Shout outs to TCDLA Director Frank Sellers and former Voice editor Greg Westfall for the big NG on some serious charges: Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Child, Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child, and Indecency with a Child. D, who had just started his job as a jailer in Dallas County, was accused of continuously having sexual contact with his then 6-year-old stepdaughter. After the 10:30 pm Friday-night verdict, one juror stayed after to tell our heroes that not only had they “proven” a reasonable doubt; he also thought it was proven by a preponderance of the evidence that Grandma had planted these false memories in her granddaughter’s head because of her hatred of D. Greg says they could not have done this without the help of their expert witness on false memory and forensic interviewing, Dr. Aaron Pierce. Congratulations, guys, on a job well done.
Congrats to Seth Kretzer for a win on a recent appeal. D had pleaded guilty to a 5-count indictment—one on a gun and four on ammunition—and was sentenced to 30 years. Seth pointed out the Double Jeopardy problem: Unless the feds could show D acquired the gun and ammo at separate times, D could only be sentenced on one count. In an earlier hearing, Feds conceded they had no idea when D acquired the ammunition—and appealed to “common sense” (Seth: “code words for ‘prosecutor serving as unsworn witness to fill in the holes in their evidence they don’t have’”). The judge didn’t buy it and capped D’s exposure at 10 years. Good job, Seth.
Kudos to Michael Mowla for his recent win in the Second Court of Appeals. D, convicted of intoxication manslaughter and AA/DW in 1997, was arrested again for DWI in 2013 and indicted as an F-3. On taking over the case with Sarah Roland, Michael filed a writ of habeas corpus on the 1997 cases—which was denied, but exposed that (1) D did not have drugs in her system as the state claimed; (2) her BAC was below the legal limit; and (3) a witness in the vehicle confirmed that the wreck was a horrific accident caused when she inadvertently distracted the D. Michael and Sarah filed a motion to reconsider the MTS (which had previously been denied) and litigated it: MTS was granted, the state appealed, and the 2nd COA affirmed the trial court’s granting of the MTS. The State recently dismissed the case, and now D can move on with her life. Great work, Michael and Sarah. Congratulations.
Shout out to TCDLA Director Keith Hampton, who walked his client out of the state hospital system this January after he won not guilty by reason of insanity verdicts for his former Marine sniper client. The State prosecuted D on seven counts: two counts of attempted murder; two counts of aggravated assault; two counts of deadly conduct; and one count of tampering with evidence. Keith won NG verdicts on four counts and “not guilty by reason of insanity” on the remaining counts. D then went into the state hospital system. Over a span of six years (with the help of an incredible team at Kerrville State Hospital and a wonderful family), his mental health improved. In Keith’s estimation, it was time for him to get out and lead a normal life. The Comal County District Attorney’s office fought back, but after a spirited hearing in which Keith carried the burden of proof, he won his client’s freedom. Hampton adds that his client has an array of support and oversight to ensure he leads the great life he deserves. “This is exactly the way the system should work,” Keith said. Congratulations on making that system work, Keith.
A shout out to Louis Lopez of El Paso for a big win for a wrongly accused soldier. It seems the ex-wife downloaded child porn from a USB flash drive onto a laptop he owned while he was in Japan and then turned it over to the El Paso City police. Louis notes that the police did not do any forensic evaluation (“the detective had taken one class in cell phone forensics”). The soldier was arrested and spent a year in county, where he suffered much abuse due to the type of charges brought. Louis hired a forensic computer analyst (a former FBI section chief), and he was able show ex-wife downloaded the porn two days before she turned it into the police. She also had done several Google searches on the laptop looking for and eventually downloading an app to change the date on files. She then back-dated the porn files to a time when the laptop was not in existence. Louis established that D had been in Japan at the time of the downloads and did not have access to the laptop. After evaluating the evidence, DA dismissed all charges. Righteous win, Louis.
Thad Davidson sends along a shout out to Erick Platten of Tyler for his recent win in the 114th District Court—in the case State v. Ronnie Rogers—in a punishment trial for intox manslaughter. As Thad noted, “To get probation in Smith County on any kind of case involving the death of a person pretty much requires a miracle, but Platten did it.“ Erick says the court was hostile throughout the proceedings, as were the aggressive prosecutors, but the jury apparently paid attention to the evidence—and gave D probation. Kudos, Erick, for a job well done.
Kudos to TCDLA Director Carmen Roe and co-counsel Nathan Mays of Houston for their work on a 1st-degree-felony trial running seven days. The 41-year-old truck driver’s aggravated assault trial ended in a mistrial days after seven hours of jury deliberation over two days. A sheriff’s deputy say D tried to use his Jeep to run him over, though evidence showed D was shot four times through the side of his truck. Carmen credits a “dream team” of lawyers and people who volunteered their time behind the scenes because they believed in the case.
A big shout out to Ignacio Estrada and Linda Estrada for their big win in a difficult trial in El Paso. D was charged with one count of Intoxicated Manslaughter and one count of Manslaughter based on signs of intoxication, admissions of drinking, and a BAC of .07 performed two hours after the car accident. The State’s lowest plea offer was 8 years in prison. The jury found D not guilty on Count 1 and guilty on Count 2—and then gave him probation. The Estrada’s credit the probation verdict to Dr. Jason Dunham, who testified extremely well in sentencing. Good work, team.
Congratulations are due Dean Watts of Nacogdoches for a reversal he snagged in the 12th Court of Appeals of a 40-year sentence for retaliation. D, arrested for public intoxication and taken into custody, rambled on belligerently on the way to jail, making vague statements about the arresting officer—who egged him on, asking, “Why is that sir,” “What do you mean?”, and so on. This led to D making threats. No Miranda warning was given. The jury gave him 40 years because he was a habitual offender. Dean credits fellow TCDLA member John Boundy, the trial lawyer, as well. Way to go, guys.