Investigation launched into prosecutor's conduct during murder trial
HOUSTON – Channel 2 Investigates has learned an attorney pro-tem, also known as a special prosecutor, was appointed to investigate allegations of prosecutorial misconduct during a murder trial that ended with a guilty verdict. The case involves Edward McGregor, who was convicted in 2010 and sentenced to life in prison for the 1990 murder of Kim Wildman in Missouri City.
A Harris County prosecutor, Beth Exley, was brought in to work with Fort Bend County prosecutors on the Wildman case since McGregor, at the time of trial, was charged with a separate murder in Houston and was a suspect in two other murders. However, last month a Fort Bend County judge recommended McGregor be given a new trial after accusations were made that a key witness in the case fabricated her story and deals made with prosecution witnesses were not properly disclosed.
McGregor’s attorney, Randy Schaffer, said Delores Lee fabricated her story about overhearing McGregor confess to Wildman’s murder. Lee is currently serving time on a charge of solicitation of capital murder. Schaffer, who was not McGregor’s attorney during the trial, accused Exley of not properly vetting Lee’s story before having her testify.
”I'm hoping to see a grand jury investigation that will hold the prosecutor responsible for presenting false testimony at the trial," said Schaffer.
Schaffer also accused Exley of failing to properly disclose that she offered Lee, and two other witnesses, leniency in exchange for their testimony. Two men, who were inmates in the Harris County Jail, also testified they heard McGregor make incriminating statements about the murder.
On Wednesday a special prosecutor was appointed to investigate the allegations against Exley.
Exley denied making any deals with witnesses. Last month, Exley told KPRC she only offered to notify the parole board and prosecutors that Lee and the other witnesses cooperated in her case, nothing more. Exley did not respond to questions about the appointment of a special prosecutor.
Judge Susan Brown could not speak to the specifics of the case, but told KPRC she signed the order appointing a special prosecutor after the Harris County District Attorney’s Office asked to be recused from investigating allegations lodged against one of its employees. Judge Brown said Houston defense attorney Chris Downey was appointed as the special prosecutor in this matter.
KPRC legal analyst Brian Wice explained special prosecutors are typically brought in to assure impartiality and remove any doubt of impropriety.
“An attorney pro-tem, usually known as a special prosecutor, steps into the shoes of an elected district attorney, when that district attorney's office, as a conflict on any level, that would permit it to do its job, or to conduct a full, fair and complete criminal investigation," said Wice. “Typically it’s a situation involving a member of the district attorney’s staff, perhaps someone in law enforcement or a member of the judiciary.”
The Court of Criminal Appeals in Austin will ultimately decide whether McGregor will be granted a new trial. Fort Bend County District Attorney John Healey has filed a series of objections to the trial court judge’s recommendation of a new trial. Healey declined to make those objections public until the judge has a chance to fully review the filing.