The judge who presided over the July trial of Greg Kelley has recused himself from considering Kelley’s motion for a new trial.
District Judge Billy Ray Stubblefield sent a letter Monday to the chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court asking that another judge consider the motion for a new trial.
“The interests of justice would be served by having another judge consider the Defendant’s Motion for New Trial and the State’s response thereto with fresh eyes and ears,” said the letter.
The letter provided no further explanation for Stubblefield’s decision to recuse himself. A judge has until Sept. 29 to decide whether to grant a hearing on the motion.
I’m not sure if this means anything or not. It seems it would make sense to have a different judge from the trial judge rule on the request for a new trial. With a new judge if the ruling goes against Kelley it would seem to bolster the case against him. This is definitely something to keep an eye on.
The new attorney for Greg Kelley, the Leander man found guilty of super aggravated sexual assault of a child, has filed the necessary paperwork to request a new trial.
Attorney Keith Hampton filed the motion arguing the state did not conduct a competent investigation and that one of the jurors was not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt.
“This case is a perfect blueprint for mishandling child accusations and producing wrongful convictions of innocent people,” Hampton writes in the motion, ” Only this court can set things right by ordering a new trial.”
The document goes on to say the child’s accusations were not thoroughly investigated to establish whether or not they are reliable. And, whether or not Greg Kelley was a likely suspect.
The motion calls the investigation into question saying the system got it wrong in the case of Michael Morton. Morton was wrongfully convicted in Williamson County for his wife’s murder and spent 25 years in prison before DNA tests freed him.
“Can we tolerate another Michael Morton?” Kelley’s attorney asks.
Williamson County District Attorney Jana Duty disputed the Morton argument in a news conference Wednesday.
I”‘m very familiar with the Michael Morton case, as it was a big part of my campaign. I cannot help but find irony in the fact that that one of the key pieces of evidence – other than the bandana – that freed Michael Morton was the testimony of his 3-and-a-half-year-old son,” Duty said.
“All of the testimony of that 3 1/2 year old boy was credible and helped free his father. So now, the irony to say that these two four-year-old little boys shouldn’t be trusted because they’re four is absurd. We tell our children to tell us when something’s happening to them. They did. And now we say – well, we can’t trust that,” she continued.
At this point there’s really no parallel to the Morton case. But because of that case Williamson County has a reputation. In the end we need justice and fairness to prevail.
The aftermath of the Greg Kelley seems a little odd. For one thing, there’s usually not a post conviction rally for someone who is convicted of super aggravated sexual assault of a 4 year old. The case had some twists and turns and, it seems, could have gone either way.
From what I’ve been able to piece together it appears Kelley was living with another family, that ran an in home day care, because his parents had some medical issues. It was during that time the assault occurred. It was initially two children who made a claim of assault, with one later recanting. This article form the HCN is a good summary of what happened at the trial.
Still, the lack of evidence and the recanting of one boy’s testimony had Kelley’s family and friends feeling hopeful as the trial progressed. Defense attorney Patricia Cummings pointed out holes in the investigation performed by the Cedar Park Police Department, including a failure to interrogate Kelley when he was indicted, and detectives’ failure to seek out or interview other possible witnesses.
On the stand, detective Christopher Dailey admitted that he didn’t talk to any other possible witnesses, admitted to deleting emails about the case in violation of department policy, and said he took it upon himself to interview the second boy despite the training he received on investigating child sex abuse claims which teaches that detectives should not interview a child.
Cummings painted a picture of a detective who had already made up his mind about Kelley’s guilt and simply investigated the case in a way to confirm the detective’s own conclusions.
“As a result you believed you did not need to investigate the possibility of something else having happened?” asked Cummings.
“Correct,” said Dailey.
“Isn’t the policy in your department not to destroy documents produced in an investigation?” asked Cummings.
“Correct,” said Dailey.
Kelley’s defense presented an expert witness, Austin psychologist Stephen Thorne, who testified that children who are interviewed multiple times are much more likely to make false accusations in sexual abuse cases.
“There’s a reason why we want to get an interview done one time and put it on video so a child doesn’t have to do it anymore,” Thorne said.
