Friday, November 16, 2012


His client was condemned for murdering a 15-year-old girl and her 3-year-old cousin while on probation for sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl

On September 26, 1988, while dying from stab wounds to her neck, La Shandra Charles,15, told a Houston police sergeant that a guy named ‘Preston’ who lived nearby, was the one who stabbed her and her little cousin. That led police to arrest 22-year-old Preston Hughes III for the murder of the two children. Hughes was on probation at the time for sexually assaulting a 13-yer-old girl and then shooting a gun at her. He was tried and convicted of the two murders and sentenced to death. After years of appeals, Hughes was scheduled to be executed Thursday.

Pat McCann, the appellate attorney for Hughes, accuses the police of lying on the witness stand because a Fort Worth medical examiner swore in an affidavit that with the victim’s left carotid artery and jugular vein having been severed, she would have lost consciousness within a minute of being stabbed and well before the police sergeant got to her. The prosecution says that’s just this Fort Worth guy’s opinion. And the police report notes that a medical technician, who the prosecution failed to call as a witness, also heard the victim saying that ‘Preston’ was the one who attacked her.

Attempting to stop the pending execution, McCann filed a petition with the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and the U.S. Supreme Court claiming that Hughes did not get a fair trial because the police lied on the witness stand and because the jury was not told of that he and his sister had been sexually abused as children by an uncle. McCann also accused the police of seizing evidence from Hughes’ apartment three hours before he supposedly signed a consent-to-search form. And to top it off, he claims that the Texas Department of Corrections had no right to implement its single-lethal-drug protocol, absent of an extensive study beforehand.

In his petitions, McCann said that the jury was never told of an investigator’s report about Hughes having been abused as a child. Here is what McCann wrote: "No jury has ever seen this evidence because no one ever looked. His jurors never got a full picture of the abused boy who turned into the sad man before them. They came out of that trial thinking that Preston was a monster, not a tragically twisted boy, tortured by memories of sadistic abuse at the hands of an older figure of trust."

It doesn’t look like the pardon board members needed any Kleenex tissues because on Tuesday the board, by a unanimous vote, refused to recommend to Gov. Rick Perry that he commute Hughes’ death sentence. An angry McCann told reporters, “I don’t give a damn if he’s guilty or innocent, I just give a damn if he got a fair trial.”

And McCann’s sob story must not have impressed the Supreme Court either because it also refused to stop the execution. On Thursday evening Hughes became the 15th death row inmate to be executed in Texas this year. (The 14th inmate, Ramon Torres Hernandez, was executed Wednesday for the rape, robbery and murder of a woman abducted from a San Antonio bus stop 11 years ago.)

I have a couple of comments to add. One relates to the accusation that the police lied about the victim naming ‘Preston’ as her attacker. It just doesn’t make any sense for the Houston police sergeant to have lied. The cops weren’t targeting Hughes at the time. They had no interest in him until the young girl identified him as she lay dying in a field. Hughes’ lawyer found a medical examiner with an opinion that the prosecution could have rebutted with an opinion to the contrary by another forensic expert. McCann was just grasping at straws.

And the tear-jerking tale of this “tragically twisted boy, tortured by memories of sadistic abuse at the hands of an older figure of trust" doesn’t make me cry, it pisses me off. Only God knows how many other children have been sexually abused or otherwise mistreated. If childhood abuse were to lead its victims to commit murder, there would be more murders committed than burglaries. Why the courts ever decided that such a background could mitigate a heinous crime is beyond me.

As for Preston Hughes ... when he was put to death yesterday, he did not experience the horror and pain that his 15-year-old and 3-year-old victims suffered when he butchered those poor children to death. I say good riddance to this piece of subhuman vermin!

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