Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Hughes News: Bloody Pristine Shorts

It has been an amazing 36 hours.

The amazement began Sunday night. (I just checked, since I'm losing track of the days. Today is indeed Tuesday.) While searching the transcripts to reinforce a relative minor point, I became confused about the testimony regarding Shandra Charles' shorts. The prosecutor seemed to be showing those shorts to the last-minute fill-in, prosecution-friendly medical examiner (LMFIPFME). The prosecutor was using those shorts as an example of how Shandra's attacker need not necessarily have blood on his clothes.

I didn't understand. I seemed to recall, in fact I was pretty certain, in fact I knew that the serology lab report showed that a pair of white shorts had blood apparent on them. Allow me to refresh your memory of a somewhat earlier post.

There it is. Third column. "1Pr. white shot PANTS Bld is App"

I checked all the photos. Marcell was wearing blue shorts with large white stripes running down the sides. Elsewhere in the documents, Marcell's shorts are described as blue shorts, or blue and white shorts. I've yet to see his shorts described as simply white.

I looked for a photo of Shandra's shorts. I didn't recall seeing one, but I checked everything again. There is no photo of the Shandra's shorts, at least not among the collection of "all" evidence provided in response to Barbara Lunsford's open records request. Officer Hale, the CSU officer responsible for collecting the evidence and taking the photographs, had collected the shorts from West Houston Medical Center, but he had (purportedly) not photographed them.

I searched the transcripts for each occurrence of "short", hoping to capture both "shorts" and "short pants". That increased the false hits, but it did allow me to find where Sgt. Hamilton (of dying declaration fame) testified that the white shorts introduced as Exhibit 10 by the prosecution were indeed those being worn by Shandra Charles when he found her that night. At least, he hedged, they look like them.

I read once again, and again, and again, the transcript segment where the prosecutor showed the white shorts to his friendly ME. The prosecutor was trying to convince the jury that Preston Hughes could have stabbed Shandra without getting any blood on his clothes.
Q. When we say a gushing, bleeding wound, are we talking about something that is shooting out away from the body or is it something that's ozing [sic] out of the body? Is there a difference in your mind? 
A. Well, arterial pressure is considerably higher than veinous [sic] pressure; and usually when an artery is severed, it is followed by spurting of blood and it can go some distance. 
Q. Now, would the angle of the head, given the nature of these wounds, have anything to do with where it spurted? 
A. Certainly. 
Q. For example, if Shandra Charles had been wearing these white shorts at the time she was stabbed, depending on the angle that the blood was going, there may not have been any blood on these shorts, could there? 
A. That is correct. 
Q. Even though she was stabbed right here in the neck and right here in the chest, her shorts could still have no evidence of blood on them? 
A. That is correct. 
Q. Certainly if her shorts could have no evidence of blood, the man who or woman who stabbed her might have had no evidence of blood on them; is that correct? 
A. Yes, sir.
It hit me hard. I slapped my hands over my face, covering my eyes, blocking out everything but the realization that they had switched Shandra's bloody shorts for a pair of pristine shorts. I became agitated. I got up and started pacing like a caged animal, as I am apt to do when I'm agitated. I left the house and walked the quiet dark neighborhood for more than an hour. I couldn't work any more, so I went to bed and, surprisingly, fell asleep quickly. I guess I was tired.

I got up before daybreak and started hunting for something to convince me that I was wrong or that I was right. I found it.

