Wednesday, November 19, 2008

DA Watch: In Dallas, You Can't Fall in Love While Out on Bail

Clay Chabot -- doesn't that name sound like something from a daytime soap opera, or a Harlequin romance novel?

Wasn't Clay Chabot one of Erica Kane's husbands on All My Children back in the 1980s?

Um, no.

Clay Chabot is a real man though his story is reading somewhat like a melodrama. It seems that the Dallas County District Attorney's office is seeking to revoke Clay's bond and send him back to jail because they argue he's violated the terms of his release. The revocation hearing was yesterday.

What did Clay Chabot do that was so very bad?

He fell in love with one of his live-in chaparones while living under house arrest in his Cedar Hill home. Who's the lucky lady? She's his sister-in-law's daughter. And, of course, Clay has a MySpace page where the happy couple published photos of their wedding ceremony.

Oh fine, so there's a question of no marriage license even though she's going by "Mrs. Chabot" these days. And, yes, she's 37 and he's 49.

But it's love - the stuff that dreams are made of.

Love as the Basis for Bond Revocation

Meanwhile, the prosecution is ticked off about this marriage. They are moving for bond revocation because, they argue, a sexual relationship may violate the terms of his release.

First Assistant District Attorney Terri Moore actually argued at the hearing yesterday that she "didn't believe that the court intended for Mr. Chabot to be permitted a live-in girlfriend, wife, or spouse while out on bond." (Quoting the Dallas Morning News, who reported events from Tuesday's revocation hearing.) According to Moore, "[w]e give him an inch, and he takes a mile."

Chabot Already Victim of False Testimony That Resulted in Murder Conviction

Now, here's where the story goes from silly to serious. Clay Chabot was out on bond because the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals is hearing his motion for a new trial -- because it's been discovered that Chabot was convicted of murder based upon the lies of his brother-in-law. Seems DNA testing has revealed that the brother-in-law actually raped the murder victim.

The District Attorney is claiming that they are going to retry Chabot when his motion is granted, because they still think he's guilty of the crime. Now they're arguing that Chabot and his lying brother-in-law are both guilty of the murder.

Chabot Did Stop at a CellPhone Store on the Way to the Doctor

Perhaps the only real argument they've got here is that Clay did stop at a cellphone store on the way to the V.A. for medical treatment (he's allow to leave his house for doctor visits). However, it wasn't off the beaten path: it was a store on the route from Cedar Hill to the V.A. Hospital -- and please: he wasn't stopping off to gamble, buy booze, or get porno -- he stopped with his sister-in-law at a phone store.

For this, Chabot should go back behind bars after he was wrongfully convicted of murder? Maybe the DA knew this wouldn't be a big enough argument - so she added on this horrible event: Chabot married the woman he loves.

The audacity of it all.

Love Shouldn't Be Penalized

In prisons everyday, there are couples who wed without even the hope of building a life together. It's the story of legend how many penpal relationships have evolved in marriages behind bars. Heck, About.Com has an how-to article online, "How to Marry a Prisoner."

Surely if Texas Cadet Murderer Diane Zamora and Night Stalker Richard Ramirez can marry while in prison for life, then Clay Chabot can get hitched while on house arrest while his wrongful conviction is being ironed out.

Perhaps Clay's sister sums it up best: "He may have fallen in love, but he didn't do anything wrong."


Dallas Morning News

Monday, November 17, 2008

DA WATCH: Dallas Prosecutor Hid Evidence in 1996 and Only Now are Defendant's Rights Being Respected

Today is a very big day for Antrone Lynelle Johnson -- because today, Mr. Johnson may regain his freedom after serving 12 years of what would have been a life sentence. Antrone Johnson is just 31 years old.

Today is also a very big day for Dallas County prosecutors because once again they are facing charges of prosecutorial misconduct. And this time, it's not about DNA evidence -- it's about withholding evidence that would have helped Mr. Johnson's case.

The District Attorney Hid Evidence That Would Help Johnson's Defense

That's right: a Dallas County district attorney had evidence that tended to exonerate Antrone Johnson back in 1996, and they didn't turn it over to the defense. That D.A. doesn't work for the Dallas County District Attorney's office anymore, and hasn't responded to media queries. (Fancy that.)

It's Been a Recognized Constitutional Violation Since 1963

When a prosecutor does this -- intentionally or accidentally withholds exculpatory evidence -- it's a violation of the defendant's constitutional rights, according to the U.S. Supreme Court. That defendant's conviction must be overturned.

Sadly, these errors have become such a commonplace event across this country that everyone just refers to the situation as a "Brady violation" (named after U.S. v. Brady, the 1963 case where the high court ruled this was a constitutional violation).

What Did the DA Hide, and What Were Johnson's Accused Crimes: the Backstory

Back in the 1990s, Mr. Johnson faced two cases of sexual assault before he turned 18 years old. Here's what the prosecutor didn't turn over to the defense:

1. In one case, the girl told the prosecutor that Mr. Johnson did not rape her.

2. In the other case, the girl gave conflicting statements about whether she had sex with him.

What about DNA testing?

No DNA testing was done (in either matter). That's right: zip DNA testing in two rape cases.

The Girls' Statements Were Kept From the Defense From 1996 to 2008

All this remained on the QT for what's going on 20 years, until earlier this year when Mr. Johnson and his defense attorneys were informed about these two statements of the girls.

Mr. Johnson's defense counsel promptly filed the proper motions for his convictions to be overturned as Brady violations. He should be free, they argue -- and based upon what the girls said, he should never have spent one night in prison for these crimes.

DA's Office Now Agrees With the Defense that Johnson Should Go Free

Now, the Dallas County District Attorney's office (throught Mike Ware, the head of its Conviction Integrity Unit), has filed a document with the court that states the DA's office agrees that Mr. Johnson's life sentence conviction should be overturned.

Meanwhile, Johnson's Already Finished One Sentence and He's Spent A Decade of His Young Life Behind Bars

Mr. Johnson went from being a high school student to being an incarcerated felon serving a life sentence, until hopefully today. And that's just on the first convction. As for the convition on the second sexual assault charge, Mr. Johnson has already served that five-year sentence.

What Happens to the Attorney Who Hid the Evidence? Is the State Bar Going to Do Anything?

The prosecutor who knew about this evidence that would clear him -- and she knew, it was no accident, her own handwritten notes show this -- has not had her identity revealed by the media or the Dallas County District Attorney's Office, and probably faces little if any consequences for her actions.

That's right - it's not very likely that the State Bar of Texas will seek to disbar her (though many are arguing that she should have her law license taken from her because of this bad act).

This, while the Bar has filed its own grievance against an Austin solo criminal defense attorney for his allegedly offensive conduct in a county court at law DUI proceeding.

Comparing The Bar's Disciplinary Actions: Adam Reposa vs. this case's Mystery Prosecutor -- If You Go Against Reposa, Surely You Go Against This DA

If the State Bar of Texas is going to sua sponte institute disciplinary action against this Austin solo, then surely they should have the chutzpah to file an action against Mr. Johnson's prosecutor, who blatantly let a young man go to jail for life when she knew better.

Even the Bar must see that when Austin solo Adam Reposa allegedly "...began whispering in Williams' ear and made a masturbatory gesture when the prosecutor said something about the continued whisperings .... " (quoting the Texas Lawyer) his purported actions are far less offensive to Texas courts and American justice than those of former Dallas prosecutor Madame X, who intentionally let an innocent teen go to jail for life.

Meanwhile, maybe Mr. Johnson's attorneys can think of a civil action to file ....


Dallas Morning News

Grits for Breakfast

Law.Com/Texas Lawyer