get an investigator. They failed to spend remotely enough time with their client. Failed to investigate his mental health, and failed to retain an expert.”
He said Hatten was indicted just days after the offense in September 1995 and the trial began in Jan. 3, 1996. Wolf argued the attorneys didn’t investigate the case thoroughly or spend enough time with their client.
Hatten testified over the course of two days during his trial, Wolff said, noting the rarity of a defendant taking the stand in a death penalty case.
“There’s not, you know, a stopwatch for that portion of the trial record, but I think it’s fair to say he testified for longer than trial counsel met with him at any point during their representation,” Wolf said.
He also pointed out that after the evidence had been presented in the guilt, innocence phase of the trial, Hatten had a psychotic break and was catatonic.
“You have a due process right to be competent during an entire trial,” Wolf said.
Norman argued the 1997 filing is moot.
“Specifically, Hatten’s original writ sought relief from the particular judgment and death sentence entered on February 8, 1996,” a motion briefing Norman’s arguments states. “When that sentence was vacated the case was remanded for retrial, there was nothing more to seek relief from on the original writ.”
Norman also said it’s Hatten’s conviction that’s now in question with these proceedings.
“All we’re interested in here is did he retrieve effective counsel concerning the conviction phase, the guilt innocence phase,” Norman said. “The guilt-innocence phase of a capital murder case is really no different than any other murder case.”
“In this case there’s overwhelming evidence Mr. Hatten is responsible, is guilty in the murder of Issac (Jackson).”
In regard to Hatten taking the stand to testify, Norman argued that choice is ultimately the defendant’s to make. He suggested that was a necessary tactic for the defense at the time to try and get a reduced charge.
Throughout the appeal process, Hatten has written dozens of letters to the 347th District Court that are available through public records.
In some of the rambling letters he asks for an execution to go forward.
“I have had two execution dates, and I hear the third time is the charm,” he wrote in one.
The average time most people are on death row before their execution is about 11 years, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Hatten has been on death row for 23.
Hatten is among 65 inmates who have been on death row for more than 20 years, according to the Texas Tribune.
Only two other offenders from Nueces County are on death row: John Henry Ramirez, who has been there for 10 years, and Richard Vasquez, who has been there for 19.
The most recent filed with the court is postmarked March 1.
“Motion: calling for execution” is scrawled across the center of the blank white sheet of paper in print handwriting.
“Dear. Hon. Judge Medary, It’s Larry Hatten, death row inmate, and defending my family is what I’ll gladly die for any day and any time,” it reads. “And if you are human, as well as your cohorts who have set me two execution dates, I want execution because I do not want to be a human then.”
“Good fashion, Larry Hatten,” the letter closes, his signature in cursive.
The letters are often written in the style of legal motions.
Hatten expresses a lack of faith in the legal system in the letters. He also asks for things like a new attorney and maintains he never saw Jackson at the time of the shooting.
Hatten has long penned letters related to his case. On Feb. 1, 2016, he wrote a letter stating he wished to go forward with his execution. Weeks later he wrote another letter saying he changed his mind.