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San Jacinto News Times - Local News

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Second Winfrey acquitted of 2004 murder

 

COLDSPRING – Although a local woman has been acquitted of a life sentence for capital murder by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, San Jacinto County Criminal District Attorney Richard Countiss said he will file a motion for a rehearing. Countiss said he will ask the Court of Criminal Appeals to take another look at the evidence in the case against Megan Winfrey who is serving a life sentence in prison and an additional 45 years for capital murder and conspiracy to commit capital murder. Megan was acquitted by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals of both counts Wednesday, Feb. 27. Megan was convicted by a San Jacinto County jury in 2007 when she was 20 years old. She was arrested along with her father and brother for the August 2004 murder of Coldspring-Oakhurst High School janitor Murray Wayne Burr. It was alleged that Megan stabbed and killed Burr with the help of her brother and her father. Two of the three family members were convicted. Richard Winfrey Jr., the son, was found not guilty after only 13 minutes of jury deliberation. The father, Richard Winfrey Sr. and Megan were both found guilty in 2007. During their three separate trials the prosecution called in Deputy Keith Pikett, a selftrained canine handler from nearby Fort Bend County. Pikett brought in his well-known bloodhounds. They sniffed the clothes Burr wore when he was murdered. Then they smelled samples from Megan Winfrey, her brother and other potential suspects. The dogs "alerted" to the smells of the Winfreys, indicating their scent profiles matched what was on Burr's clothes. The senior Winfrey was the first in the case to face trial and found guilty, but his conviction was overturned in 2010. The Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that alone or as primary evidence, scent-discrimination lineups are insufficient support for a conviction. Testimony during the trials revealed that Burr was stabbed 28 times, mostly in the face and neck. His jaw was also broken on both sides and his right eye socket was broken by blunt force. Burr was then dragged into his bedroom where his throat was slit. Commenting on Megan's acquittal, Shirley Baccus-Lobel, her attorney, said she is very relieved for Megan and her family. "There was no physical evidence, no forensic evidence, and there was tons of it, that connected Megan, her father or her brother to the crime scene," said Lobel. The state's strongest evidence was a dog-scent lineup that supposedly connected Megan to the scene of the crime when the dog "alerted" to the victim's shirt, according to Lobel. Countiss inherited the Winfrey case when he took office in 2011. At that time, he said the evidence used to convict Megan Winfrey was stronger than the case against her father and brother because the scent lineup was used in conjunction with "her own words and conduct," as he argued in a brief to the court. "Certain things she said, certain things she did, all point to her being a participant in the killing," Countiss said in 2011. In his 2011 brief, Countiss points to Winfrey's alleged statement to a boyfriend calling Burr "an easy lick." He said Winfrey also shaved her pubic hair when she learned that law enforcement officers wanted a sample, and that she "tried to establish an alibi as soon as she knew law enforcement officers had arrested her brother." The dog scent lineup evidence was found to be insufficient to convict by the Court of Appeals. The court's decision reads: "In reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence to support the convictions, the court of appeals set aside the dogscent lineup evidence because such evidence was insufficient to establish appellant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. "We do observe that the dog-scent lineup evidence, with the dog alerting to the appellant's scent on Burr's clothing, simply indicates that appellant had some contact with Burr's clothing, although circumstances and degree of the contact cannot be determined." The judges voted 7-2 in their decision to acquit Winfrey on the two charges. "To convict a person based on a dog's identification or line-up is utterly preposterous. Megan was only 16 when this murder occurred. She was tried as an adult. She has been in jail since February 2007," Lobel said. "I am so relieved she has been acquitted. It's been such a long ordeal and I have felt so badly for her (Megan), who as a teenager, was pulled from her young child and sent to prison. While incarcerated her grandmother died who helped to raise her. I am hoping that she can get the help she needs to get her through the transition she will face," Lobel said. Concerning the motion for rehearing that will be filed by Countiss, Lobel said, "It will just keep her in prison longer when she should not be in there anyway. I think his (Countiss) time would be better spent looking for the people who committed that crime."

 

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