The Hays County Justice Center.
By SEAN WARDWELL
District Judge James F. Clawson Jr. denied Shawn Nathan Shipman’s Writ of Habeas Corpus last week, meaning Shipman’s retrail will take place later this month.
Shipman’s attorneys hoped a ruling in their favor would cancel his re-trial and free him from the Hays County Jail, where he has been since his arrest on narcotics charges in October 2007.
Shipman was granted a new trial earlier this year after former Hays County Assistant District Attorney Lynn Peach contacted his attorney with accusations that the state withheld evidence from the defense.
Shipman attorneys David S. Watts and Chevo Pastrano Jr., filed the writ believing the state had violated the Brady Rule, which requires prosecutors to turn over all evidence to the defense that could prove a client’s innocence.
At the heart of the issue was whether or not the original source of the information was a confidential informant or a concerned citizen. A concerned citizen is considered the more reliable of the two. Peach alleged that prosecutors listed the informant as a concerned citizen, instead of a confidential informant.
Clawson, in a three page ruling, found against the defense on all issues of fact.
“The informer in question was not subpoenaed as a witness, and the State did not intend to call the informer as a witness in any of the causes pending trial,” Clawson wrote. “The District Attorney’s office never interviewed the informer. The sole use on the informer by the Hays County Narcotics Task Force was a basis to begin an independent investigation concerning possible criminal activity on the part of the Applicant.”
Continued Clawson, “The informer’s credibility was not vouched for or commented upon by the Affiant in the application for the search warrant obtained in these causes. Based on the evidence presented, the Court finds that the name of the informer, in and of itself, was not Brady material.”
At the end of the original hearing on the writ on June 12, the defense indicated an intention to appeal if Clawson ruled against Shipman. The new trial for Shipman is scheduled for late July.
Peach resigned in protest from the Hays County District Attorney’s office on May 11 due to what she believed was misconduct on the part of Assistant District Attorney Chris Johnson and San Marcos Police Department (SMPD) Detective Laray Taylor in Shipman’s conviction on narcotics charges.
Police arrested Shipman in October 2007. Shipman pleaded guilty in March to delivery or distribution of a dangerous drug. Under the plea agreement, he was sentenced to the 498 days of time he had already served. However, Peach alerted David Watts, Shipman’s attorney, to the possibility of misconduct in the case against his client, resulting in a new trial.
Peach testified that the original informant against Shipman was not a concerned citizen, as Taylor and Johnson represented. Rather, said Peach, the original informant was a confidential informant who was cooperating with police to better her own legal situation.
Shortly after Peach testified, District Judge Jack Robison recused himself from the case and the district attorney’s office was not given the chance to cross-examine Peach. Shipman was granted a new trial on May 4, with Hays County District Attorney Sherri Tibbe offering no objection.
“There’s been a taint on Mr. Shipman’s conviction,” said Tibbe during the hearing.Email | Print