Be aware that Exhibit 10 is Shandra's pair of white shorts and Exhibits 11 and 12 are Shandra's white shoes. Officer Hale collected those items as a group from West Houston Medical Center. From his examination:
Q. Did you also, in addition to tagging several of these items, go to a West Houston hospital and recover some personal effects concerning the female victim in this case? 
A. After I had left the scene there on South Kirkwood, I went to the hospital and recovered some personal property belonging to the No.2 Complainant. 
Q. And among those items which you recovered, did they include State's Exhibits 11 and 12? 
A. Yes. 
Q. And on 11 and 12, there's some handwritten notations in black ink. Did you put those on there? 
A. No, sir, I did not. 
Q. And State's Exhibit No. 10? 
A. These are the shorts that we recovered. 
Q  And these were recovered -- 
A. At the hospital, yes.
I suddenly note the use of the word "we", as in "the shorts that we recovered." Now I want to know the other person who was with Officer Hale when he recovered those shorts. But I digress.

It was Officer Hale's responsibility to tag the evidence so that it could not be later confused, and he clearly testified earlier about tagging evidence. He denied, however, adding the notations to the shoes but did not identify how he otherwise tagged them.

Now back to transcripts. Earlier, while Sgt. Hamilton (of dying declaration fame) was being cross examined, he offered this tidbit.
Q. Officer, with regard to this pair of shorts that's been marked as State's Exhibit 10, did you make any identifying marks on these -- this item of clothing out there that night in the dark? 
A. No, sir, I didn't.
It's not what Hamilton said that is important. What is important is the understanding that comes from that brief exchange. There were no identification markings on the pair of white shorts the State was presenting as its Exhibit 10. Had there been, the prosecution would have asked Hale if he had made the marks found on the shorts, or the defense would have asked Hamilton if he made the marks.

Of the three items collected as a group from West Houston by CSU Officer Hale, who was supposed to tag all the evidence he collected, the shoes have notations written on them but the shorts do not.

That's because the State switched the shorts. They withheld the bloody shorts from the defense and the jury, and they withheld the lab test results that noted the shorts had blood apparent on them. The State then presented a pristine pair of white shorts to the jury as if those shorts were the ones Shandra was wearing that night. They used those pristine white shorts to help convince the jury that Preston Hughes was guilty and that he should die.

And now the State of Texas has come within 23 days of seeing that wish come true. I assure you, however, that Ward Larkin and I intend to see that does not happen.

It has been an amazing 36 hours.

Stay tuned.


Anonymous said...

So the prosecution would risk their whole case on substituting a white pair of shorts from somewhere else like Target just to demonstrate a point?

Sometimes it's easy to comb over every worrd too much and expect that all the people involved would use the correct usage even though for them it was on the fly. The second statement you made demonstrates this more. You said the defense should have said, "Did you make the marks on these shorts?" I would say just saying, "Did you make marks" was appropriate too, though neither qustion really added anything by the defene at the time.

Readig the first exchange, the item in question was the defendents clothing, not the white shorts. So why did he ask, "Could the white shorts not have had blood"? When I read it, he wasn't saying that the shorts didn't have blood, but rather could they have not had blood.


tsj said...

Your explanation makes no sense. If the shorts had blood on them for all to see, including the jury, the State would, by its own argument, be proving that Preston was innocent. The jury would simply see that the shorts did have blood apparent on them, that Preston's clothes did not have blood apparent on them, so Preston must not be the attacker.

I assume you will agree, at least, that if the shorts did not have blood on them, then that would be very, very bad.

So you're left to argue that the shorts had blood on them and the prosecution used them as an example of why the attacker would not have blood on his clothes.

Anonymous said...


I have to agree with Mike. I think this means is it possible that these shorts could be free of blood.

Q. For example, if Shandra Charles had been wearing these white shorts at the time she was stabbed, depending on the angle that the blood was going, there may not have been any blood on these shorts, could there?

I don't see any proof of evidence switching. The explaination of why there are marks on the shoes and not on the shorts is that Officer Hale had a ball point pen that would write on the shoes but not on the cloth shorts. OR the shorts were bagged and the bag was marked.

The prosecution had a confession. I doubt they would go to such a risky move as switching evidence to make the really crazy leap in logic.

Q. Certainly if her shorts could have no evidence of blood, the man who or woman who stabbed her might have had no evidence of blood on them; is that correct?
A. Yes, sir.