Both of the boys who alleged that Kelley had abused them were interviewed multiple times, including the separate interview by Det. Dailey, which Dailey admitted to conducting on his own primarily because the second boy had backed away from his earlier claims when interviewed by trained counselors at the Williamson County Children’s Advocacy Center. Dailey, who had already testified that believed Kelley had abused the boys, wanted to talk to the second boy a separate time to see if he couldn’t get the boy to admit to abuse.
“You thought the first interviewer had not established a proper rapport?” Cummings asked him, and Dailey responded, “Correct.”
Dailey testified that he walked into the room as soon as the boy’s interview with counselors was over to question the child himself.
“When you do it you actually have a gun on your hip?” Cummings asked.
“Yes,” said Dailey.
“How many seconds do you think you spent building rapport with him before you started asking him about allegations against Greg?”said Cummings.
“I didn’t attempt to build rapport,” said Dailey.
In closing arguments last Tuesday, Cummings accused the Cedar Park Police Department of doing a lax job of investigating the case, ‘contaminating’ the testimony by improperly interviewing the accusers and having inappropriate conversations with the boys’ parents and then deleting email evidence.
Prosecutor Geoffrey Puryear said, however, that the defense’s case is based on the boys’ parents lying to the court and “planting ideas in their kids’ heads.”
After 11 hours of deliberation, including a brief question to the judge, jurors returned a guilty verdict on both counts of sexual assault involving the first child.
Faced with the possibility of life in prison, Kelley agreed to a plea bargain that would allow him to serve his two 25-year sentences concurrently.
Puryear characterized Kelley’s accepting the plea as proof of his guilt, and said prosecutors were satisfied with the outcome of the trial
However, before the trial commenced, Kelley turned down an offer from the District Attorney’s office that would have had him plead guilty to a lesser charge, and serve no jail time. Kelley said that rather than plead guilty to a crime he didn’t commit, he would go to trial and place his fate in the hands of a jury.
That jury wound up convicting him.
An interview with Kelley’s defense attorney, (see below), sheds some light on what the jury may have been thinking. Cummings spoke with one juror after the trial. The juror said in essence they were leaning for acquittal when the trial began and evolved to conviction. They threw everything out,except for the child’s testimony, and couldn’t get past the fact that the defense gave them no alternative scenario for who may have abused the child.
This AAS article has a good write up of the prosecutions case.
There’s an eerie familiarity with how vehement Kelley and Cummings are in his innocence and how certain the prosecutors are in his guilt – especially without any evidence. This is a tough case for all involved, and it’s hard to see a way for this case to be reviewed or reopened without new evidence coming to light.
I hope and pray the jury got this right. Because the alternative is unthinkable. That an innocent young man took his chances with a Williamson County jury, lost, and will spend 25 year in jail for a crime he did not commit, while the person who molested this child is still out there. After what the Williamson County criminal justice system went through over the last several years, it’s only natural that a conviction like this might be scrutinized more then usual.
Elected officials will receive a pay increase for the 2014–15 fiscal year following a vote from the Williamson County Commissioners Court on July 1.
Commissioners voted for a 3 percent increase for county judge, commissioners, treasurer, sheriff and constables; a 4 percent increase for county clerk, district clerk, tax assessor and justices of the peace; and a $10,000 increase for county attorney.
Several officials spoke out in favor of increasing county employee salaries.
Policymakers, nonprofit representatives and local leaders gathered April 22 for the Community Impact Summit that addressed how to meet the needs of Williamson County residents during a time of swift population growth.
Speakers at the event in Round Rock said social- and human-service agencies must work together to address the needs of their current and future neighbors.
“In the not-too-distant future, we’re likely to be twice the size or larger [in population] than Travis County,” Cedar Park City Councilman Don Tracy said. “And it’s also no secret … that those who are moving to Williamson County—not all of them are high wage-earners. In fact, life will be tough for many of our neighbors in the future.”
Brian Kelsey, principal at the Austin-based Civic Analytics research firm, told more than 200 summit attendees that Williamson County draws newcomers chiefly from other counties in Texas and not out-of-state.
