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Annie Kaunda

Other Williamson County, Texas exonerations
On August 23, 2004, 46-year-old Annie Kaunda was arrested in Williamson County, Texas when she presented a fake Social Security card in an attempt to obtain a driver’s license.

On December 14, 2004, Kaunda pled guilty in Williamson County Criminal District Court to tampering with a government record. She was sentenced to six months in jail and was released on February 17, 2005.

Kaunda was a native of Zimbabwe and had no legal status. In 2015, she contacted an immigration lawyer to seek permanent resident status because her son had become a U.S. citizen. However, she learned that not only was a conviction a bar to obtaining permanent resident status, but she could face deportation.

In January 2019, attorney Bruce Anton filed a state law petition for a writ of habeas corpus seeking to vacate her conviction. The writ said that Kaunda had obtained the card in the mail on the recommendation of an acquaintance, who also was from Zimbabwe.

Kaunda said that she asked her friend, who said she was a government employee, “if it was a legal document and she said yes. She said that I would be able to get a driver’s license and employment with it. I was excited that I would be getting my driver’s license soon and a good job. Unbeknownst to me, I had a fraudulent document that would land me in jail.”

The writ claimed that prior to pleading guilty, Kaunda’s attorney failed to advise her that the prosecution had to prove that she knew the card was fake and that she intended to defraud the state to get a driver’s license. In addition, her attorney did not advise her that a conviction could possibly result in deportation. The prosecution supported the writ.

Kaunda offered to take a polygraph examination. However, that was not done because an examiner fluent in Shona, Kaunda’s native language, could not be located.

On February 18, 2019, Criminal District Judge Rick Kennon recommended that the writ be granted. The recommendation said, “Ms. Kaunda was not advised that she had a defense to the charges: to wit, that she did not knowingly present a false or fictitious document. Had she known of this defense, she would not have entered a guilty plea.”

“The Court concludes that since [Kaunda] did not know the record was fictitious, she could not be guilty of tampering with a government record as charged,” the judge declared.

On March 11, 2020, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted the writ and vacated Kaunda’s conviction. On June 30, 2020, the prosecution dismissed the case.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 7/14/2020
Last Updated: 7/14/2020
Most Serious Crime:Other Nonviolent Felony
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2004
Sentence:6 months
Age at the date of reported crime:46
Contributing Factors:Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No