Take a career ending risk to prosecute the confessed murderer of a 15 year old.

What if Shandra was already on the ground when she was stabbed? Would this crazy logic still hold true. Because Shandra could be free of blood then the attacker is also free of blood.

I think you are going down the rabbit hole with his argument with all due respect.

Rubber Duck

tsj said...

Rubber Duck,
You realize that the serology lab report shows that Shandra's shorts did indeed have blood apparent on them? See the image I provided.

If you understand that, then you must be arguing that the prosecution showed her bloody shorts to the jury to explain why Preston's clothes had no blood on them.

The defense of course would use those shorts to make just the opposite point. The defense would show the bloody shorts to the jury as proof that the attacker's clothes must have had blood apparent on them. Since Preston's clothes had no blood apparent, Preston cannot be the attacker.

It is ludicrous to argue the prosecution made his argument using a bloody pair of shorts and that the defense failed to counter that argument. It only makes sense if there was no blood on the shorts admitted as Exhibit 10.

In any case, the State will have an opportunity to reply to the habeas. It will be interesting to see their reply to this issue and to the many others raised.

Lynne said...

Wow, great catch! I can't think of any other explanation. Clearly the shorts that the jurors saw had no blood on them. They *should* have based on the serology report.

I wonder if the serology lab photographed the items?

Anonymous said...

The state is going to say that none of this is new evidence and is barred.

tsj said...

The advantage of presenting a Schlup claim of actual innocence is that it acts as a gateway to constitutional flaws that might otherwise be barred. And conversely, constitutional flaws such as withholding information allows introduction of evidence that would otherwise not be considered new.

Both the U.S. Supreme Court and the State of Texas recognize Schlup claims of actual innocence.

tsj said...

With respect to your question, there were no photographs of the Shandra's shorts among the 50 photographs provided to Barbara Lunsford in response to her open records request for "all" evidence associated with the case of Preston Hughes.

What a surprise.

Anonymous said...

Habius page 43. "That is more than six hours six before the HPD admittedly searched Petitioner's apartment." Duplicate six.

I don't think the prosecutor was showing exhibit 10, I think he just said

"Q. For example, if Shandra Charles had been wearing these white shorts at the time she was stabbed, depending on the angle that the blood was going, there may not have been any blood on these shorts, could there? "

He could have just said it or pointed to them on a table. Without seeing new pristine white shorts I don't buy this argument. You also have to assume serology lab report is accurate. The HPD crime lab is known for it's incompetence.

Rubber Duck

Anonymous said...

It's heartbreaking that Preston Hughes will most likely be executed by the state of Texas- despite your diligent & sincere efforts.
It doesn't avenge the horror of the cold, calculated & brutal martial arts execution style murder of two children. A 15 year old girl & a 3 year old boy left to bleed out on a dark weedy trail. Doesn't matter what Shandra was doing- she deserved a better life. And Marcell- what kind of person would stab a 3 year old? 
There's more to the story- otherwise Innocent Project & Amnesty would be on to it.
Based on the selective way you have presented the evidence SJ- as a juror i would be skeptical of you!
I admire your passion & I stand against capital punishment.
I am not convinced of  Preston's innocence at all- like others said you are really grasping at straws by analyzing words & contexts said on the fly- that seems desperate, not confident. 
I wanted to believe Preston is actually innocent & have tried but it's not convincing beyond a reasonable doubt- which is what actual innocence claims have to be unfortunately.
I do have some doubt about Preston's guilt & certainly he shouldn't be executed in a perfect world- but don't know if he deserves to be free- that he is actually innocent. I'm not convinced. 
I am convinced that he shouldn't be murdered though. 

Anonymous said...

Apologies for being a Debbie Downer.
I sincerely applaud you & greatly admire your passion for those who have been dealt with harshly & unfairly, been institutionalized  and have lost all hope. It's touching that you care enough to write this blog to help people who have been written off by the world. 
You are awesome SKJ- Very, very special. 
May God bless you abundantly. 

tsj said...

