Two key players in the recent Greg Kelley court hearings are dealing with fallout from the case.
Kelley’s trial lawyer is pushing back against claims that she represented him poorly during his first trial, asking a judge in Williamson County to let her tell her story in public by unsealing affidavits that detail why she defended him the way she did.
And the Cedar Park Police Department is now under the scrutiny of the Cedar Park City Council. The department — which has been blasted for years over how it investigated the sex abuse crime of which Kelley was convicted — is slated to be discussed behind closed doors at a council meeting Thursday night.
“The people of Cedar Park are not going to allow these people to conduct investigations in our community,” said Kelley supporter Jake Brydon, who says he plans to attend the meeting. “We are just not going to allow it.”
The fallout comes in the wake of a three-day hearing last week in Williamson County state District Court, where Kelley’s lawyers made the case that their client — who is serving 25 years in prison for super aggravated sexual assault of a child — is innocent and, at the very least, deserves a new trial. That decision will ultimately be made by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
During Kelley’s trial, appeals lawyer Keith Hampton says, the Police Department and Kelley trial attorney Patricia Cummings made mistakes that landed an innocent man in jail.
The investigation began in 2013, when two 4-year-old boys said they had been sexually abused at an in-home day care facility run by Shama McCarty. Kelley, who was good friends with her son, Johnathan, was living in the home because his own parents were ailing.
The boys named “Greg” as their abuser. One boy later recanted, but a jury found Kelley guilty in 2014 of abusing the other boy.
Cummings played a large role in Kelley’s wrongful conviction, Hampton claims. The appeals lawyer says that Cummings picked the wrong defense strategy, stating that she should have cast suspicion on McCarty instead of asserting that the crime didn’t happen. Hampton says that Cummings had a clear conflict of interest because she once represented members of the McCarty family in court.
During the three-day hearing last week, Cummings presented two affidavits explaining in detail why she made the decisions she did. But the judge sealed those documents, preventing them from becoming public.
Now Cummings wants those documents unsealed. She blames Hampton’s legal maneuvers for her inability to explain herself in court.
“This is a case with significant public interest,” she wrote in a motion to court. “The public and press have heard the ineffective assistance allegations, as well as the new evidence that was not available to Cummings at the time of her trial representation. However, through clever manipulation of the court, (Hampton), with the apparent complicity of the District Attorney’s Office, has kept Cummings’ response from being available to the public.”
Hampton declined to comment.
While the documents remain sealed, Cummings’ motion offers a glimpse into her story. She says she never represented Johnathan McCarty in any court dealings. While she did represent his half-brothers, that all ended in 2007. After that, there was no ongoing relationship between Cummings and the McCarty family, she wrote. She believes there was no conflict of interest.
Cummings also wants to address Hampton’s claim that she presented the wrong defense at trial.
At the time of the trial, she writes, the defense had two choices: say the children couldn’t be believed because they “told unbelievable stories, full of fantastical allegations and fatal inconsistencies;” or say the children’s allegations were true, but they were confused about who harmed them.
Cummings went with the first defense and wants to explain why. But to do so, the judge needs to unseal the affidavits.
Meanwhile, Cedar Park Police Chief Sean Mannix and Sgt. Chris Dailey are being targeted by Kelley supporters. Brydon said he and about 50 other people sent Cedar Park City council members emails this past weekend urging them to fire Mannix and Dailey, the lead investigator in the case.
A Texas Ranger called in to investigate the case testified last week that the Cedar Park investigation missed numerous steps and ignored key facts.
During the hearing, Dailey said his investigation essentially consisted of talking to Shama McCarty and having the children interviewed at the Williamson County Children’s Advocacy Center. He didn’t visit the day care, take photographs, question other people who had access to the boys, collect evidence, ask the names of other children who attended the day care, consider other suspects or employ other investigative techniques often used in such cases.
Dailey also said in court that he pressured one little boy to repeat his allegations against Kelley during his interview with the advocacy center, even though the boy had recanted.
Dailey said that, in retrospect, he wouldn’t have done anything differently. Mannix has stood by Dailey, praising the detective’s work.
For those reasons, Kelley supporters are determined to see Mannix and Dailey fired. The council is scheduled to discuss on Thursday legal issues pertaining to the case in executive session, as well as the department’s training, policies and procedures.
Cedar Park Council Member Corbin Van Arsdale said he has heard from 16 to 18 people in the last week about the Kelley case: “Before that, I hadn’t been contacted by anyone in probably three years about it, which is when I first got on the council.”
Mannix declined to comment, saying he didn’t think it would be appropriate given the ongoing legal process.