“The county is growing by about 16,000 people per year, and you’re gaining about 30 residents every day,” Kelsey said. “Like it or not, Williamson County is starting to resemble Travis County in a lot of important ways.”
One difference between the two counties though is that most Williamson County newcomers earn less than existing county residents. Many of the new high-tech jobholders who are moving to Travis County earn a median annual household income of $240,000, he said.
“Living-wage job growth [is needed]—I cannot emphasize this enough,” Kelsey said. “This by far has to be the No. 1 economic development priority, in this county, in Travis County and every other county that’s experiencing the rapid rise in cost of living.”
Most working adults in Williamson County do not have college degrees and will have difficulty finding local jobs that pay at least $17 an hour—the living wage for one adult with one child, he said.
Such underemployment contributes to the growing nationwide problem of poverty in suburban areas, said Elizabeth Kneebone, a fellow in the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution and co-author of “Confronting Suburban Poverty in America.” Williamson County will need higher-paying jobs and must improve residents’ access to public transportation, workforce training and nonprofit resources, she said.
LeAnn Powers, chief professional officer for the United Way of Williamson County, which co-sponsored the event, said a half-million new neighbors with transportation and job needs should be a concern for all residents.
“We cannot neglect this reality,” Powers said. [Emphasis added]
The need for everyone to work together to solve these issues was stressed over and over. And the need for transportation and infrastructure were mentioned as well.
Councilmen Tracy’s statement that “life will be tough for many of our neighbors in the future”was amazingly stark. Especially with all the rosy talk we hear from our elected officials in Texas about how great things are here. It’s like he’s resigned to the fact that there’s going to be a significant part of the population in Williamson County that will be, what’s called these days, working poor.
While a living wage needs to be part of the solution, just the mention of it is probably enough to make most, if no all, elected officials in Williamson County scream Socialism or worse. Education wasn’t mentioned in the article, but that certainly needs to be a priority too.
With more people comes more needs and responsibilities. We must have the leadership in place that can handle it. Williamson County, from what was said at this summit, appears to be a place where those who can’t afford to live in Austin and Travis County will reside. It means the affluent from out of state and around Texas will move there. While those who can’t afford it, because of a lack of earning capacity, will move to Williamson County.
Raising wages, especially in a time when rising inequality is a major issue throughout the nation, should be an easy part of the solution. Large majorities, across party lines, support raising the minimum wage. At the very least to $10.10, but likely higher. And should be a no-brainer for anyone running for office.
To try and remedy this situation local governments, employers, social and human service agencies, and the people will need to work together for a solution. It will also take assistance from the federal and state government as well. But in Texas, (see Medicaid Expansion), the state is likely to be of little assistance. Hopefully a summit like this will bring much needed awareness to these issues.
Presentations and materials from the summit are available here.
The 36-member congressional ballot is just as imbalanced, with three runoffs (all Republican) next month and only one obviously competitive November race, in the 23rd Congressional District, where freshman Democrat Pete Gallego of Alpine is the incumbent. Democrats are starting to talk hopefully about the chances for Wesley Craig Reed, the challenger to U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi. That district, CD-27, was drawn to favor Republicans, however, and part of Reed’s challenge will be to overcome that advantage in a midterm election year with an unpopular Democratic president in office.
That’s the problem for challengers with these maps: Barring the unexpected — scandal, death, resignations that come too late for candidates to be replaced — most races will be over by the end of next month, if they aren’t over already.
Those are most of the caveats, along with the usual one: It’s early, and things will change. All that said, here is an early list of House races to watch in November, mostly because they are in the handful of swing districts that remain on the map.
HD-105: Republican state Rep. Linda Harper-Brown of Irving lost her primary to former Rep. Rodney Anderson of Grand Prairie in March. He’ll face Libertarian W. Carl Spiller and the winner of a Democratic runoff in a district where both major parties think a win is possible.
HD-107: Rep. Kenneth Sheets, R-Dallas, is being challenged by Democrat Carol Donovan.
HD-113: Rep. Cindy Burkett, R-Sunnyvale, is being challenged by Democrat Milton Whitley.
HD-43: Rep. J.M. Lozano, R-Kingsville, will face Democrat Kim Gonzalez.
