Sunday, July 23, 2006

Likely innocent man serving life for murder based on jailhouse informant testimony

Another Texas case involving an allegedly mendacious snitch is grabbing headlines in Big D, this time leading to likely innocent man serving a life sentence for murder. Bob Ray Sanders offered up a column in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on Friday updating the story of Gregory Bruce Dunagan, who it increasingly appears was wrongfully convicted of murdering Barkat Ali, a Grand Prairie convenience store owner, based on false testimony from a jailhouse informant named David Spencer ("Wrongfully convicted man remains in Texas prison," July 21). Wrote Sanders:
Dunagan was charged with capital murder, but as I pointed out before, he was really convicted for four reasons: 1) his criminal record from an incident when he was 18, 2) a setup by a lying jailhouse informant, 3) sloppy police work, and 4) ineffective trial representation by his defense attorney.

Three times during the trial, Ali's wife identified someone other than Dunagan as the killer. Observers believe that she picked out the only black man with green eyes she saw in the courtroom. All she saw of the killer was his eyes because he was wearing a bandanna over his face. Dunagan has black eyes.

Now, D Magazine has published a cover story titled, ""FRAMED FOR MURDER: GREG DUNAGAN DIDN'T DO IT." The article isn't online, but Sanders describes the story thusly:

An in-depth investigation by writer Paul Kix quotes two witnesses, both inmates in a state prison, who knew the informant, Dave Spencer. Both have signed affidavits implicating Spencer himself in the slaying of Ali and the framing of Dunagan.

One of those witnesses said he overheard Spencer and another Dallas County Jail inmate planning to pin the crime on Dunagan. The witness said he was prepared to testify to that fact at Dunagan's trial, but he was never called. The other witness, a friend of Spencer's, said the informant told him one night that he had killed a convenience store operator in Grand Prairie.

"Some Pakistani guy," D quotes Quenten Jordan as saying.

"The store owner wouldn't get Spencer the money fast enough," Kix writes, adding this quote from Jordan: "Dave said, 'I had to kill him.'"

The magazine notes that Spencer denies ever making that statement. But these witnesses appear to have nothing to gain for implicating Spencer.

What a grim tale! A federal magistrate judge ordered a new trial but the decision was overturned by the egregious 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. It's good to see the MSM picking up on the topic of unreliable informants, which account for more than half of wrongful convictions.

Between this case and the Dallas fake drug scandal, the Dallas County DA obviously needs to take a look at what his department is doing to make sure they aren't securing convictions based on fabricated snitch testimony.


Mike Howard said...

This is a huge breaking story. Paul Kix, the D Magazine writer, is a friend of mine and has done stories with me in the past. I talked to him just before this story hit the presses and he was obviously excited. As a reporter, you don't often get the chance to personally be involved in freeing an innocent man. We'll see how this goes. As I understand it, he's got great lawyers (the Udaschen brothers are on the case, I hear).

albert said...

greg need to take a polygraph to prove his innocence. i cant believe that a person in jail can say oh greg killed the man at the store and he was convicted of it. if this is true there is something wrong with the justice system