Attorney Wayne Hill represented a Defendant who was accused, along with a prostitute, of luring an off-duty police officer to a meeting where the police officer was eventually killed during a robbery attempt.
Our investigation revealed that the key witness for the State was most likely lying about our Defendant’s participation in the murder. The witness, a prostitute with a long criminal history, finally admitted she was lying and the case against our Client was dismissed.
Two years after the Defendant was released, a female with a lengthy criminal history came forward telling the Prosecutors that the Defendant had confessed to the murder at a dope house, to her boyfriend while she was present. The Defendant, Lee Sonier, was charged again and placed back in jail. Kurt Wentz was the new attorney appointed to the case. The State offered Sonier a 15 year deal but he refused, taking the case to trial.
In addition to the newly found witness, the State was relying on the brother of the man running the dope house to testify that another prostitute, who had been originally charged with Capital Murder, had told him that Sonier had committed the murder.
A felon, with a lengthy criminal history, also told the police that he heard the Defendant and the Co-Defendant prostitute planning on “doing a lick.”
The State eventually dropped the Capital Murder charges on the prostitute, realizing that she had stolen the victim’s gun and money after he was shot charging her with Theft. The State had no witnesses to the shooting, nor did they have any physical evidence connecting Sonier to the murder scene. The murder weapon was never found.
The State of Texas took the case to trial, counting on the testimony of the female witness who came forward almost two years after the shooting, and the male who was going to testify that the prostitute had told him she observed Sonier commit the murder.
We located the female’s boyfriend in prison, who advised the conversation never took place. The male was bench warranted back to Harris County and he testified under oath that he did not know Sonier and the conversation never occurred.
Gradoni & Associates Investigate
JJ Gradoni and Edna Velez visited the female, who was now in the Harris County Jail adding to her long history of charges. The female admitted she was high when she gave her statement to the police and high when the alleged conversation took place. The female also admitted she was expecting to get a deal on her current case in exchange for her testimony. We had prepared a number of photographs of individuals involved with the case and the dope house. The female correctly identified the four prostitutes involved in the police investigation.
She also identified the owner of the dope house and his brother, who was also testifying for the State, as the doorman, but could not identify the photograph of Sonier; admitting during our interview that she did not know him.
The male who was going to testify about his conversation with the prostitute was interviewed by George Mendoza. During that interview the male told Mendoza that the conversation he was going to testify about with the prostitute did not occur, but the police investigators had scared him so he gave them the information they were seeking.
During the trial the male testified that he did recant to Mendoza, but only because Mendoza told him he was a DA Investigator and he had been threatened by his brother, the Defendant’s best friend. During the Defense portion of the trial JJ Gradoni testified about his interview with the female witness . George Mendoza testified about the phone conversation he had, when the male recanted his original statement to police. Mendoza, of course, never identified himself as a DA Investigator and had tape recorded the conversation.
Kurt Wentz did a masterful job in orchestrating our witnesses and shredding the credibility of each and every one of the State’s witnesses.
Kurt also pointed out to the jury that the 23 officers who had been at the crime scene had overlooked two shell casings on the ground, which were found a day later by a news crew. The jury came back with a Not Guilty verdict in an hour and a half.
RESULT BASED ON INVESTIGATION: Capital Murder Charges Dismissed