HD-23: Democratic Rep. Craig Eiland of Galveston isn’t seeking another term, leaving this open seat to either Republican Wayne Faircloth or Democrat Susan Criss.
HD-117: Democratic Rep. Philip Cortez of San Antonio will face Republican Rick Galindo.
HD-144: Rep. Mary Ann Perez, D-Houston, is being challenged by Republican Gilbert Peña.
HD-41: Rep. Bobby Guerra, D-Mission, will face Elijah Israel Casas in this marginally Democratic district.
HD-149: Rep. Hubert Vo, D-Houston, is being challenged by Republican Al Hoang in a district that Vo has managed to defend — narrowly — several times.
Keeping score? That list includes four seats currently held by Republicans that the Democrats would like to take away, and five Democratic seats that the Republicans hope to grab. At the extremes, that would mean the Texas House would convene with 91 to 100 Republicans and 50 to 59 Democrats in January 2015 — about where it is today.
That’s what Ramsey had to say, here’s and excerpt from Kuff.
I’ll stipulate that once the runoffs are settled, so too are the vast majority of legislative races. There’s always the possibility of a surprise, as the story notes, but barring anything unforeseen, all the action this year will be statewide and in the counties. That’s just not what the pattern has been over the past decade, but it’s a testament to the power of the 2011 redistricting. I suspect it’s one part access to more accurate data and more powerful computers, and one part more rapid demographic change in various districts last decade, but right now these maps have the feel of permanence, barring court-mandated changes, until 2021.
That’s a pretty sad reality if this is what our “democracy” has become. And it most certainly has. The end of the primary season is pretty much the end of the election. And thus far very few Texans have taken the opportunity to vote.
It’s sad locally because in Williamson County we have two great candidates for Texas House in Chris Osborn in HD-52 and John Bucy in HD-136. After 2010 the GOP made HD-52, where Democrat Diana Maldonado won in 2008, more GOP-friendly. And it was hoped that HD-136 might be a friendly district for Democrats. They both ran in the 55R – 42D range. One interesting element is that both races have a Libertarian, that will likely garner 4-6% of the vote. (There’s a Democrat, Steve Wyman, running in HD-20, but that district is drawn to heavily favor the GOP).
Obama ran better then the state and county average in 2012, in both HD-52 and HD-136, but not by much. It will be interesting to see how the candidates, the WCDP, BGTX and the Davis campaign can move the needle in these districts. It would certainly be nice to see the TDP put some money into these two races in Williamson County.
Of course it would be great to win these races in 2014. The numbers need to start reflecting what many on the left think – that Texas is a non-voting state. The most important thing is to see the gap between Democrats and Republicans shrink in many of these races. This election will be one part of a years-long struggle to get Democrats back in office in Williamson County.
In what they categorized as a legal and ethical matter rather than a political one, a group of about 25 Williamson County Democratic Party loyalists gathered on the east steps of the county courthouse Friday to condemn Williamson County Commissioners for their hiring practices in the Robert Lloyd constable application case.
“These questions violated all our freedoms by an obvious effort to create government that enforces a predetermined religion or political belief in Williamson County,” said Tom Mowdy, a Democrat candidate for the Precinct 4 seat currently occupied by Republican Ron Morrison.
“These questions were obviously deliberate and purposeful acts designed to eliminate job applicants who expressed religious and political beliefs that the Commissioners did not share,” Mowdy added.
“We are calling on the Commissioners Court of Williamson County to cease and desist their illegal hiring practices and their unethical treatment of job applicants,” rally organizers said in a press release provided to the Taylor Press. The group said they are also asking for commissioners to “apologize for discriminatory hiring practices.”
Protesters said they were demanding that Williamson County settle out of court, which they said will be much less costly than letting the case proceed through the courts — particularly since two other individuals have now joined the suit.
“Williamson County citizens have been saddled with the highest per capita debt in Texas, and this case will cause our citizens to pay even more for their freedom,” Mowdy told supporters.
Mike Custer, another veteran, who is running for Williamson County Judge as a Democrat, told supporters that monetary compensation is not a primary objective in the lawsuit.
