Sunday, May 11, 2008

     

 

 

 

Mays’ attorney begins his defense
By Michael V. Hannigan
Monitor Staff Writer

ATHENS–The defense took center stage Thursday morning as the Randall Wayne Mays capital murder trial entered its fourth day in 392nd District Judge Carter Tarrance’s court.
While the day’s testimony was not as emotional as on previous days, the jury learned Mays had one brother who had been executed for capital murder, another brother who was shot and killed by police while he was committing a crime, and a third brother who died of an overdose.
Mays is accused of shooting and killing Henderson County Sheriff’s Department officers Paul Habelt, 63, from Eustace, and Tony Ogburn, 61, of Log Cabin. The two officers were killed while responding to a domestic disturbance call at Mays’ rural Payne Springs ranch May 17, 2007.
If convicted of murdering a peace officer in the line of duty, Mays faces life in prison or the death penalty. Mays has pled not guilty.
Thursday, before the jury was seated, defense attorney Bobby Mims told Tarrance his plans for the day – first calling Brian Ruthven, director of the East Texas Police Academy at Kilgore College, and then Brownsboro Police Chief Ron Shields.
Mims told the court the two men would be testifying about a Crisis Intervention course offered by the police academy and taught by Shields.
Mims said he would also recall Deputy Billy Jack Valentine, the officer in charge at the time of the shooting, to finish his cross examination.
In the afternoon, Mims said he planned to bring a pair of psychiatric professionals to testify.
Mims said if everything went “economically,” he thought the defense would rest Friday afternoon.
With Ruthven and Shields on Thursday, Mims established that Valentine, Deputy Duane Saunders and Deputy Eric Ward had attended and passed a Crisis Intervention course less than two weeks before the shooting. All three deputies were at the scene of the shooting.
The Crisis Intervention course is for “dealing with someone in serious mental crisis,” Shields, who taught the class, explained.
Shields added when dealing with someone in that situation, “we need to be kinder, less aggressive.”
Statistics show “someone in serious mental crisis is four times more likely to be killed by police,” Shields testified. “Basically it (the training) is a way to safely handle the person without getting the person or officer hurt.”
Mims asked Shields if the precepts of the Crisis Intervention course could apply to a domestic violence situation.
“If the person has a serious mental problem, yes,” Shields replied.
After talking about ways to “de-escalate” a crisis situation by allowing the suspect to talk, and through active listening, Mims asked what the course taught officers about dealing with someone armed with a gun.
“This course is not about dealing with someone with a gun,” Shields said. “Whenever weapons are involved, this course pretty much goes out the window.”
When asked what an officer would be trained to do if he got a suspect separated from his weapon, Shields said, “If you have him separated from his firearms, you use all means necessary to keep him separated from his firearms.”
With the testimony getting near the specifics of the shooting, Mims asked Shields if he had read any of the offense reports from that day.
Shields broke down.
“I haven’t had the heart to look at any of that,” he sobbed.
Shields was allowed to step down and Valentine took his place. Mims took the deputy through his previous testimony, establishing that Valentine and Mays had an altercation in 1999 while Valentine was a member of the Kaufman County Sheriff’s Office.
That incident led to Mays being charged with assault on a peace officer, a charge later dropped.
Despite their previous encounter, Valentine described Mays as “normal, super calm” when police arrived the day of the shooting.
For the third time in the four-day trial, jurors got to watch and hear the video recording of the incident from the dashboard camera of Valentine’s car. While very little but an empty dirt road can be seen, dialogue between officers and Mays could be heard clearly.
The tape and testimony established that Valentine and Mays were talking calmly right up until Valentine started to read Mays his rights prior to questioning him about shooting his gun across the road.
At that time Mays turned and ran for the house. Valentine tried to grab him, but Mays pulled out a knife and slashed at the deputy. When Mays made it to the house where the guns were, officers took cover.
Valentine then tried to talk Mays out of the house. After calling for a negotiator and advising his superiors of the situation, Valentine, along with Ogburn and Deputy Kevin Harris, managed to talk Mays out of his home.
While talking, however, Mays saw Valentine trying to get between him and the home, so he turned and ran for the house again.
Valentine tried to stop him, but tripped on a garden hose. With Mays back in the house, with the guns again, Valentine was left trapped against a wall between the home’s windows.
It wasn’t long after that the shooting began.
Thursday, the tape was stopped before the actual shooting started, something that brought sobs from several in the courtroom earlier in the trial.
Mims took Valentine step-by-step through the events leading up to the shooting, including when Mays shouted from inside his home, “Y’all can kill me. Y’all killed three of my brothers.”
When Mims asked Valentine what that meant, Valentine said he later found out through Internet research and through other deputies that Mays’ brothers had been executed for murder, shot and killed during a crime, and died of an overdose.
“I don’t really know the details,” he said.
A search of Texas Department of Criminal Justice records on-line actually turned up two men with the last name Mays being executed in Texas: Noble D. Mays and Rex Mays. It was not known at presstime if Randall Mays was related to either of them.
Later, Mims asked Valentine if Mays was acting reasonably the day of the shooting.
“It’s reasonable to not want to go to jail,” Valentine said. “It’s not reasonable to shoot police.”
After Miims passed the witness, District Attorney Donna Bennett asked the deputy, now that he had thought about the incident for a year, if he could have done anything differently that day.
“The only thing I could have changed is if I’d shot earlier,” he said.
With that, the court recessed for lunch with expectations of hearing from the psychiatrists in the afternoon. That testimony came after The Monitor’s deadline.
Before that testimony, however, Tarrance was expected to rule on a motion in limine (a prohibition against certain evidence) regarding mental illness.
The defense would like to look into that issue, while the prosecution has objected to mental illness being brought up in the guilt/innocence portion of the trial.
Before breaking for lunch, again with the jury out of the courtroom, Tarrance told attorneys he had “wrestled with (the motion) for days.” He said he wanted to give them an idea what he was thinking so they could plan their arguments.
After discussing two cases which were cited in the motion, and their use as a “justification” or defense, he said, “I just don’t know whether those apply in this case.”
He added, “Obviously, the court does not want to make a reversible error.”


