Texas prosecutors have indicted former death-row prisoner Clinton Young for a 21-year-old murder in one county after his conviction and death sentence for another murder allegedly committed as part of the same criminal episode in another county was overturned because a lead prosecutor in that case also secretly acted as a paid law clerk to judges who presided over Young’s trial and state post-conviction appeals.

On August 12, 2022, a special grand jury convened in Harrison County by the Texas Attorney General’s office indicted Young for capital murder in the November 25, 2001 shooting death of Doyle Douglas. That murder was part of the case prosecutors presented against him in 2003 in his capital murder trial for the shooting death of Samuel Petrey in Midland County during what prosecutors alleged was a two-day crime spree. Young (pictured with Clinton Young Foundation legal director Merel Pontier), who has long insisted that he was framed, was 18-years old at the time he allegedly participated in the crimes.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals vacated Young’s conviction on September 22, 2021 following disclosure of the secret employment relationship between his prosecutor, Ralph Petty, and the Midland County judges hearing his case, saying the arrangement “tainted Applicant’s entire proceeding from the outset” and violated “his due process rights to a fair trial and an impartial judge.” Young had also presented evidence that prosecutors had provided undisclosed favors to witnesses in exchange for self-serving testimony that implicated Young and that ballistics and gun residue evidence showed that their testimony against him was false.

Young was released from custody January 21, 2022 pending a decision on whether to reprosecute him in Midland County. He was working at a court approved job in Mississippi when he was arrested on the Harrison County charges.

District Attorney Reid McCain told the Marshall News Messenger that the murders were both part of “one long crime spree” during a 48-hour window in 2001. Young allegedly “killed somebody here [in Harrison] and somebody in Midland,” McCain said. “He was never arrested or indicted here. He was arrested and indicted in Midland.” The McCain provided no explanation for why the county delayed more than two decades in seeking an indictment.

The Clinton Young Foundation, a nonprofit organization that was initially created to raise awareness about his case and now focuses more broadly on wrongful convictions in capital murder cases, released a statement that “Clinton Young’s defense lawyers learned late Friday [August 12] that prosecutors had obtained a second indictment, this time in Harrison county, for the same offense for which Clinton is already facing trial in Midland county. … [H] his legal team will be addressing the court in the near future about this latest effort by the prosecutors to cause him to go back to jail, even though he spent twenty years unfairly incarcerated.”

Young came within eight days of execution in 2017, after the federal courts had denied his federal habeas corpus petition. At that time, Petty filed a motion before post-conviction Judge Robert Moore — for whom Petty was also clerking — seeking a warrant for Young’s execution. Judge Moore set Young’s execution date for October 26, 2017. Young moved to withdraw the warrant based upon allegations that prosecutors had obtained his conviction and death sentence with false or perjured testimony from David Page, the prosecution’s key witness, whom Young alleged was the actual killer. Young supported his claim with recently discovered evidence that included gunshot residue on Page’s gloves and affidavits from four prisoners that Page had bragged about committing the killing and framing Young. On October 18, 2017, the TCCA granted Young a stay and ordered the trial court to conduct a hearing on Young’s false-or-perjured-testimony claim.

While the death warrant was still active, and without notifying the defense, Petty filed a motion to grant use immunity to Page. Midland County District Attorney Laura Nodolf then secretly interviewed Page, who admitted to falsely implicating Young. While Petty argued in court that Young should be executed, Nodolf withheld the information about Page’s admissions. When Petty retired in 2019 and Nodolf was processing his retirement papers, she discovered that he had been receiving payments from the county for work outside of the DA’s office and disclosed that evidence to Young’s lawyers.

After conducting a hearing in which Petty invoked his constitutional privilege against self-incrimination, Senior Judge Sid Harle issued an opinion on April 26, 2021 in which he recommended that the TCCA declare Young’s trial “null and void” and grant him a new trial. Harle blasted Petty and the Midland County District Attorney’s office for “shocking prosecutorial misconduct that destroyed any semblance of a fair trial” in Young’s case.

A subsequent USA Today investigation of court records found at least 355 cases in which Petty prosecuted a defendant while also performing legal work for the judges trying the cases or presiding over post-conviction appeals. Seventy-three of those defendants, including Young, were still in prison, with 21 serving sentences of 50 years or more. Facing disciplinary action, Petty surrendered his law license and was formally disbarred in April 2021.

Midland County prosecutors moved to recuse themselves from the case after Petty’s misconduct came to light. District Attorney McCain said that his office would seek to recuse itself from the Harrison County. The Texas attorney general will prosecute both the Harrison and Midland cases. Defense counsel for Young are expected to challenge the Harrison County indictment and the state attorney general’s efforts to try Young in two counties.


Robin Y. Richardson, Grand jury indicts for­mer death row inmate for cap­i­tal mur­der in Harrison County, Marshall News Messenger, August 12, 2022 ; Ashli Dansby, Clinton Lee Young arrest­ed again on a Capital Murder war­rant, Stagecoach Media, August 12, 2022; Carrie Provinsal, Man released from death row after 20 years booked into Harrison County Jail, KLTV, August 16, 2022; Clinton Young, for­mer death row inmate, arrest­ed while in Mississippi for same offense’, NewsWest9, Midland, TX, August 132022.

Read the state­ment of the Clinton Young Foundation con­cern­ing his arrest.