Murder, Up Close and Personal–The Trial, Part One

Bob was charged and indicted and transferred back to the Dallas County jail in short order after his confession and the results of the dental expert analysis that his teeth marks matched those on the severed breasts of Teeney.  This is where yours truly came on the scene.    I had been practicing for three years at the time and was partners with a friend from law school.  We did everything, criminal law, divorces, corporate work, personal injury, you name it.  We were young and hungry.  I had handled a couple of robbery cases and armed robbery and a few DWI’s.  Bob was charged with capital murder which of course meant the death penalty.  A judge who had appointed us for those who couldn’t afford lawyers was assigned the case and gave us the assignment.  We were paid the whopping sum of 4o.oo an hour for actual courtroom work.  Even in those dark ages that was pitifully small fees.  We knew we would take a big loss on the case.   The investigation and preparation was on our own ticket.   We interviewed Bob and he denied the murder and said the confession was coerced out of him by abuse.

We could tell talking with him that he was “unusual” to say the least.  We considered an insanity plea but after looking over the State’s evaluation and our own assessment it was obvious we wouldn’t be able to prove insanity by the legal standard.  We could prove he was as kook but that is not the same thing.  We checked into the man who had found the body.  Recall this was the second time he had found a murder victim.  Other than highly suspicious coincidence we couldn’t find anything that connected dots back to this guy and he did have some alibi support for a good portion of that tragic weekend.  The preparation took months.  During this time I was invited to join another firm and did but felt obliged to help my former partner and friend with this case.  It would have been unfair to dump it all on him.  My new partner even agreed to help out even though he wouldn’t be paid and he had never tried a criminal case.  So we were the three blind mice but we were lawyers and were willing to work hard.

My new partner and I went to the apartment and looked it over; we checked out the clubs where Teeney had been that Friday night; we went over in detail the teeth mark testimony anticipated from the State’s expert and even explored the field where her body was found and painstakingly and late a night replicated the journey that Bob had allegedly made according to his confession.  We wanted to do a good job and sure didn’t want that death penalty onus hanging over our heads for lack of any effort.   While examining the field where the body and body parts was found late one summer afternoon with my new partner I heard a “swish-swosh” and then felt a sharp pang on my ankle and looked down to see a snake slithering away into the tall grass.  It was a big snake not a garden snake.  It looked grayish brownish to me.  I yelped and jumped three feet high.  Scared the hell out of me and the bite was smarting.  I looked at my ankle and sure enough there were fang marks and even blood dripping down from the wounds.  My partner asked if I could manage a few more minutes to finish looking over the sight.  I said Hell No, get me to a hospital to check this out.  I did admire his dedication but gee whiz you don’t get a snake bite every day.  The first hospital couldn’t treat me because they were not set up for emergency snake bites.  We had to go to two more before there was someone who could treat it and give a prognosis.  They all kept wanting to know exactly what kind of snake it was.  That thing was gone in a flash and even though we did look for it we never found it.  My ankle hurt and was swollen for a couple of days but other than that I was no worse for wear for the long haul.

To explain to a jury about why our guy was in the area allegedly looking for a drug deal we felt it was really important that we prove up that he was in fact an informer for the local authorities and the FBI.  His being in the vicinity of the crime would be suspicious as would his constantly being in the Sheriff’s office and the local p0lice department talking about the crime and offering his assistance.  We couldn’t  prove he was insane but we hoped to show he was weird and that talking with cops and playing cops and robbers and being a small time informer was what he was.  Otherwise his behavior would seem even more suspicious to the jury than it was.  We already had enough of a problem fighting the confession but we hoped to taint it with the obvious lies it contained about the other murders he said he committed even when he couldn’t have because he was in jail or out of State.

We routinely asked the FBI to provide a witness to prove he had worked with them.  They flat out refused.  We finally arranged a meeting with the agent in charge of the Dallas office.  It was a terrible experience.  He wouldn’t confirm that Bob had worked with them even though the Sheriff knew that he had.  He wouldn’t deny it either and made it known that the FBI wouldn’t comment one way or the other.   It was a policy to keep informers secret.  The fact that Bob was on trial for his life didn’t make any difference to them.  They made it known they would fight in court and threatened us, personally.  It was vague but pointed.  We would “regret” taking on the FBI in the matter we were told in no uncertain terms.  I was furious.  It was a small thing for them and the guy was on trial in a capital case.  I was determined to subpoena them and make them testify on the stand in front of the court and jury.  They could oppose all they wanted was our attitude.  If they lied then that was their problem.  Fortunately as the trial date approached the State’s witnesses said they would testify that he was in fact and informer with the FBI and that testimony would be unchallenged so the jury would have to accept it as true.  We never knew but always suspected that the FBI asked the Sheriff’s men to do that so they would avoid having to take an active role in the trial.  The trial conclusion next.

Life my mom always says, be sure you live until you die.  Think about it.


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