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2014-08-28

Mistrial declared in 2013 Pompa case

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Prefaced by the disclaimer: "We are not making this up," the Courier first reported on a "crime spree" spanning Bandera County from Bear Creek Road to Tarpley in its Oct. 13, 2013 edition.
On Tuesday, August 19, 198th District Judge Rex Emerson declared a mistrial in the state's first two cases - burglary of a habitation and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon - against the alleged perpetrator, Richard Ray Pompa II.
Apparently investigators with the Bandera County Sheriff's Office had failed to turn over an audiotape to District Attorney Scott Monroe, according to Pompa's defense attorney Jerry Phillips of Kerrville. Because he didn't possess the supplemental report, Monroe was unable to release the tape to Phillips during the pre-trial discovery.
This oversight violated the Michael Morton Act, which Gov. Rick Perry had signed into law in January to help prevent wrongful convictions in Texas.
BCSO Chief Deputy Matt King indicated that the tape contained a "lead that ultimately didn't pan out." He described the information on the audiotape as an attempt to track down a second party that proved fruitless. "Not turning over the tape was an error on our part, but it was a complex case that evolved over several days and included a lot of components," King said.
He also noted that the Morton Act now requires law enforcement officers to turn over to the prosecuting attorneys all notes made regarding the case in question, "... including those jotted down on Post-It notes and the backs of envelopes."
Morton Act explained
The Michael Morton Act requires prosecutors to allow defense attorneys access to copies of law enforcement reports and recorded witness statements. It also mandates that prosecutors disclose any exculpatory or mitigating material in their possession that could clear the defendant or reduce his punishment.
In addition, the act does not restrict attorneys from sharing more discovery material than the minimum required. Under this law, the state must err on the side of full disclosure to defense attorneys.
In 1987, Michael Morton, 60, was wrongfully convicted in Williamson County, Texas of murdering his wife in 1986. Before being exonerated by DNA evidence, Morton spent nearly 25 years in prison. When the DNA evidence was released, it not only supported Morton's claim of innocence, it also led investigators to the real perpetrator of the crime, Mark Alan Norwood.
Morton was released from prison on October 4, 2011, and the prosecutor was convicted of contempt of court for withholding evidence after the judge had ordered its release to the defense.
On March 27, 2013, Norwood was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for murdering Christine Morton. He also remains a suspect in the 1988 murder of an Austin woman.
More repercussions
Subsequently, Morton's original prosecutor, Ken Anderson, was accused of failing to provide defense lawyers with exculpatory evidence that indicated another man might have killed Morton's wife. Anderson became the subject of a "court of inquiry," a special court that investigates allegations of misconduct by elected officials in Texas.
Eventually, Anderson resigned as the district judge of Williamson County. He was also sentenced to 10 days in county jail, fined $500 and ordered to perform 500 hours of community service. In exchange for having charges of evidence tampering dropped, Anderson also agreed to give up his license to practice law.
However, as fallout from the plea agreement, an independent review of every case prosecuted by Anderson was conducted.
Suspect indicted
On Jan. 14, a Bandera County Grand Jury indicted Pompa for attempting to inflict imminent bodily injury on David Coke Turner III by striking Turner's vehicle several times in the rear with his 2011 Chevrolet pickup truck. He was also indicted for burglary of a residence.
Ironically, prior to the mistrial declaration, Pompa had pled guilty to both counts after the District Attorney Scott Monroe had dismissed the deadly weapon finding.
Monroe said his office would be ready for another trial in September, but felt a more likely start date would be October or November. "Our intentions are to have a run at Mr. Pompa again," he said in an interview.
Outstanding charges still pending against Pompa include two counts of possession of a firearm by a felon, two counts of arson, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle and a second burglary of a habitation.
Back story
The saga allegedly began last October with a couple of burglaries, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle or maybe two, a high speed chase, two burnt vehicles and several foot chases. Tracking dogs from the Texas Department of Corrections in Hondo were employed in a nearly 12-hour search that was initiated the morning of Sept. 30, 2013.
The melee began in the 2200 block of South Goat Ridge, just off Bear Creek Road in Pipe Creek. When Turner confronted three suspects who appeared to be burglarizing a residence, one pulled a gun on him.
For self-protection, Turner jumped into his vehicle and sped off. The suspects returned to their pickup truck and gave chase, slamming into the lead car several times.
Turner eventually turned off the road and the scofflaws disappeared down the travelway. In short order, however, a report of a vehicle on fire in the 700 block of Bear Creek Road came through emergency dispatch.
"The suspects' truck apparently became disabled and they set fire to it before fleeing through the woods," King reported at the time. However, the suspects left their swag and an alleged accomplice behind.
Pompa, one of the male suspects, of San Antonio, purportedly hotfooted it over to the 900 block of Privilege Creek Road where he discovered a vehicle with keys still in it. With a fresh vehicle at his alleged disposal, the chase was on. According to reports at the time, Pompa traveled north on Highway 16 before turning off on FM 470 toward Tarpley. After turning left onto FM 462 toward Hondo, Pompa apparently lost control of his vehicle and drove off Ross Road into a dry creek bed.
Back story continued
When law enforcement officers arrived on the scene, they found the vehicle engulfed in flames. "We thought he had torched the second vehicle; however, no evidence of accelerants were found," King said. "The vehicle was a total loss."
Officers immediately searched the area assisted by tracking dogs from the correctional facility in Hondo. The search was called off at 10 pm.
However, area residents remained vigilant - especially after a house was reportedly burglarized that night. At 5 am, a neighbor called 9-1-1 to report seeing a suspicious person on a flashlight. A deputy, dispatched to the area, observed a man riding a bicycle. Turning his patrol vehicle around, the deputy shouted, "Stop," to which Pompa supposedly replied, "No," and abandoned the bicycle, taking off on foot with the deputy hot on his tail. Firearms were found near the abandoned two-wheeler.
A little later, the suspect was discovered riding on a Gator-type all terrain vehicle on a ranch in the area. A cadre of law enforcement converged on the scene. After Pompa apparently bailed off the ATV, officers apprehended him at 9:30 am, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013 in a wooded area after a short foot chase.
Denied & granted
Fast forwarding, Judge Emerson denied a defense request to suppress statements Pompa made to BCSO Investigators David McGilvray and Allen Tucker.
However, he granted the Phillips' Motion in Limine, which means the prosecution cannot refer to any of Pompa's prior convictions or alleged violations of the law in front of the jury except in the context of a specific case.
(Sources: www.dallasnews.com/opinion/editorials/20140103-editorial-benefits-of-the-michael-morton-act.ece, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Morton_(Criminal_Justice) and http://governor.state.tx.us/news/press-release/18521/)