We'll post the results of the hearing, but for now, this is the part of the awful scenario that I want to call your attention to -- in my opinion, these dirty deals are a major contributing factor in wrongful convictions. When will prosecutors wise up and stop giving get-out-of-jail-free cards to murderers?
Chabot was a friend of the victim’s husband, and Pabst was Chabot’s brother-in-law. Chabot, a Navy veteran with no criminal record, always maintained that he was asleep with his wife and infant son at the time of the crime. Pabst was arrested three days after the murder. His car matched a description of an unfamiliar car seen in the victim’s driveway on the morning of the crime, and he had pawn tickets for the victim’s stolen radio and her husband’s stolen pocketknife in is possession. Despite the evidence against Pabst, prosecutors tried Chabot for the crime – and presented Pabst as the centerpiece of the case against him. Pabst claimed that, under duress, he went to the victim’s home with Chabot to collect on a bad drug bet. Prosecutors alleged that Chabot was angry about the poor quality of $450 drugs he had bought from the victim’s husband. At the trial, the victim’s husband said that, in fact, he had offered to buy the drugs back from Chabot, but Chabot declined. But Pabst’s testimony at the trial convinced the jury of Chabot’s guilt, and he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
Within days, Pabst was free. Prosecutors dismissed the pending murder indictment against him and allowed him to plead to theft of the victim’s radio, with a sentence of 30 days in jail, time served. This victim’s family was not told that charges against Pabst were dropped. Janice Warder, who prosecuted Chabot, later said in federal testimony that she had told Pabst and his attorney, “You testify, and I’ll do the fair and just thing,” which Chabot’s attorneys argued reflected an agreement to dismiss the murder charge. Warder told the judge and jury that Pabst did not receive a deal in exchange for testifying. Recently, she was quoted in news accounts saying she had been “duped” by Pabst and said, “Looking back, I certainly wish we had the benefit of what we have now.”
The 78-page motion filed for tomorrow’s hearing reflects the recent agreement between the office of D.A. Craig Watkins and Chabot’s attorneys that, at the very least, the new DNA evidence shows that Pabst lied on the stand and that Chabot was denied a fair trial as a result. The motion also says that documents disclosed by the state years after trial show that prosecutors violated the law by making an explicit deal with Pabst in exchange for his testimony – now proven false – against Chabot. The motion also details the lack of any other credible evidence linking Chabot to the crime, and says that no jury would convict him today.
“The evidence is plain that Jerry Pabst, not Clay Chabot, committed this crime. There is no basis for retrying Clay for this crime, since there is no credible reason to believe that he had anything to do with it. We hope the nightmare he and his family have endured for 21 years will come to an end soon,” said Bruce Anton of Sorrels, Udashen & Anton in Dallas, which is co-counsel with the Innocence Project.