Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Trial of Preston Hughes: Opening Statement - Prosecution

Testimony in the trial of Preston Hughes III began in the morning of May 1, 1989. That would be 6 months after the murders that took the life of 15-year-old Shandra Charles and her 3-year-old cousin Marcell Taylor.

The trial took place in the 174th District Court of Harris County, Texas. Judge George H. Godwin presided. 

The 174th District Court is now located on the 19th floor of 1201 Franklin, Houston, TX 77022. I don't know if it was at the same location in May of 1989 when Preston Hughes stood trial. For whatever it may be worth, the current building is presented in the two images below. It is the tallest of the buildings shown.

The State and people of Texas were represented by Chuck Noll, Assistant District Attorney of Harris County. Preston Hughes was represented by attorneys Ellis McCullough and Al Thomas. Mr. McCullough conducted almost all of the questioning for the defense.

As I present the trial of Preston Hughes, I will not normally present the entirety of a witness's testimony. I will generally summarize and analyze the testimony. In each case, however, I will refer you to the appropriate link at my Skeptical Juror Docs site for the complete testimony.  You can, for example, now find Mr. Noll's opening statement, and the surrounding court discussion, here.

The State's opening statement is so brief, however, that I present it in its entirety, without comment.

We now begin the trial of Preston Hughes III.

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. On September 26th, 1988, about 10:30 or 11:00 o'clock at night, in a field between the Fuddrucker's on Kirkwood on the west side of town at an apartment complex, a 15-year-old girl and her 3-year-old cousin were attacked and stabbed to death. I think the evidence will show you the little girl was sexually assaulted in addition to being stabbed. An employee found the little girl. 
I think the evidence will show you the path the children were on is frequently used by tenants of the apartment complex as they go back and forth from their apartment complex to stores located on the other side of Kirkwood. The children were found; a police officer, as he cradled Shandra Charles in his arms, asked her what had happened --
Objection, Your Honor, going to be hearsay conversation. I intend to have it excluded in the trial.
That will be overruled.
Testimony will show you that Sergeant Hamilton of the west side station will tell you that child told him, "He tried to rape me. Sergeant Hamilton said, "Who?" She said, "Preston tried to rape me." 
I expect the evidence to show you that Houston Police sergeants from the homicide division investigated the case, came out to the scene, talked to Sergeant Hamilton, and just using plain old fashioned footwork, went to the apartments that were right next door to the vacant field, asked the people there, "Do you have anybody named Preston that lives here?" 
Evidence will show you they learned that Preston Hughes, III, lived in the Lakehurst apartments, not even 200 feet from the spot where that dead baby was found. The evidence is going to show you that they asked Preston -- at this point they didn't have enough to think he did it or know he did it. So, they asked him to come downtown and answer some questions. 
The evidence is going to show you that Preston Hughes went with these officers downtown and voluntarily gave a statement. He gave them two. First statement, he admitted stabbing the little girl. Didn't say anything about the sexual assault, didn't say anything about the little boy. Then the same morning, later that morning, the evidence is going to show you again a second statement, where he admits that he sexually assaulted that little girl and then stabbed her to death and then stabbed that 3-year-old child to death, and then went back to his apartment to get the scores on the Monday night football game. 
I think the evidence and the facts in this case are then going to show you that this confession does match up with the known physical facts. 
After you hear the evidence in this case, there is going to be absolutely no doubt at all in your mind as to the guilt of Preston Hughes, III, for the murder of Shandra Charles and her 3-year-old cousin, Marcell Taylor.

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