Monday, October 06, 2008

DA Watch: Tarrant County DA's Office Held Back Favorable Evidence in Death Row Case for 23 Years

On Thanksgiving Day 1985, a bomb was left in a briefcase on the doorstep of a trailer in a mobile home park.

It exploded and killed three people (a 44-year-old man, his teenaged daughter, a teenaged relative) and severely wounded another (the victim's 13 year-old son).

On October 2, 2008, another bomb of sorts hit this case: the Tarrant County District Attorney's Office officially admitted that evidence favorable to the defense was intentionally held back -- and it was important stuff.

This evidence might have cleared Michael Toney -- who sat through a jury trial, was found guilty, was then sentenced to death, and who has sat on Death Row since 1999. That's 9 years on Death Row for a man who has consistently maintained his innocence of the crime.

The Evidence Against Toney

The bombing was an unsolved crime for 12 years. Then, an inmate came forward to say that Michael Toney was talking to him about this bombing -- when Toney was questioned, he said it was all a plan to help out the inmate get out of jail. He was helping his buddy, but he didn't make that bomb, or kill those people.

It's not disputed that there's no fact to connect Michael Toney to the victims. Didn't know 'em, didn't have a beef with 'em.

The only witness evidence against him was:

(1) an ex-wife (yeah, that's right) who said back then that she had seen Mike Toney with a briefcase near the mobile home park on the night of the bombing. Now, she's saying she can't remember anything because she's got memory loss from injuries sustained during her military service in the Gulf War; and

(2) his ex-best-friend, whose story has jumped more than popcorn on a hot skillet: he saw Toney at the mobile home park, no he didn't, yes, he did.... You get the idea.

I, for one, wonder about the relationship between the ex-wife and the ex-best friend -- but then, maybe I read too many Grisham novels. And that's before I even consider this mystery evidence, you'll see what I mean ....

What Was Held Back?

Back then, the Tarrant County DA saw fit to hide documents that showed inconsistencies in the stories of the ex-wife and the ex-best-friend. They just weren't provided to the defense.

There were 14 separate documents that were either exculpatory or impeaching evidence -- things that the defense attorney could have used to tear apart the stories of the ex-wife and the ex-best-friend.

What Happens Now?

Suppressing evidence violates civil rights protected by the U.S. Constitution. Mr. Toney has an argument that his federally protected civil rights involving due process have been violated.

Meanwhile, last Thursday, an "Agreed Proposed Findings of Fact," was filed before the same district court judge that presided over Torey's first trial. In this document (filed jointly by the DA's office and Torey's attorney), the Tarrant County District Attorney's Office admits its error, and a motion for a new trial has been set for hearing.

Torey could face a new trial. He could also have his conviction reversed by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the highest court in the State of Texas dealing with criminal matters.

What About that 1985 DA who held back the evidence?

That DA, Mike Parrish, has since retired and he's not talking to the press.

What about that inmate-buddy who started this whole wagon train?

Dunno. I'm wondering how much he knew about this long ago Thanksgiving Day bombing ....


Dallas Morning News


L'Itinérant said...

Thanks, Michael, you have a right view of this affair.
One question : What about Mike Parrish ? Will he be judged for this misleading of the justice ?
Thanks again, and regards,
Rudolph Clauteaux

Anonymous said...

im Rick toney michael toney is my brother thank you mr lowe for your article.i myself wonder what happening to parrish.can he give all the years back to my brother.

rickt said...

im rick toney michael toney is my brother thanks mr lowe for the article.can parrish give all those years back to my brother