The death of Brownsville attorney Ray R. Marchan’s appeal might have created an unexpected legal twist in his case.
Marchan’s conviction on racketeering, extortion and mail fraud charges will likely be voided because his appeal was pending when he died, court records reflect.
It would be “like it never happened,” Marchan’s appellate attorney Eric J. Davis said Friday of Marchan’s conviction.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, where Marchan’s appeal was pending, issued an order Wednesday dismissing the appeal as moot. The appellate court sent the case back to the district court with directions “to vacate the judgment and the sentence imposed thereupon.”
“It is normal procedure. It is nothing unusual,” Davis said of vacating or voiding a judgment when someone dies while an appeal is pending.
Marchan’s appeal was pending at the time of his death on Feb. 28. That was the day Marchan, an attorney, was to report to a prison facility to begin serving a 3 1/2-year sentence he received in December on convictions that included bribing former 404th state District Judge Abel C. Limas. Part of the judgment included the forfeiture of $18,000.
Marchan took a taxi to the top of the Queen Isabella Memorial Bridge, got out and “threw himself” into the Laguna Madre, according to the cab driver’s account.
He died from blunt force trauma and drowning due to a “jump from bridge,” according to the preliminary autopsy report.
Marchan had argued that his appeal raised at least one significant question of law or fact, and that a favorable decision would likely result in a reversal of his conviction or a new trial.
That won’t be known and that’s why the judgment against him would be voided, court records reflect.
The appellate court issued its order Wednesday on a motion that Davis filed March 18, and which he said the U.S. government did not oppose, according to public records. Davis cited several court cases that address the issue of death pending appeal in his motion to the appellate court.
One such case noted that death deprives the accused of the right to an appellate decision, and thus the interests of justice ordinarily require that he not stand convicted without resolution of the merits of his appeal, which is an integral part of this country’s system for finally adjudicating guilt or innocence.
Another case that Davis cited pointed out that voiding judgment has several significant effects, including preventing the use of the conviction in any related civil litigation against the estate, recovery of a fine against the estate and ultimately, the heirs; “and arguably the family is comforted by restoration of the decedent’s ‘good name,’” United States vs. Pauline states.
Marchan’s sister, Jacqueline Marchan Britton, issued a statement Saturday.
“Anyone who knows my brother, Ray Marchan, knows that his lifetime of accomplishments will always outweigh his more recent troubles,” she said in the statement.
“His children will forever bear the tragic loss of their father, so it is good if this ruling helps their future in any way. We are grateful to Mr. Davis for addressing this matter with the court and restoring his name.”