Category: TEXAS

Not guilty

Evading Arrest and Detention [Lamar County, TX]

Criminal Charge: Evading Arrest / Detention
Case: State of Texas v. Damien Garcia, Cause 60754
Court: Lamar County, 2013
Result: Not Guilty


Summary:

Mr. Garcia was charged with evading arrest or detention under the following facts. Two Paris, TX police officers heard a dispatch that an anonymous pedestrian hailed down another police car and reported an altercation at a convenience store involving a light-skinned male with red hair who was “possibly” wielding a gun.

The officers rushed to the scene. On arrival, the observed Mr. Garcia – who is neither light-skinned nor red-headed – in a calm discussion with the red-headed young man. The officers jumped from their cars barking orders to the young men; Mr. Garcia fled the scene on foot and was eventually captured.

At jury trial, one of the officers testified he was riding along with a new officer to train him. Remarkably, he testified that Mr. Garcia admitted at the police station that he was indeed involved in an altercation at the scene…a fact that was utterly omitted from each cop’s report. Further, even though the police station is full of cameras and audio equipment, they both testified the alleged confession was not captured on video. When Haslam challenged this testimony coming from an officer delegated the task of training cops how to do their work, the trainer meekly acknowledged his failure to include the “confession” in his report was an “oversight”. Indeed.

Haslam argued to the jury that the “confession” wasn’t taped because it never happened, and that in any event state and federal law require “reasonable, articulable suspicion” that the suspect has, is or soon will commit a crime before a cop can force a citizen to stop. Here, he argued, the only information these cops had was that the red-headed man was involved in a fight. They observed Mr. Garcia in a calm discussion with him. In short, there was absolutely zero reasonable, articulable suspicion that Mr. Garcia was involved in any criminal activity.

The jury agreed that this information was legally insufficient to detain Mr. Garcia and he was not legally obligated to listen to the police officers’ command that he stop. Their NOT GUILTY verdict was returned in 45 minutes.

Interestingly, that red-headed young man walked away unapprehended – ever: while the Paris Police Department was so busy chasing down Mr. Garcia’s refusal to submit to their illegal arrest, the man about whom reasonable, articulable suspicion DID exist simply walked…away.

Not guilty

Shoplifting [Lamar County, TX]

Criminal Charge: Shoplifting
Case: State v. Tammy Grissom
Court: [Lamar County][Cause 62051]
Result: Not Guilty
Docket View: Docket sheet stricken because the Defendant was found not guilty.


Summary:

Ms. Grissom was charged with shoplifting in a WalMart store. As everyone knows, there is more video surveillance in a WalMart than a Vegas casino, and these videos recorded her entering and leaving the store with a male companion. What they failed to show was corroboration of the store security officer’s testimony that she stole anything.

The jury acquitted Ms. Grissom in less than an hour.

Plea Bargain

Aggravated Sexual Assault of A Child [Lamar County, TX]

Criminal Charge: Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child
Case: State of Texas v. Stanley Maggard, [Cause 24923]
Court: 6th D.Ct. [Lamar County]
Result: Guilty plea. 3 years.


Summary:

It’s hard to know whether the Discovery Code violations by the prosecutor resulted in the trial day vast reduction in plea bargain from 30 years to 3, but this case is an object lesson in the coercive authority wielded by a prosecutor to strong-arm a plea out of a case with weak evidence.

Mr. Maggard was charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child. The State had no DNA evidence of the alleged rape even though a sexual assault exam was completed within hours of the alleged conduct: no skin cells of the alleged perpetrator, no body fluids whatsoever. The SANE examiner reported an anal tear and the alleged victim reported a rape. That was the evidence.

Haslam enlisted the aid of expert witnesses in this case. Dr. Jack McCubbin, a Texarkana gynecologist, reviewed the SANE exam and found no evidence of rape. Dr. Michael Gottlieb, a Dallas psychologist, reviewed the videotapes of the CPS interviews of the alleged victim and her sister and concluded the interviews were deceptively leading, a common problem in child interviews. Laura Schile, a national expert in DNA and other biological evidence issues who worked for the prosecution in the Jon Binet Ramsey and Kobe Bryant cases, assisted in the evaluation of the serology and DNA issues as well as the convoluted inner-workings of the State Crime Lab.

The Garland, TX Crime Lab analysts were prepared to testify that no DNA evidence was found on the swabs recovered by the SANE nurse. In the bizarre twist that yielded the trial day vast plea offer reduction, the ADA Jill Drake announced an alleged misrepresentation about the availability of certain testing Haslam had requested months earlier.  Originally, the lab denied such evidence existed.  Drake tried to finesse the revelation as something other than a significant discovery violation.  Haslam objected.  And this ploy emerged days after another discovery violation when it became apparent the prosecutor had failed to produce still more exculpatory evidence as required by State and Federal law. [See the link above].

After all the exculpatory evidence had been finally ordered by the Court, the State reduced its offer from 30 to 3 years and reduced the charge to indecency with a child just after the jury was selected. Mr. Maggard simply would not risk the possibility of a conviction and a sentence to life in prison when he was looking at release in a matter of months.

This case is a tragedy. I believe Mr. Maggard is innocent. The State either hid or failed to produce evidence that the law requires it to both know about and disclose. The first trial judge made remarks so inappropriate to third parties that Haslam had him removed. The therapist who “counseled” the alleged victim was singularly uncooperative in responding to the Court’s orders regarding therapy notes. This case highlights the reality that public officials are capable of skirting the law to achieve a conviction, and the absolute necessity for trial counsel who knows the law and is willing to challenge the assertions of public officials. It demonstrates what every lawyer practicing criminal defense a significant length of time knows too well: you cannot trust the officials investigating, prosecuting or presiding over criminal matters to be trustworthy.