Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Impending Execution of Jonathan Green

Jonathan Marcus Green sits on death row awaiting execution by the people of Texas on 10 October 2012. I have been unable to find an appellate decision that summarizes the facts of the case. I did find a description on the Pro Death Penalty site. I have reformatted that summary somewhat for readability.
In June 2000, Victor Neal, who was separated from his wife Laura, lived in the small community of Dobbin with his three daughters:
sixteen-year-old Victoria,
fifteen-year-old Jennifer, and
twelve-year-old Christina, the victim.   

The next morning, Victor saw Jennifer and Victoria sleeping on the couch. He also noticed that the door to the girls' bedroom was closed. Assuming Christina was asleep in the bedroom, Victor left for work. When he got home about 3:00 or 4:00 p.m., Jennifer and Victoria told him that Christina had never returned home the night before. Victor asked the girls to go to Maria's house and tell Christina to come home. They found that Christina was not at Maria's house. 

After learning about the argument between Christina and Victoria the night before, Victor concluded that Christina had spent the night at another friend's house, and the family began searching the neighborhood. Along the road near the Neal home, Victoria and Maria found Christina's glasses. The glasses were "smashed and broken," but Victoria testified that Christina had a habit of destroying her glasses when she got mad. Victor stopped looking for Christina around 11:00 or 11:30 p.m. 
The next morning, Victor asked his sister, Tereza Goodwin, to look for Christina while he was at work. Christina had run away before, so Victor told Tereza to report her as a runaway if she could not find her. Later that day, having failed to locate Christina, Tereza reported her missing to a Montgomery County Sheriff's deputy. Local law-enforcement officers then joined the family in searching for Christina. 
On June 26, the FBI joined the search. On that same day, Jennifer and her mother found what appeared to be Christina's panties at the edge of the woods across from the Neal home. Also around this time, Victoria found Christina's bracelet and necklace along a pathway in the woods. The search continued. 
On June 28, investigators spoke with Jonathan Marcus Green, who lived in Dobbin. He said he had no information concerning Christina's disappearance, and that he was either at home or at his neighbor's house on the night she disappeared. He gave the investigators permission to search his home and property, with the condition that he be present. Investigators performed a cursory search of the house and property, but they noticed nothing significant. 
A few days later, investigators again asked Green his whereabouts on the night of Christina's disappearance. Again, Green claimed to have been at home or at his neighbor's house. 
On July 19, Manuel Jimenez, who lived on the property behind Green's, told investigators that Green had an unusually large fire in his burn pile the day after Christina disappeared. A few days later, investigators went to Green's home and asked if they could search his property again, including his burn pile. Green again consented, but insisted that he be present during the search. 
FBI agents Sue Hillard and Mark Young walked around the burn pile with Green. Young pushed a metal probe into the ground to vent the soil and check for any disturbances. When the probe sank three feet into the ground at one location, Young determined that the ground had been disturbed or dug up in that area; he concluded that the disturbed section covered a very large area. He also smelled a distinct odor emanating from the disturbed section of ground which he identified as "some sort of decaying body." The investigation team then began to dig up the disturbed area. Green, who had been cooperative up to that point, became angry and told the officers to get off his property. 
The investigative team returned to Green's property later that night with a search warrant. They discovered that part of the burn pile had been excavated, leaving what appeared to be a shallow grave. They also smelled the "extremely foul, fetid odor" of a "dead body in a decaying state." When investigators asked Green what had happened at the burn pile, Green said that he had dug the pit to show authorities that "there was no dead body in there." 
An officer then arrived with a "cadaver dog," trained to detect human remains. As the dog was walking to the burn pile, it alerted to the house. Upon entering the house, the dog repeatedly went to the side of a recliner that was wedged into a corner of the room. Agent Hillard looked behind the recliner and saw "a foot sticking out of the top of [a blue] bag" and what appeared to be human remains. Before the discovery was announced, Green was overheard to say, "Those Mexicans are setting me up" and "put a body in my house." 
The remains were identified as Christina's. The medical examiner, Dr. Joye Carter, concluded from a ligature mark around Christina's neck that Christina was strangled. She also determined that Christina's arms had been tied behind her back and that Christina had been sexually assaulted before she died. She testified that the body had been wrapped in a blanket and placed inside a blue bag. 
During the course of the autopsy, various materials were recovered from Christina's body. Two black hairs that did not appear to be Christina's were found in her pubic area. Based on the way Christina was positioned within the blanket, Carter determined that the hairs must have been present before her body was wrapped in the blanket, and could not have been transferred there afterward. Mitochondrial-DNA testing excluded 99.7% of the African-American population as a source of the hair. Green, an African-American, could not be excluded from the remaining 0.3%. 
Carter also recovered a black cotton cloth from Christina's mouth. The cloth was positioned in such a way that Carter determined, to a medical certainty, that the cloth did not cause Christina's death. 
Criminalist Bradley Mullins from the Texas Department of Public Safety crime lab testified that many of the fibers recovered from Christina's body matched fiber samples seized from Green's property and residence. On the panties that were recovered near the Neal home five days after Christina had disappeared and nearly a month before her body was found, Mullins found a fiber that had characteristics identical to carpet in Green's residence.
The damning evidence is the discovery of the body on his property: burned, buried, and relocated. The evidence of medical examiner Joye Carter and the fiber analysis of Bradley Mullins is worthless. The fiber analysis is worthless simply because most fiber analysis is speculative. Any testimony from Joy Carter is worthless because she demonstrated in the case of Larry Swearingen that she acted as a pawn of the state.

The argument over whether or not Jonathan Green should be executed has hinged around his mental capacity or incapacity.

I oppose the execution of any person who has a substantial case of actual innocence. In all other cases, I stand mute. In the case of Jonathan Green, I stand mute.

ADDENDUM (11 October 2012):
Jonathan Green was executed by the people of Texas on 10 October 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.