Friday, April 02, 2010

'When DAs Attack!'

You don't often see District Attorneys criticize one another, reporter Michael Hall says in the April issue of Texas Monthly in a story called "When DAs Attack!," but:
In the continuing saga of the Mineola child sex cases (which [Hall] wrote about in “Across the Line,” April 2009), the DA from Wood County has publicly and officially attacked the cases of a DA from Smith County, right next door. The cases involve six adults accused of running a sex kindergarten in Tyler and a series of child-sex shows at a swingers club in nearby Mineola. There was no other evidence except for the words of five children—no tangible physical evidence and no adult witnesses—but it was enough to send the first three defendants to prison for life in 2008. In our story, Jim Wheeler, Wood County DA, told me, “There was a total lack of corroboration for what those kids said happened.”

Now Wheeler has said this in court, officially calling into question the entire basis of the Smith County cases. The drama took place on Tuesday, March 23, at a hearing where oral arguments were being held before the 14th Court of Appeals in two of the cases, those of Patrick Kelly and Jamie Pittman. Wheeler filed a 73-page amicus brief in which he wrote that his county’s grand jury had initially investigated the allegations but refused to indict anyone “because no evidence was located to corroborate the stories told by the children.” One of the revelations of the amicus brief was how the whole Smith County investigation of activities in Wood County got started in the first place. After Wood County investigators initially concluded in 2005 that no crimes had been committed, there was an organized effort by law enforcement agencies—including Texas Ranger Philip Kemp and prosecutors from both Wood and Smith counties—to move the case to Smith County. Wheeler (who didn’t take office until January 2007) reveals an email from a former Wood County ADA who wrote, “I believe the decision was intentionally made IN CONJUNCTION WITH Smith County to have it prosecuted there because we believed getting it out of Wood County would result in better prosecution (from the judge on down).” ...

The oral-argument hearing and Wheeler’s amicus brief are just the latest in a series of blows over the past year that have made the state’s weak case look even weaker. First came pre-trial hearings for the fourth defendant Jamie Pittman last July, in which defense attorney Jason Cassel was able to get investigators and social workers to admit that there was plenty of evidence that never made it into the first three trials, such as seven different interviews with the five children in which they either never mentioned a sex kindergarten or sex club or they denied that they knew anything about either one.
Hall's coverage of this has been excellent, even if it hasn't exactly left me beaming with hometown pride. He concludes, "One has to wonder how much more evidence authorities need to conclude that these convictions—based on zero evidence besides words from the mouths of babes, every single one of whom initially denied anything ever happened to him or her—were unsound."

I'll give this much to Ranger Kemp and the Wood County prosecutor who steered the case to Smith County: They knew exactly which jurisdiction they could take the case to where they could secure convictions (and life sentences) without any solid evidence.


Anonymous said...

Wow...I just read your Texas Monthly article. Facinating. Two things come to mind: 1) This can happen to ANYONE and 2)This makes three Texas Rangers I know of who are incompetent idiots.


Hugh McBryde said...

Gee Whiz, Ranger Kemp knows just where to go to get life sentences....

Kinda a plumber, a go to guy for lynching?

Anonymous said...

I know Jim, and he is one of the nicest guys without an agenda you will ever meet. Haven't spoken to him in a while, but I'm glad to see him putting it on the line like this. If more agenda-driven DA's would seek justice like Jim does, instead of just convictions just because they want a conviction, our country would be much better off.


Gritsforbreakfast said...

XTYC, it was actually Michael Hall who wrote the TM article. I edited his first person reference to make the authorship clear.

Unknown said...

To the person who posted I know many times have we heard folks say this when a person has gone bonkers and killed many folks because of their own agenda - the follow on interviews of folks who knew them well nearly always reveal shock and comments that they would have never suspected the person to be capable of such behavior.
I think what I am hearing is that their is doubt that these folks actually committed this crime. It is so important that we as citizens hold our officials accountable for their actions in pursueing and convicting the right folks. As we all know but hate to see lately, there have been lots of mistakes in Texas in the recent past...unfortunately, in the long run, that hurts the justice system and the efforts of the good folks who work toward true justice in the system.

Anonymous said...

"2)This makes three Texas Rangers I know of who are incompetent idiots."
You can add the one who investigated the west texas sex abuse case to the list.


Anonymous said...

"You can add the one who investigated the west texas sex abuse case to the list."
Wasn't that Kemp as well?

Anonymous said...

The comment "from the judge on down" is telling. This confirms what I have suspected. This case was intentionally steered to Jack Skeen's court because they know Skeen does whatever it takes to make sure the DA's office wins. In this particular case he allowed witnesses to testify in clear violation of the hearsay rule, allowed non-experts to provide opinion testimony and willfully and intentionally ignored/violated the rules of evidence and the law to make sure the DA's of won. This is behavior is completely typical for him. Skeen was the former DA who taught Bingham all of his unethical and illegal tactics.

Anonymous said...

Skeen, Bingham and the DAs office should resign.

Anonymous said...

They shouldn't just resign. They should go to prison. I'm thinking a special prosecutor should be appointed. Bingham and Murphy should be charged with official oppression, suborning perjury, and witness tampering. Ranger Kemp should be charged with perjury. Skeen should be charged with official oppression.

Remember the 35 year marijuana sentence? Bingham's office was asking for 99 years in that case. It would only be fitting if these clowns got the maximum sentence since that is what they recommend for everyone else.

Anonymous said...

I personally know innocent people sent to jail as felons by Bingham and Skeen. Jail sounds right.
Smith County needs to quit confusing these monsters who pervert the justice system with CONSERVATIVES who are interested in human rights and liberty.

Anonymous said...

I am already counting Ranger Burzynski of West Texas fame, Ham2mtr.

Mr. Hall's article was very well-written. I know it happens, but I always feel terrible when I hear about powerless people being railroaded.

Rage, you've heard of the McMartin Preschool, no doubt?


Anonymous said...

The Appeals Court has now spoken, and sent 2 trials back to Skeen.

Skeen just delayed the 4th trial set to hear a Change of Venue Motion.

Unfortunately, Skeen will skate away from his incompetence by moving the trials away.

He needs to be replacing his victims in prison with himself, Kemp, the Cantrell's and Bingham.

Let's hope the lawsuits bankrupt Tyler and Mineola Texas.

Bill Medvecky