Texas Second Court of Appeals Reverses Black Grandmother’s Conviction in Major Voting Rights Victory

By Cindy Chen

FT WORTH, TX – The Second Court of Appeals has reversed the conviction of Crystal Mason this past week, resulting in Mason’s exoneration and marking the conclusion of a legal battle that saw her facing a potential five-year prison term.

The ACLU said Mason, a Black grandmother from Fort Worth, Texas, found herself entangled in the criminal justice system after casting a provisional ballot in the 2016 election. Unaware that her past felony conviction rendered her ineligible to vote, she believed she was simply fulfilling her civic duty. However, her act led to charges of illegal voting, despite her lack of intent to violate the law.

Represented by a coalition of legal advocates, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas, the ACLU, Texas Civil Rights Project, and attorneys Alison Grinter Allen and Kim Cole, Mason’s case garnered national attention.

In the ruling, the attorneys contended the statute under which Mason had been charged and convicted—felony of conspiracy to defraud—mandated not only that a person voted in an election while ineligible to do so but also that “the person knew her circumstances made her ineligible to vote in that election.”

Defense attorneys asserted Mason was unaware of this regulation, thus she cannot be found guilty. This was partly due to the fact, the defense noted, “the government never informed her that as a convicted felon she was ineligible to vote.”

In a statement following the court’s decision, Mason expressed her relief and gratitude: “I am overjoyed to see my faith rewarded today. I was thrown into this fight for voting rights and will keep swinging to ensure no one else has to face what I’ve endured for over six years, a political ploy where minority voting rights are under attack. I’ve cried and prayed every night for over six years straight that I would remain a free Black woman.”

Thomas Buser-Clancy, senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Texas, hailed the court’s ruling as a vindication of Mason’s innocence: “We are relieved for Ms. Mason, who has waited for too long with uncertainty about whether she would be imprisoned and separated from her family for five years simply for trying to do her civic duty,”

Sophia Lin Lakin, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, echoed these sentiments, describing Mason’s victory as an inspiration for the broader fight for voting rights in Texas.

Similarly, Christina Beeler, a voting rights attorney at the Texas Civil Rights Project, emphasized the case’s broader implications: “Crystal Mason was unfairly targeted because of bad faith actors in this state who are determined to use every tool at their disposal to attempt to intimidate voters, especially Black and Brown voters, but that approach will not work here in Texas.”

Beeler added, “We are proud to have assisted in securing Ms. Mason’s freedom, and we are proud of Ms. Mason — instead of intimidating Ms. Mason through her unlawful prosecution, the state has empowered Ms. Mason to continue fighting for voting rights alongside other advocates.”

Alison Grinter Allen, Mason’s criminal defense attorney, highlighted the egregious nature of the prosecution, stating, “This should never have happened. Crystal and her family have suffered for over six years as the target of a vanity project by Texas political leaders. We’re happy that the court saw this for the perversion of justice that it is, but the harm that this political prosecution has done to shake Americans’ confidence in their own franchise is incalculable.”

Likewise, Kim Cole, Mason’s civil attorney, condemned the state’s actions as malicious and designed to intimidate voters, charging, “The state’s prosecution specifically stated that they wanted to ‘send a message’ to voters. They deliberately put Crystal through over six years of pure hell. She woke up every morning not knowing if that would be the day that her freedom would be stolen from her.”

About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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