Defense attorneys argue Bell County DA’s office should be removed from armed robbery retrial

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Attorneys for George Powell III, whose conviction on armed robbery was tossed out, argue that the Bell County District Attorney’s Office must be removed from a retrial of the case because its prosecutors are guilty of misconduct, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned Powell’s 28-year sentence because a jailhouse informant lied on the stand at Powell’s 2009 trial for a series of robberies of convenience stores in Killeen the year before.

Bell County District Attorney Henry Garza said he plans to retry the case, but Powell’s attorneys, Mike Ware and Walter Reaves, filed a motion in state district court that said prosecutors violated legal standards and professional ethics by allowing the perjured testimony to influence jurors. The motion also says prosecutors failed to reveal a deal made with informant Demetric Smith for leniency on a burglary charge in return for his testimony in the case, the newspaper reported 

“The announced intention … to continue the prosecution of Powell, despite the overwhelming evidence of his innocence, is a vindictive act, taken in order to protect the prosecutors who engaged in the misconduct that resulted in Powell’s original conviction,” the motion said.

Garza has defended the character of prosecutors Paul and Leslie McWilliams, a married couple. He declined to address the allegations when queried by the Statesman, writing that he preferred to respond directly to the judge due to the pending nature of the case.

During the trial, defense attorneys argued that Powell, who is 6-foot-3, was too tall to match descriptions by eyewitnesses, who said the suspect in the five robberies was between 5-foot-5 and 5-foot-8, the newspaper reported.

An expert prosecution witness claimed that 7-Eleven footage showing the robber as less than 6 feet tall was misleading due to a warped camera angle. Nearly seven years later the Texas Forensic Science Commission examined the footage and said the original expert’s claims were “unsupportable.” 

Defense attorneys told the appeals court earlier this year that the forensic commission expert, Grant Fredericks, informed the district attorney’s office in 2015 they “had the wrong man locked up,” but that issue was not addressed when the case was overturned.

Powell, 46, remains in jail, but his attorneys are seeking to have him freed on bond.

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