“This is not about money, it’s about doing the right thing,” said Custer. “The plaintiffs are asking for commissioners to receive human resources training (and) to have the county’s human resource director present in hiring interviews. It’s about protecting everyone’s civil rights”, Custer said. He added compensation for the plaintiffs’ legal fees is also being sought.
But that didn’t stop Williamson County commissioners from asking those very questions when they were interviewing candidates for the Precinct 3 constable vacancy. And now, one of those candidates is suing them for violating his constitutional rights.
This has been one of the few responses to this lawsuit from an elected official.
When asked about the interview questions in May, Williamson County Precinct 3 Commissioner Valerie Covey said those rules don’t apply in this situation.
“In general, this is a process that is different than a normal employment interview because it is an elected position,” Covey said.
“We wanted to make sure the candidate could not only do the job as constable, but also handle the rigor of political life,” Covey said.
This is another instance of the commissioners in Williamson County going too far because they have no check on their power, one party government. There was no need for commissioners to do this. They can easily tell whether someone is a partisan by their primary voting history, which is public record. The main issue for a job like this should be whether someone has the qualifications for the job. Unless, of course, all they care about is whether someone is an absolute party hack.
The biggest loser besides David Dewhurst in yesterday’s primary was the recent UT/TT poll. They had Dewhurst 37%, Patricke 31%…and the actual results were Dewhurst 28% and Patrick 41%. If you go down the line, Democratic race for US Senate, and the GOP races for AG and Comptroller were equally as bad for UT/TT poll.
The race for governor is set, it’s official, it will be Democrat Wendy Davis taking on Republican Greg Abbott.
Many times in runoffs the person that came in second wins. But in Dewhurst’s case this is three races in a row getting below 50% in a GOP primary. That’s has to say something about how GOP voters feel about Dewhurst. There is no more important race moving forward for Democrats then Leticia Van De Putte‘s race for Lt. Governor of Texas. Texas Rush, aka Dan Patrick, is not something Texas needs. PDiddie had the to say about The Dew’s troubles.
Dan Patrick led nearly every urban county. He steamrolled Dewhurst and will finish him off in May. For comparison’s sake, Dewhurst led Ted Cruz 45-34 in 2012′s US Senate primary, and Cruz won the runoff with 56-43. Dewhurst actually lost almost two percentage points in the runoff.
The worst enws of the election is that it will be a former GOP donor millionaire (David Alameel) vs. a LaRouchie (Kesha Robers) in the US Senate runoff on the Democratic side. Alameel, no matter his faults, is the better choice.
In Williamson County there were no big stories or surprises. On the Democratic side Karen Carter won reelection as County Chair of the Williamson County Democratic Party. On the GOP side Precinct 4 County Commissioner Ron Morrison won his primary and the right to face Democrat Tom Mowdy in November. And Kevin Stofle will stay on as Constable in Precinct 3.
The Tribune has a round up and Texas Senate and House primaries. The tow big take-aways from the GOP primaries are that moderates can no longer win in the Texas GOP primary, and that it’s impossible to be too right wing in the GOP primary.
Here’s James Morre’s take on yesterday, Texas Political Junkie. His thoughts on Texas Rush are particularly worth reading.
Patrick, a former sportscaster at a Houston TV station where I spent a decade as a reporter, said last night after his victory that he is “never surprised by the power of God.” It wasn’t quite God who went to the polls, though; it was the Tea Party voters who had been analyzed out of relevance by the national media. Those voters like someone sitting in the state’s most powerful political office that wants creationism taught in textbooks and thinks the idea of exceptions in abortion laws for rape and incest are absurd. When Patrick takes up the gavel in the state senate, his priorities will have little to do with economics and will be much about social issues.
There will legislation trying to undo everything ever accomplished by President Obama, the Ten Commandments will be on the backs of school textbooks, there will be entire chapters on our 6000 year-old planet and how dinosaurs and humans roamed the earth together, women will have to go to Mississippi to find modern parenting and birth control services, and the Texas-Mexico border will look about as inviting as the Korean demilitarized zone by the time Patrick finishes pushing his agenda through the Texas senate.
And Patrick almost certainly be handed the gavel, if historic voting trends are not upturned.