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Prosecutor Making Fun of Defendant’s Seeking of Post-Conviction Relief May Be Said to Be Aiding Prosecution

by | Feb 17, 2024 | Polk County

The Texas Supreme Court decided Polk County Publishing Company v. Coleman yesterday, overturning a decision of Beaumont’s Ninth Court of Appeals. Coleman had formerly been a prosecutor for the Polk County Criminal District Attorney’s Office. Before that, he had been a prosecutor for the District Attorney’s Office for the 26th Judicial District of Texas in Williamson County, Texas. The county seat there is Round Rock, near Austin.

The Williamson County District Attorney’s office was the one that had prosecuted Michael Morton for the murder of his wife. That district attorney’s office had opposed testing of evidence including a bloody bandana found at the murder scene after Morton’s conviction. During a hearing in September 2011, Coleman had said in a demeaning tone about that evidence ‘Ewww! Bloody bandana! Bloody bandana[.],’ The Polk County Enterprise ran a story about this. Coleman sued for libel. The defendants moved to dismiss the case under the Texas Citizen Participation Act, Texas’s Anti-SLAPP law, because the story was protected free speech. Judge Joe Ned Dean denied the motion.  Beaumont affirmed.

The Texas Supreme Court held that even though Coleman had not been part of the team that originally obtained Morton’s conviction– he hadn’t even been licensed then– it was not unreasonable to say that a lawyer fighting post-conviction relief was aiding in the defendant’s prosecution.

It is likely that the majority of the cases that this firm is presently handling are either pending in or arising out of Polk County.