Sunday, January 13, 2008
Griffin murder trial opens in
By Barbara Gartman
Monitor Staff Writer
KAUFMAN–A large screen on the wall of the 422nd District Court room, presided over by Judge B. Michael Chitty, displayed the gruesome scene of the body of Cheri Lynn Duggan, 38.
Daniel Joseph Griffin, 35 at the time of the crime, is on trial for Duggan’s murder and the rape of one of her teenaged daughters.
The crime took place at the Duggan home, about six miles east of Kaufman.
He was arrested in Houston Oct. 12, 2006, just three days after the murder.
Wednesday, Griffin was a picture of a clean-cut young man. He was dressed in a light gray, soft tweed sport coat, a gold and brown tie and dark trousers. With close cut hair and glasses, he could have easily been mistaken for a young professional.
But during the opening statements, District Attorney Rick Harrison described Griffin as a “ticking time bomb” that needed to be put away.
Duggan was the mother of his 19-year-old girlfriend, Christina Harrison, to whom he said the act was in self-defense.
Two other daughters were 15 and 17 at the time of the stabbing. Griffin was later charged with raping the 15-year-old.
Defense attorney Dennis Patman Jones questioned Dallas medical examiner Dr. Reed Quinton at length, discussing the possibility of self-defense.
Of the 11 wounds on Duggan’s body, there were seven stab wounds and two cuts on the back of her neck.
“They were not all vertical, some parallel,” Jones remarked.
He then asked if the doctor could tell which was first and last and if any one in particular could be the cause of death.
“I couldn’t tell where it (the stabbing) started. It was consistent with someone from behind,” Quinton stated.
There were no defense wounds on her hands, Quinton confirmed.
Harrison showed the jury photos taken at the scene by Sgt. Tim Moore, a criminal investigator with the Kaufman County Sheriff’s Department.
Among the several photos included was a dramatic scene of the blood pooled on the floor and into the carpet.
The possibility of defensive wounds came up over a photo of Griffin’s hands which had small cuts on them.
Jones asked Quinton if the wounds could be defensive.
“They could be,” he replied.
Harrison then brought out the knife reported to be the murder weapon.
The small knife was similar to a paring knife with no hilt.
The knife would have been difficult to hold, Harrison explained and brought up the possibility that was how Griffin got his cuts.
Prosecution witness Sgt. Jolie Stewart, criminal investigator with the Sheriff’s Department, was called in connection with the interview in Houston when Duggan was arrested.
She and Texas Ranger Chris Clark from the Dallas office recorded the interview, just after he was arrested at about 3:40 p.m.
Stewart testified Christina Harrison (not related to the D.A.) had already been interviewed.
The digital recording presented a much different Griffin than the one present in the coutroom. He sat at a table, his hands cuffed behind his back. He was wearing baggy shorts, no shirt, no glasses, and his head was down most of the time. Griffin was read his rights.
He was then asked to explain his side of the story.
“Christina said it was self-defense,” Clark said on the video.
The recording was paused, and Stewart answered questions concerning interview methods.
“When we interview somebody, we use a friendly approach to try and keep them talking,” she said.
The video was then resumed, and Griffin was heard to say, “I don’t want to give any type of statement without an attorney.”
However, he kept answering their questions.
The video was blurry and the sound was poor and Griffin spoke in low tones as he was told what happened.
Several times, Harrison had to stop the video and explain what was said.
Griffin complained his in-laws didn’t like him because of the age difference between himself and Christina.
Griffin recounted that he and Christina were smoking crack in a tent beside the house during the night of Oct. 8.
Duggan challenged him as to what he was doing. He said he answered “Sleeping,” and she called him a liar.
“An argument started and everything exploded. She swung at me to slap me,” Griffin said
Clark asked him if after the fight had he known what he had done.
“Did you know she was lying in there hurt pretty bad?” Clark asked.
“I could imagine,” he replied.
“Did you know she was dead?” Clark asked.
“I kind of figured,” Griffin quietly replied.
Clark asked him if they (Christina and he) had taken anything from the house.
The answer was approximately $18, several checks, a debit card and a cell phone.
Griffin said he had kept the phone away from Christina, had told her the blood on his clothes was from the dog, and kept repeating she was “not a part of anything.”
“I told her that her mom was tied up; okay, but not hurt,” Griffin said.
Speaking again about Duggan, “She flew off the handle. Up to that time, I never put a hand on a woman.
“It’s my fault. Christina had no part in what went on in that bedroom,” Griffin repeated several times.
Shelly Johnson, parole officer out of Tyler, said Griffin was released from jail on March 8, 2006, and assigned to her office.
He was transferred to Van Zandt County in April and was due to be released from parole Oct. 22, 2006. He was still on parole when the crime occurred. He was not living in the approved area or an approved residence.
Jones asked for the jury’s removal and then requested an obstructed verdict. He said the accounts of retaliation was not proven beyond a reasonable doubt (concerning Griffin acting out of anger toward the victim).
Chitty denied the request.
Jones then asked the court to rule the capital murder charge unconstitutional.
Jones reasoned the terms “lost it” and “flew off the handle” could represent sudden passion.
“If the jury finds for sudden passion and reduces the charges from capital to second degree murder, they can hold a sentencing phase,” Jones explained.
He said the capital murder charge does not allow the jury to rule on sudden passion.
Harrison disagreed, and the motion was denied.
Jones then said Griffin didn’t have the mental capacity, due to a cocaine delirium, to decide knowingly or intentionally other options in the argument with Duggan.
Harrison said Jones was trying to negate the defense with a back-door approach to an insanity defense by using the voluntary alcohol- or drug-use statutes.
Jones said he wasn’t, but Chitty stepped in.
“A reference to cocaine delirium is either insanity or voluntary cocaine use and should be used in a punishment phase only, not a guilt or innocence phase,” Chitty said.
Chitty instructed both attorneys to research and bring all they could on the matter to the trial Thursday.
The defense called two character witnesses, Wanda Sewell, a friend of his mother, Penny Griffin and her sister, Delores Carlyle.
Sewell testified she had been his mother’s friend for 50 years and had known Daniel Griffin all his life.
“I never saw him angry. He went to church with me three or four times,” Sewell said.
Carlyle, said she currently lives with Penny in Seagoville.
“I have always found him to be very personable, a joy to be around,” she said.
Jones informed the judge and the prosecution that Griffin has asked to testify in his own defense.
The judge cautioned Griffin and explained he had the right to change his mind up to the last minute.
Later, a tearful Penny told this reporter she was sorry and disappointed at what her son had done, but he was taking responsibility for his actions.
“I have nothing but the utmost respect for him for doing that. I am still very proud of him,” she said.
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