|San Jacinto News-Times - Local News
Stories Added - October 2010
Copyright 2010 - Polk County Publishing Company
Winfrey released on PR bond - State files motion for rehearing
San Jacinto News- Times
COLDSPRING – Convicted of the murder of a school janitor on evidence of a dog-scent lineup in 2007 and sentenced to 75 years in prison, Richard Lynn Winfrey Sr., of Willow Springs Community, was acquitted of the crime last month and ordered to be set free by a unanimous vote of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Ruling that dog-scent lineup is legally insuffi cient to support Winfrey’s conviction, the Court of Appeals stated in its opinion, “The question essentially presented in this case is whether dog-scent lineup evidence alone can support a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt. And, while this evidence may raise a strong suspicion of guilt, we nevertheless decide that, standing alone, it is insuffi - cient to establish a person’s built beyond a reasonable doubt.” The State of Texas, in turn, fi led a motion for a rehearing. “It’s now up to the Court of Criminal Appeals to determine if they want to rehear the case or not. It’s in their hands,” said interim San Jacinto County Criminal District Attorney Jonathan Petix, shortly after Winfrey was released from the San Jacinto County Jail Monday. “A jury found Winfrey guilty, the Court of Appeals found Winfrey guilty and the Court of Criminal Appeals acquitted him,” Petix said. “It’s in their hands.” Winfrey was released on a personal recognizance bond and placed on probation in 411th Judicial District Judge Robert Hill Trapp’s court until the Court of Appeals rules on whether or not a hearing will be granted. Reading the conditions of his bond, Trapp said Winfrey is to report to the community supervision and correction department once each week as directed by the community supervision offi cer; he is to observe a curfew and remain in his residence between the hours of 8 p.m. and 6 a.m.; he is to abstain from the use of alcoholic beverages of any kind and further abstain from the use of any harmful substances, narcotic drugs or other controlled substances in any form except as prescribed by a licensed physician for legitimate medical purposes; he is not to go upon any premises where alcoholic beverages are served; he is to participate in a program of electronic monitoring and comply with all rules and procedures of the program and pay all costs associated with the program; he is to submit to urinalysis at the direction of the community supervision offi cer for the purpose of determining whether or not he is using or under the infl uence of alcohol, narcotic drugs, marijuana or any other controlled substance and pay all costs of tests; he is to have no contact, either directly or indirectly, or cause any communication with the family of the victim or any member of his/ her household or family, further he is prohibited from going to or within 200 yards of the residence or place of employment witnesses in this case; he is to pay a bond supervision fee of $40 per month to the community supervision and corrections department; and he is to report immediately to the community supervision and corrections department upon his release from jail. Standing before Judge Trapp and after hearing the conditions of his bond, Winfrey turned to give his sister and his son, Richard Winfrey Jr., who were waiting in the courtroom, a wink. Winfrey and both his children, Megan and Richard Jr. were indicted for the 2004 capital murder of Murray Wayne Burr. Megan was convicted of capital murder and conspiracy and her appeal is currently pending. Richard Jr. was acquitted of capital murder and conspiracy. Megan was 16 years of age and Richard Jr. was 17 years of age at the time of Burr’s murder. When asked outside the courtroom Monday about his feelings on being released, Winfrey Sr. said, “My daughter is still in prison. When we get her out we can rejoice.” Winfrey was returned to the San Jacinto County Jail Friday in preparation for his Monday morning court date Evidence found at crime scene Murray Wayne Burr, a janitor in the Coldspring-Oakhurst Consolidated Independent School District and Winfrey’s neighbor, was found murdered in his home in August of 2004. Evidence at trial indicated that he had been stabbed 28 times and had received multiple bluntforce injuries, including a broken right-eye orbit and a broken jaw. There was no evidence of forced entry into his home. The evidence indicated that the victim was dragged from his living room to his bedroom where hid body was found. At that time, family members reported that the only item missing from his home was a Bible. Investigators collected a variety