Spend any time listening to discussion between the county judiciary and the criminal justice system, or even the local attorneys and one will be left with the odd feeling that English does not mean what it means. Bizarre legal outcomes happen and they are explained away as “the law is complicated”. The law really isn’t complicated; rationalizations are complicated.
County commissions, judges, prosecutors, and local attorneys are loyal to each other and what maximizes money. While they may profess loyalty to concepts which get them re-elected, they are really loyal to each other. Thus, they engage in group speak and very strange rationalizations. For example, in Collin County, Judge Sandoval was obviously one who should not have been on the bench (D-Magazine, The Worst Judge in Dallas County”, Nov 2009). The courthouse community knew this but it was always excused because “he was nice to his wife who had died” (????). When he lost his bench, millions of tax payer dollars were spent in a questionable attempt to get him reinstated.
Why do we think we have so many post-conviction exonerations now?
#CollinCounty #exonerations #judicial
Michael Blair was found guilty of killing a little girl in Collin County and sat on death row since 1993. Unfortunately, DNA later proved that Michael Blair was innocent.
The prosecution had known of the real suspect all along but did not pursue him for some unknown reason. The real suspect had been stalking the little girl for some time and even bought a burial plot near the little girl’s grave after she was buried. This little girl suffered the indignity of having her killer buried near to her.
The real murderer died of natural causes and is beyond prosecution. We will never know how many other little girls the real murder went on to kill because the Collin County district attorney took a short cut and went after Michael Blair.
How many regular citizens would fell that a trial could be fair if the judges disappear in a back room with the attorneys and some witnesses and come out with an undocumented decision? Certainly no rational person over twelve years of age. And yet, this is exactly what many judges do with custody cases, routinely.
One would think that custody cases, of all cases, where the safely of children may be in question, would be held publically. What this does is deny any record of the proceeding so the public can know what is going on. It also denies any basis for an appeal, no matter how bizarre the ruling. We are often left speechless with custody decisions but can do nothing about them because due process is denied. This backroom business lends itself to being decided in favor of local power brokers, not the law.
This encourages custody situations to go on and one to the great profit of all but the poor unfortunate families caught up in this vise. Judges routinely tell us this is lawful but we know better because we are older than twelve years old.
John Earl Nolley was found innocent of murder through DNA analysis after spending 20 years in prison.
Mr. Nolley was found guilty in Tarrant County largely based on circumstantial evidence and unsurprisingly, it looks like the prosecutor for the case did not turn over evidence to the defense which would have demonstrated he was innocent. This is illegal and almost routine in practice as there have been no practical consequences. Mr. Nolley was convicted based on a “jailhouse snitch” with a long criminal record and looking for leniency. The “snitch” claimed Mr. Nolley had confessed the murder to him, even though he did not get the facts straight.
Because the prosecution pursued Mr. Nolley, somewhere the real killer of Sharon McLane who was stabbed 60 times, remained free, perhaps to kill again.
It can be depressing to review court cases in which a defendant is found guilty. Many times, we are left with the uneasy feeling there was no evidence of a crime, or that the defendant did it.
Something we see over and over again is a focus, not on evidence or the law, but ad hominin attacks. The prosecution spends unlimited resources to come a defendant’s past, looking for feet of clay, such as we all have. Ever smoked marijuana? Rest assured the prosecution will bring it up and suddenly the defendant is a major drug king pen. Every have an argument with your neighbor? Suddenly, you will be painted as a dangerous violent ragaholic. Witness on top of witness will be provided. The defendant gets painted as a moral degenerate unrecognizable to his or her friends and family.
Sounds silly? Yes. Has nothing to do with evidence of a crime? Correct! But rest assured that by the time the jury has heard enough of these stories they will find you guilty as instructed by the prosecutor, not because of evidence, but because they are sure you are such a bad person, if you are not guilty of this, you must be guilty of something. This happens all too often.
This is clearly unethical, yet is practiced routinely. Of course, the prosecutors are to blame for employing unethical tactics but the real culprits are the judges, who allow the prosecutors to run wild without oversight in the first place.
In February, we noted the story of Brian Franklin who had been convicted of child rape solely on circumstantial evidence. After 21 years, it was determined that he was innocent and had been robbed of due process by the Ft. Worth district attorney. Mr. Franklin was convicted based only on the testimony of a then 13 year old girl. It turns out it was all a lie.
John Peterson, the accuser’s stepbrother, feared testifying in the first trial but came forward about 10 years ago. He said she confided in him days after the alleged assault and said that she made it all up. Mr. McMunn also testified on Franklin’s behalf and said the girl’s mother told him her daughter was lying.
It turns out the step father had been having sex with the 13 year old, even during Franklin’s trial when she testified against him. No one know why the biological father was not allowed to have custody.
Even more shocking, Tarrant Count Bill Vasser tried him again; he was acquitted at enormous tax payer expense. Because the Tarrant County DA’s office focused on Franklin, a little girl was repeatedly raped for years.
People think the job of the prosecutor is to battle as hard as possible with the defense. We believe this harsh conflict forces out the truth. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The reality is quite different. There doesn’t seem to be any real prosecutorial oversight so prosecutors can employ huge amounts of government resources compared to the resources of an average citizen. Any decent defense will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and likely bankrupt the defendant and his or her family. The State is so powerful it can almost convict at will with orders of magnitude of resources. Fortunately, the State of Texas recognizes that which is why we have Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Title 1, Chapter 2. Art. 2.01:
“It shall be the primary duty of all prosecuting attorneys, including any special prosecutors, not to convict, but to see that justice is done.”
The prosecutors have armies of people turning over evidence and the power to force testimony; the defendant does not. For this reason, it is a crime for the prosecutor to not turn over evidence which would be in favor of the defendant. This is called “exculpatory evidence”, yet many do not do this without consequences.
Prosecutors can break laws in open court, knowing full well the district judge is unlikely to do anything about it and the defendants most likely not have the additional $100,000 needed to mount a proper appeal, which is stacked against them, anyway. Prosecutors can overwhelm a jury with mindless dramatics, painting the defendant as some sort of ax murder probably guilty of something, so why not this?
Charles Dean Hood was sentenced to death for murder by Judge Vera Sue Holland of Collin County. Was he really guilty? We will never know for sure. It seems the good judge who presided over the trial was having an extra-marital affair with the Collin County district attorney who ran the prosecution. They kept the affair secret.
This was later established years after the fact and both the judge and the district attorney were required to admit to the fact in sworn testimony. Judge Holland complained that the district attorney was a poor lover: “Tom didn’t send a card,” the judge testified. “He didn’t send flowers. He didn’t come by. He didn’t call. You know, I think that’s pretty callous.” Judge Holland was livid because, as she said, the defense attorneys “annihilated my reputation” by complaining, apparently unable to fault her own behavior in any way.
Judge Holland was elected to the Court of Criminal Appeals in 1996 and presided on that court for five years where she ruled on a number of criminal cases. Her peers on that court judged her behavior concerning the Hood matter and found no problem with the prosecutor literally sleeping with the judge in secret. Mr. Hood was executed. That must have been inconvenient for Judge Holland and the local DA of Collin County.