Back woods and back pocket Justice: when judges, prosecutors and jurors act in collusion
Terry Allan Watkins vs. the State of Texas – a lesson in the Kerry Max Cook exoneration.
Good Ol’ Boys always pat each other on the back when they get away with murder. They have been doing it for decades. Almost identical examples are Smith County’s Kerry Max Cook case revisited and Cherokee County’s Terry Watkins murder trial, circa 1978 and 1992 respectively. Both cases had investigators lying under oath, the fabrication of criminal intent, a locally tainted jury, and eager assistant prosecutors lying to the appeals courts year after year to cover the tracks of the real perpetrators working in their stead. Both cases had innocent men sitting in prison while administrative judges worked out deals for their release and to keep lying prosecutors in office. It is recently come to light that Kerry Max Cook evidence that would have exonerated him in the 70’s was destroyed by prosecutors; the alleged murder weapon was kept as souvenir.
(Cook courtesy KLTV) .
As an agreement to his release, Cook had to consent to enter a No-Contest plea with the Smith County district court to gain his freedom after being framed by local law enforcement. Cook, a resident of Jacksonville, TX, was originally convicted in 1978 for the murder of a Tyler woman and sentenced to death. He was retried twice and in 1994 convicted a second time until it was reversed and remanded because prosecutorial misconduct. The district attorney’s office hid evidence and fabricated fingerprint forensics to gain a conviction. (Kerry Max Cook, Appellant v. The State of Texas, Appellee Court of Criminal Appeals 940 S.W.2d 623 (1996))
Terry Alan Watkins of Nacogdoches had his original capital murder conviction remanded to the 2nd Judicial District and also had to agree to time served in order to get out of prison. Watkins spent 5 years of a life sentence in TDCJ until his conviction was overturned. He was accused of “murder for remuneration” after the wife of the deceased cashed in a $650K life insurance policy. (Watkins v. State 883 S.W.2d 377 (1994) Terry Alan Watkins, Appellant, v.The STATE of Texas, Appellee.No. 12-93-00291-CR. Court of Appeals of Texas, Tyler. August 22, 1994)
Both of these cases show the extent of the “taint of prosecutors’ misconduct,” but State attorneys alone can’t do it without a willing East Texas judge and jury. How were these innocent men convicted? By a corrupted pool of local and non-resident jurors who were coached by prosecutors to lie in order to be seated.
The 1994 Smith County grand jury that re-indicted Kerry Max Cook was headed by Judge Cynthia Kent’s law partner and former Smith County prosecutor. Terry Watkin’s 1992 Cherokee County jury was wined and dined by the State prosecutor and his investigator throughout the trial. In fact, the Cherokee County district attorney accepted money from the deceased’s family to hire an outside “investigator.”
Kerry Max Cook and his attorneys are pushing to move his latest DNA hearing out of Smith County. That request has currently been denied.
Now, Cook is seeking additional DNA testing to legally clear his name, but he argues he doesn’t stand a fighting chance if his case remains in Smith County, where the courts have found that prosecutors committed misconduct in the past. (Source: The Texas Tribune, May 15, 2012)
Law firms that have business in rural East Texas, and namely Rusk, TX, should do themselves a favor and do a thorough background check on every juror called upon. They are facing an illegally rigged jury system and complacent courthouse. Judges, opposing parties, and prosecutors are all bedfellows of the jury and witnesses. Even when prosecutors are caught red-handed tampering with evidence, they are given free reign to call as many tainted juries as it takes to get what they want. The jury system is a weapon for a rogue criminal justice system. Don’t expect any better when the judges are intimately involved with State witnesses.
Jury Tampering 101
East Texas juries are stacked by the district and county courts with absolutely zero oversight or vetting by defense attorneys. These people are coached to perjure themselves in order to be impaneled. It is a back water con game orchestrated in complete solidarity with the higher courts. It has been going on since the day these people took office. Like their corrupt neighbors surrounding them, Cherokee County,TX juries are for sale. A small favor or some Glamour Shots of your wife are all that is needed.
Don’t have a voter ID and live somewhere else? Are your in-laws being sued in Cherokee County and you want to get the SOB filing the complaint? Do you live two counties over and just want to hang out on with the judges and sit on a jury for kicks? Even though you vote three or four times in another county? Do you want to cash in on a Slip-and-Fall claim on a big city employer and pretend you don’t know the Plaintiff?
Do you hide your married name on your juror questionnaire and deliberately misspell your true name, in hopes of sneaking on to a Cherokee County trial?
Are you a professional East Texas juror, roaming back and forth in between visits to your probation officer and the Food Stamp line?
Can Cherokee County prosecutors win criminal cases without the help of the County Clerk’s office calling on people from out of the county to sit on their juries? Are people from out of the county illegally summoned to sit on Cherokee County juries? Can the Cherokee County district attorney rely on homegrown residents to vote a verdict in his favor; or instead rely on illegally pooled people from other counties to sit on the jury? These are the questions local media outlets should be asking, if in fact they weren’t part of the problem.
How long should we hold our breath before we ever read about it in the local classified section?
Attention all out of town law firms! Back woods courthouse seats ineligible non-resident jurors in open violation of Texas law.
When the court systems are used to cover up and frame someone for the homicides their public servant employees commit, they are essentially ordering the murder of innocent people. The injustices in the Cook and Watkins cases alone are staggering and should shed light on exactly the type of criminal justice operating in the region. Judges with conflicts of interest, aided and abetted by corrupt law enforcement and prosecutors, are free to condemn innocent people to death. They can accept money and wind up on the Court of Appeals, or hide evidence and join the Attorney General’s office. Not one official has ever been held accountable for the homegrown corrupt-to-the-core judicial apparatus.
Nine women who were terrorized and raped by Jacksonville, TX police officer Larry Pugh lived to file a civil tort against him and the city. Other victims went missing and their remains discovered in neighboring counties. After previous complaints by thirty different women, only one resulted in his prosecution and incarceration.
The body of Terri Renee Troublefield Reyes, 38, of Athens, was found by hunters on or near a Texas Forest Service road recently. She had been missing since May 21, 2006.
The sheriff’s department would not confirm what condition the body was in when it was found.
Reyes was a witness in a rape investigation involving former Jacksonville Police Department officer [Larry] Pugh. She and another woman, Shunte Coleman, disappeared while he was out on bond from federal court.
Coleman remains missing.
(Source: Daily Progress June 15, 2007 “Missing woman’s body said found”)