Judge issues acquittal in Center detective case

Kevin Windham
Kevin Windham
John R. Smith
John R. Smith

CENTER, TX (KTRE) - A Shelby County district judge has issued a directed verdict of acquittal in the case of a Center Police detective.

One of the state's key witnesses, Shelby County District Attorney's Investigator Kevin Windham, pleaded the Fifth Amendment on the stand, prompting the state to ask for a mistrial, which Judge Joe Bob Golden denied.

The defense then asked for a directed verdict of acquittal, which Golden granted.

Center Police Detective Joey Duane Haley will not be tried again on the charge. Haley said he's moving on.

"Go back to work and you know start arresting criminals and hope that the prosecution goes after them as hard as they did me with the same enthusiasm," Haley said.

The third day of the trial began Wednesday with the Shelby County District Attorney Lynda K. Russell back on the stand.

Russell admitted in cross-examination by John Heath Jr., the attorney for Joey Duane Haley, the person actually on trial, that she may have violated the law.

"It's a violation of the law if anyone talks about grand jury proceedings, so you might have violated the law and Kevin might have violated the law?" Heath asked.

"We might have, yes," Russell said.

In a morning recess, Haley's attorneys talked with Russell's investigator, Kevin Windham.

"I didn't want to let Kevin fall into a trap because he doesn't know that his boss [Russell] just did that and I felt like it was the right thing to do because he's in law enforcement too and I don't think he's a bad guy," Heath said. "I think he was doing everything he was told to do in this case under the direction of his boss."

"Without the testimony of Mr. Windham, I could simply not go forward and so I filed a motion for a mistrial because of certain occurrences this morning between the defense council and Mr. Windham wherein Mr. Windham felt that he was threatened," Prosecuting Attorney John R. Smith said.

Haley is charged with perjury in connection to a grand jury testimony in July 2010 which eventually resulted in the indictment of a deputy accused of assaulting another deputy.

Heath asked for a mistrial twice Wednesday morning and seemed to offend Russell.

"I don't mind answering questions, but I don't like being screamed at," Russell told Golden.

"I didn't take that as screaming," Golden said. "...Don't raise your voice."

Heath said he would do his best.

Some of the testimony revolved around whether Texas Rangers were investigating the case, which Haley said they were not during the grand jury testimony.

"And so what some people think is and investigation, others might not?" Heath asked.

"That's correct," Russell said.

Russell also said that the victim in the fight, Kevin Gratehouse, said he was told by rangers they were not going to investigate.

The district attorney went on to say she never knew the incomplete report from the Texas Rangers that Haley had been sent intially even existed. In that preliminary report, the Ranger had noted that they were attempting to locate a surveillance video of the fighting deputies, not that they had it in their posession.

Through questioning, the defense said according to the later report the district attorney's office received, it looks like Haley would have known the Rangers were able to obtain the surveillance video, but due to the agency's overwriting computer system, Haley was only aware of what was on the preliminary copy, not the final copy Russell's office had obtained.

Russell said she thought the case between the fighting deputies should be handled as a misdemeanor, simple assualt. She was surprised to see Haley in her office wanting to go after the felony charge of assault on a public servant since the deputies were in uniform.

"I think he [Haley] thought it was a felony, Kevin [Gratehouse] was his buddy obviously," Russell said.

"It is hard," Haley said. "It's very hard to listen to someone make an accusation against you and it's really hard to listen to people speak on the stand and when they're not always correct, it's hard not to jump up and correct them."

As Heath was cross-examining Russell he explained that earlier in the trial Russell had said she doesn't consdier a couple of interviews an investigation.

"You wouldn't call it an investigation, but you think he's perjured himself because he didn't call it an investigation," Heath said.

"That's true," Russell admitted.

Now that the case is closed, Haley's attorneys said they don't believe the trial was about a vendetta, but about poor communication.

"There is no question in my mind that this is a culmination of honestly held, but highly mistaken assumptions that were stacked on top of each other by our folks here locally," Defense Attorney Stephen Shires said.

"It was just a couple of mistakes, with a computer crash and then people not understanding how servers work that led to implications well if he was lying about this, he must be lying about the rest of it," Heath said. "He never got the benefit of the doubt from anybody."

The defense reiterates Haley never lied.

"I thought it was a great vindication for Joey," Defense Attorney Paul Robbins said. "I thought it was the first opportunity for the truth to really be heard and be known. We first set out on this case early on, not just to prove Joey Haley innocent, but to actually determine what the truth was."

Robbins went on to say that if trial had continued, jurors would have heard a technology expert testify Haley was telling the truth and had pictures he had taken of the injured deputy on his computer.  He said the expert would also testify Haley had got in touch with a Harris County deputy and the defense had proof Haley had conducted a conversation with him about one of the fueding deputies.

"This particular case was just kind of the perfect storm of inconsistencies, wrong presumptions, and misunderstandings," Robbins said. "It's very unfortunate that law enforcement and the DA's office didn't sit down and actually stop and start with the presumption that a fine officer like Joey Haley may be telling the truth."

"I've got a sign on my desk that says next to injustice, I hate losing and I'd be lying to you if I said I didn't think that I lost something today," said Smith, the prosecuting attorney.

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