We took a look at the overall atmosphere of sex crime conviction in Texas, and at the District Attorney, now we’re going to look at the boots on the ground. There were two prosecutors in Coy’s case, Denise Oncken and Lisa Andrews. Andrews left the D.A.’s office at some point after the trial and went to work for Chip Lewis, Coy’s defense lawyer.
This an excerpt from an article published in 2009, via the Houston Chronicle.
Lawyers for Glen Kahlden on Thursday accused prosecutor Denise Oncken of hiding evidence that the child at the center of the case originally said a black man assaulted her. Kahlden is white. “The state has buried evidence,” Kahlden’s lawyer Bill Stradley said in court. “In addition to hiding evidence from the defense, she’s lying to us.”
What’s particularly interesting about this case is that the other half of Kahlden’s defense team that discovered the withheld evidence was Lisa Andrews who, more recently, was the driving force behind the recent investigation of the Harris County Probation Department:
Through evidence and witnesses, Andrews detailed everything from the probation department's data-entry errors to mislabeling of urinalysis samples to lack of audits and oversight. A supervisor testified it wasn't uncommon to find 3-month-old urine samples stuffed in the back of the fridge, waiting to be sent out like they were freshly collected that day
So she’s working for positive change in the system, which is very encouraging. From another article published last year, on the same subject: “"You want to know that there is integrity in the evidence," Andrews said”.
Indeed; it makes me wonder what in God’s name was going on at this point in the trial transcript, posted up here.
Chip: I have no intent to ask her anything. I thought we cleared this up yesterday when the Court asked the State - - the State called me and unequivocally told me she had seen “Scary Movie”.
D.A. Andrews: That’s what she said to us.
Chip: Well, what are we doing here?
D.A. Andrews: Well, after we talked to her, sent her back to school, we talked to mom.
Cliffs Notes version: Chip, the defense lawyer, believed that the child, Jane Doe, may have gotten the idea for her accusation from the film Scary Movie. He wants to show it to the jury, so they can see that there’s a scene where Shorty goes eyebrows deep on one of the female characters, and then pops back up. He’s only down there for a second or two, which is pretty much what Jane Doe said Coy did.
All of the following happened without the jury present:
Instead of bringing the girl into court, Chip asks the prosecutors to ask her if she’s seen the movie. The prosecutors get back to him that afternoon or evening with the girls answer: “Yes.” The judge agrees that, when someone’s asked “Did you see this movie?” and they reply “Yes”, that means they’ve seen the whole movie. It’s common sense, he says.
That night, the prosecutors review the movie, and the next day they inform the judge that she only saw the first few minutes of it. The judge, reversing his earlier position, backs the prosecution and decides to keep the jury from seeing the film.
They bring the child into court, and she swears that she only saw the first few minutes. She describes the whole scenario pretty clearly: where she was, who she with, and exactly what was said when they turned Scary Movie off. She is dismissed from the courtroom.
After extensive legal wrangling, Chip manages to twist the judge's arm into a test; have her watch the movie right now, and she can show exactly how much she’s actually seen. The following is from the transcript, after she’s sat and watched some of it:
Jane Doe: This isn’t the one I seen at my house.
Judge: That’s not the one you saw at your house? Have you ever seen this?
Jane Doe: Yes.
Judge: Did you see the whole thing?
Jane Doe: Yes.
Judge: So, that’s a problem. Okay.
“It’s a problem”, he says. Yes, it certainly was, but not such a big problem that they couldn’t ‘fix’ it with new and different testimony from Mom. So while the jury saw cleaned up, complimentary evidence, that’s not what Lisa Andrews saw.
She saw the child say that yes, she’d seen the whole movie.
Then she saw the child’s mother say that no, she’d only seen the beginning.
Then she saw the child testify that no, she’d only seen the beginning.
Then she saw the child tell the judge that yes, she’d seen the whole movie.
Then, in front of the jury, she saw the child’s mother testify that hey, whaddya know, yes, she’d seen the whole movie, but she covered her eyes for all the nasty parts. If you ever saw Scary Movie, you know that's about 95% of the film.
Was there any integrity all in this testimonial evidence? Righting the wrongs of others is admirable and inspiring, but does it mean anything without addressing her own past?
If this seems at all wrong to you, if it makes you wonder, “How the hell did they get away with that?”, then start here http://www.spmaftermath.com/2012/05/spm-responds-part-8a.html to read Coy’s five-part letter on this subject. The whole story is much worse.