In two full days of testimony, 11 witnesses testified against Brookins, including the victim himself. Prosecutors also presented DNA evidence that linked the victim’s sperm to Brookins’ office. Brookins did not testify, and the defense offered no witnesses of its own.
After the jury returned, prosecutors quickly pivoted to the punishment phase and began calling additional witnesses to testify about their sexual encounters with Brookins in an effort to show a pattern of abuse.
“I wish I could tell you that we didn’t have any more victims to tell you about, but we do,” Attorney General Adrienne McFarland said in her opening statement to the punishment phase. “There’s only one place that Ray Brookins belongs, and that’s the penitentiary.”
The first witness called during the penalty phase said he was coerced into giving Brookins oral sex about 15 years ago when Brookins was a captain at a prison in Cotulla. He said he met Brookins when he worked as a barber, and he described behavior eerily familiar to jurors in which he was reportedly summoned from his dorm after hours to spend time alone with Brookins.
Another former inmate testified that Brookins ordered him to strip naked during a search and bend over.
George E. Boepple, a former West Texas State School employee, told the jury that Brookins allowed inmates to be confined in restraints for up to 20 hours at a time.
“We would have youth in restraints for much longer than policy allowed,” said Boepple, who also testified during the guilty phase of the trial. “Some had urinated on themselves.”
KOSA TV out of Odessa reported that the:
verdict brings the West Texas State School sex abuse scandal full circle for many. In fact, six years after the misconduct took place, investigators and employees were too emotional to talk on camera.
Half a decade after his investigation in Pyote, where he found evidence incriminating Ray Brookins and John Paul Hernandez, Texas Ranger Brian Burzynski, was overcome with emotion today after the verdict was announced.
After three hours of deliberation, the jury found Brookins guilty of abusing a teenage inmate in 2004. Witness testimony throughout the trial supported the evidence collected by Burzynski in 2005.
"It was something that I couldn't fix, that I knew needed to be fixed so now that's been done", he said during an interview in 2007.
He made that comment while being honored at the State Capital for his investigation, that led to a major shake up at the Texas Youth Commission.
The upbeat demeanor Ray Brookins displayed Monday was long gone after the verdict came down. Current and former state school employees cried and breathed sighs of relief after the verdict.
Eleven witnesses, including the victim himself, testified against Brookins, in addition to DNA evidence placing the victim in Brookins' office.
"It's a shame that when I look back, there were so many opportunities for a lot of other people to have stopped the abuse", said Burzynski in 2007.
So many thoughts on this, I may let the news sink in for a bit before discussing it in much detail. Because of Ray Brookins, many dozens of people lost their jobs, the facility where he was a supervisor no longer even exists, and Texas' entire youth prison system was depopulated, with total inmate numbers declining by 52.9% after the scandal broke. The agency has fundamentally transformed as a result of this episode - mostly for the better, though it was touch and go there for a while. One wishes it were possible to spur criminal justice improvements without painful, embarrassing scandals driving the conversation, but that appears to be how major reforms usually get done in this state.
I will note that the verdict supplies vindication for Ranger Burzynski, and it should also be mentioned the story would never have surfaced without reporter Nate Blakeslee, then of the Texas Observer, and capitol staffer Alison Brock with state Rep. Sylvester Turner's office. I'm particularly happy for those three today, and congrats are due as well to prosecutors at the Attorney General, who took over the case when the local DA refused to go forward with the charges.