R. Duck,
I think you still miss the point. If the shorts were indeed the bloody shorts Shandra was wearing, and the prosecutor said that if Shandra had her head turned there would be no blood, the jury would simply conclude that her head must have been turned such that she did get blood on her shorts, and if since there is no blood apparent on defendant's shorts he must not have done it.

I'll tell you what else a jury would talk about in the jury room, when allowed to deliberate. (I state this based on my experience in jury rooms.) The jury would talk about what an idiot the prosecutor was to present Shandra's bloody shorts as an explanation for why there was no blood apparent on the defendant's clothes.

The jury would also ridicule the defense attorney for not using the bloody shorts to prove his client innocent.

So I ask you, if you had been a juror and the prosecutor held up (or pointed to) the victim's bloody shorts as an explanation for why defendant had no blood apparent on his clothes, would you buy that? As a juror, would you buy that argument?

As a prosecutor, would you make that argument?

tsj said...

No need to apologize for being a "Debbie Downer". You might suspect I've been on the receiving end of far harsher criticism.

If you still have confidence that Preston is guilty, I suspect you haven't read much about the case on this blog or in the habeas. There simply is no credible evidence remaining of his guilt. Not the dying declaration, not the knife, not the clothes, not the confessions. All that remains is very troubling evidence of police (and now perhaps prosecutor) misconduct.

Regarding the standard of proof in a Schlup claim of actual innocence, you are wrong. The evidence does not need to prove anything beyond a reasonable doubt. You might want to read up on Schlup v. Delo.

Anonymous said...


I would not make the argument if I were the prosecuter.
I would not buy the argument if the prosecutor was jumping up and down with a lily white pair of shorts either. I think the argument that because the victim has a part of their body not covered in blood proves the bad guy does not have blood on them is laughable. I think the prosecutor knew the witness would go anywhere he lead him. I agree with your point that if he said this while holding a blood soaked pair of shorts is ridiculous. Just like you I don’t think he did that. That’s why I think he was just what-if with the witness. What is he had said this:

"Q. For example, if Shandra Charles had been wearing white shorts at the time she was stabbed, depending on the angle that the blood was going, there may not have been any blood on these shorts, could there? "

Perhaps the defense thought the argument was so lame it didn’t need rebuttal. (I’m guess incompetence though).

My point is that you don’t have any proof of evidence swapping. The fact “that if he held up blood soaked short as evidence of no blood” is not enough. You don’t know where the shorts where when he said the question. You are thinking like an engineer. i.e. it would only make since to say X if you were holding Y. He may have said X because we wasn’t thinking clearly.

R. Duck,

p.s. I’m sure you’ll answer but in the interest of not boring the audience this is my last comment on this topic.

tsj said...

R. Duck,
Then this will be my last response to any comment you have on this post. I hope you will continue to comment on other posts.

The prosecutor did not say "What if she had been wearing white shorts ..."

The prosecutor said "What if she had been wearing THESE white shorts."

What a difference a single word makes.

Anonymous said...

LOL that's why I took it out. I think you are hung up on the word THERE. I grew up in TX and people (esp white males) throw "there" into sentences and it doesn't mean they are holding a physical object. e.g. "These hippies ruining our bar." There may not be any hippies in miles, but they were talking about hippies. It's a local idium thing.

OK this is the last comment.


ps. of course I'll comment on other stuff.

tsj said...

I'm not hung up on the word "THERE". I'm hung up on the "THESE", as in "if she had been wearing THESE shorts." There are shorts introduced in evidence at that point, as State's Exhibit 10. The jury will get all exhibits when they deliberate. THESE shorts are some mystical, hypothetical shorts. They are real, honest to good shorts, presented as Shandra's, that the jury will have in their hands.

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