of forensic evidence from the crime scene including a partial bloody fingerprint, a bloody shoe print and several hair samples. Neither the prints nor the hair samples matched Winfrey’s. Investigators were able to obtain a DNA profile from evidence at the crime scene, however, the profile ecluded Winfrey’s and his family members also charged with Burr’s murder. Texas Rangers interviewed Winfrey about two weeks after the murder. Although Winfrey was not considered a suspect at this time, during the interview he stated that he had known the victim, that he had never been in Burr’s house, that he had not seen Burr in four to five years and that he assumed he (Winfrey) was the number one suspect. In July 2006, the San Jacinto County Sheriff’s Department received new information about the Burr murder from Montgomery County Jail inmate David Campbell who knew Winfrey. Campbell testified at Winfrey’s trial that, while he was sharing a cell with Winfrey, he relayed information that he claimed to have heard about the murder; specifically that “some kind of gun and some knife collection” were taken from the Burr residence. To assist in the investigation, Texas Ranger Grover Huff contacted Deputy Keith Pikett, a dog handler with the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s office. Deputy Pikett testified during the August 2007 trial about a “scent lineup” that he conducted nearly three years after the murder. Using his three bloodhounds, Quincy, James Bond and Clue, Pikett obtained scent samples from clothing that Burr was wearing at the time of his death and from six white males, including Winfrey. The dogs were “pre-scented” on the scent samples obtained from Burr’s clothing, then walked a line of paint cans containing the scent samples of the six white males. All three dogs alerted on the can containing Winfrey’s scent sample. Based on the dog-scent lineup, Deputy Pikett concluded that Winfrey’s scent was on Burr’s clothing and testified that an alert only establishes some relationship between the scent and objects and that scent detection does not necessarily indicate person-to-person contact. Pikett also testified that his understanding of the law was that convicting a person solely on a dog scent is illegal. The jury found Winfrey guilty in 2007 of Burr’s murder and sentenced him to 75 years in state prison at Beaumont. Appeals court On direct appeal, Winfrey’s court-appointed trial lawyer argued that evidence was legally and factually insufficient to support a conviction of murder. However, the court of appeals concluded that the evidence was legally and factually sufficient, finding that Deputy Pikett’s canine-scent testimony provided direct evidence placing Winfrey in direct contact with Burr’s clothing, giving the jury a reasonable conclusion that Winfrey was in Burr’s house at the time of the murder. News of the appeal from the appellate court, upholding Winfrey’s conviction, came during the time that Megan’s trial was being held in the San Jacinto County Courthouse. Megan would soon be convicted of capital murder. Her brother, who was the last of the three to be tried and with a new attorney, Baccus-Lobel representing him, was acquitted by jurors who deliberated only 13 minutes. With the appeals decision made and Baccus-Lobel now representing Winfrey, a petition for discretionary review was filed in the Texas Supreme Court addressing whether or not the administration of justice is presented by the court of appeals’ reliance upon a dog scent lineup to sustain the legal sufficiency of the evidence without regard to the inherent limitations of such evidence; an whether or not the administration of justice is also presented by the court of appeals’ failure to properly evaluate the factual sufficiency of the evidence by addressing the inherent limitations of dog scent lineup evidence. Baccus-Lobel said, “The evidence, when viewed in a neutral light, is factually insufficient to support a conviction of murder.” Former San Jacinto County Criminal District Attorney Bill Burnett, who died in May, 2010, argued that the court of appeals applied the proper standards of review for legal and factual sufficiency and that a jury could have reasonably concluded that Winfrey murdered Murray Wayne Burr. During Winfrey’s 2007 trial, Burnett argued, “The state conceded that dog-scent alone is not enough to convict Winfrey.” Deputy Pikett also recognized the limitations of the scent lineup when he testified “You cannot convict solely on the dog’s testimony.” The jury submitted a note asking, “Is it illegal to convict solely on the scent pad evidence?” No eye witnesses put Winfrey at the crime scene and no other evidence collected at the scene tied Winfrey to the crime.