Court pool photo/Charles Stiff
Randall Wayne Mays

New Kemp High School breaks ground
By Barbara Gartman
Monitor Staff Writer

KEMP–Regardless of the dreary skies and threatening weather, “It’s a beautiful day,” Dr. Peter Running said Wednesday at the official groundbreaking for the new Kemp High School.
Dignitaries from Kaufman County, the city of Kemp and nearby communities were sent invitations to the event.
Students and staff from both the high school and junior high, along with parents watched the impressive ceremony inaugurating construction of the long-awaited facility.
Speakers included Running, Kemp Independent School District board president Keith Foisey and assistant superintendent Sam Swierc, who welcomed those in attendance.
Other speakers were seventh grader Nicole Cox, representing the first class of students to go the full four years and graduate from the new high school, and high school sophomore Sharda Bettis, representing the first class to graduate from the new facility.
“It’s easy to have a vision. It’s hard to push it to a new reality,” Foisey said, as he credited Running with seeing the $23 million bond election to its fruition back in May, 2007.
The voters approved the bond package “overwhelmingly,” Foisey said, and thanked them.
Voters approved the bond package by almost a two-to-one margin, 358-121.
Running thanked school board members for their unpaid long hours put toward getting the high school approved.
“They were in the right place for the right reasons,” Running said.
Running also commended the staff and teachers for their work.
“Our kids (in extra curricular activities) are going to state, our Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) scores are going up. KISD is success under construction,” Running said.
The Kemp High School band opened the ceremony with “The Star Spangled Banner,” and then played several lively numbers, including the school fight song.
Cox said she and her classmates were the first kindergarten class to go through the Primary School when it was new, and are now looking forward to their time in the new high school.
Both girls, Cox and Bettis, thanked those involved for the future building.


Monitor Photo/Barbara Gartman
School officials, staff and students join in the ceremonial groundbreaking for
the new Kemp High School Wednesday. Pictured lifting the golden shovels are
(from left) incoming high school principal Kurt Schumacher, architect Randy
Fromberg, construction manager at risk Blair Williams, KHS sophomore Sharda
Bettis, seventh-grader Nicole Cox, assistant superintendent Sam Swierc,
superintendent Dr. Peter Running, board president Keith Foisey, board vice
president Steve Greenhaw, secretary Don Jedlicka, and trustees Scott Clearman,
Jim Collinsworth, Curtis Donovan and Harvey McFaul.

HC Jail addition to get cableTV
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

ATHENS–The Henderson County Commissioners agreed to adding 30 cable TV outlets to the addition to the jail Tuesday.
The county provides cable TV services to inmates in lieu of printed newspapers and periodicals, which can become a safety and clutter issue, Lt. B.E. Kinder explained.
“Inmates can make ‘shanks’ out of paper that can harm others,” he said.
Suddenlink will be installing the outlets for $5,000.
Commissioners approved the recommendation to subscribe to the basic extended package of 76 channels, versus basic service of 26 channels, to insure against civil liability.
The wider range of channels provides more news outlets, as well as cultural and religious programing, Kinder said.
The subscription rate is $248 per month, he said.
On a related issue, commissioners approved a one-year contract with Infinity Networks to provide telephone hardware to the jail addition, at its own expense, estimated at $60,000-$70,000.
The contract goes out to bid after that, as Infinity Networks will have held the contract for five years.
Should the contract be awarded to some other company, Infinity Networks will retrieve their equipment and the bid winner will replace it with their own, commissioners heard.
In other business, commissioners:
• increased the mileage reimbursement rate for county employees traveling on county business from 44 cents per mile to 50.5 cents per mile starting May 5. The new rate was adopted by the state of Texas in January.
• increased the reimbursement amount to funeral homes for pauper burial from $200 to $500. The $200 reimbursement was set by commissioners in 1976.
• decided to rebid trash-hauling services. Current trash hauler Total Sanitation has increased its rates 13 percent and added other fees for receptacle repairs.
• approved budget amendments as presented.
• paid bills totaling $638,908.92.

 


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