Huntsville, TN (2017-03-20) A Scott County Criminal Court Judge has taken under advisement a petition from convicted killer Hubert Glenn Sexton for a new trial in his double murder case. Sexton, who represented himself in the latest hearing, says ineffective legal counsel, a tainted jury, and other factors resulted in his convictions in connection with the May 2000 deaths of a Huntsville couple.
Last week, Criminal Court Judge E. Shayne Sexton held a hearing on the latest attempt by former death row inmate Hubert Glenn Sexton to get a new trial in the May 2000 killing of his ex-wife’s ex-husband, Stanley Goodman, and his wife, Terry Sue Goodman. In his amended petition for post conviction relief, Sexton cited a tainted jury, ineffective legal counsel, both at the local trial and appellate level, an overly zealous prosecution that led to pre-deliberation bias, and judicial errors for his murder convictions in May 2001.
Sexton’s petition for a new trial rose out of a Tennessee Supreme Court decision in May 2012 that overturned his death sentences. In that opinion, the high court ruled that improper actions by the trial court to strike prospective jurors from the case, the prejudicial error of allowing certain evidence to be heard at the trial, and improper comments made by the prosecution during the opening statement and closing arguments were significant enough to set aside the death sentences imposed on Sexton. However, the court further concluded that the proof of his guilt in the killings was ‘simply overwhelming’ and the errors did not warrant the murder convictions being overturned.
During the hearing last week, Sexton largely styled his case based on that Supreme Court opinion. Sexton repeatedly questioned his former legal teams, both at the trial and appellate level, about strategy and failure to object to certain testimony at his trials, especially testimony of child rape allegations. In its opinion, the Supreme Court reasoned the testimony of a DCS worker about child sexual misconduct was especially inflammatory and should not have been permitted in the case. Last week, Sexton argued the charges were dismissed shortly after he was convicted in 2001; however, he failed to state whether the case was dismissed for cause or simply moot because of his dual convictions and death sentences.
Sexton also spent much of his time attempting to establish jury bias, largely due to inconsistent or incomplete responses to questionnaires distributed to the jury pool. Sexton alleged that at least one juror failed to disclose a history of domestic violence, while saying another disclosed a history of child sexual abuse, but was allowed to remain on the jury because of his ineffective counsel.
He also claimed at least one juror was threatened after the trial began, a statement that was corroborated by testimony last week. However, the former juror testified he wasn’t concerned about the threat, which was made in the hallway of the old courthouse, and it didn’t weigh on his decision at the trial. At some point during the trial, the jury was moved from a Huntsville hotel to one near the interstate. Testimony at the hearing suggested the move was largely because jurors learned that Sexton’s attorneys were also staying at the same hotel, not because of threats, as Sexton suggested.
Of the former jurors brought before the hearing, one testified that a male juror on the panel had made some remarks about Sexton’s guilt early in the trial; however it was ignored. “I didn’t pay any attention to him,” the former juror remarked. “A man’s life was at stake,” she added.
In his fifteen page filing for post conviction relief, Sexton cited other reasons supporting his petition for a new trial, including his legal counsel lack of objection to the introduction of a sales receipt from a Cleveland, TN Dollar General Store for clothing that he allegedly purchased for the purpose of committing the crime. Due to a family health issue, the store clerk was unable to testify at the trial; however, both parties agreed to admit her testimony by stipulation. Sexton argued that his then trial attorney failed to properly redact the clerk’s statement prior to its introduction into the court record. Further, he contended the receipt was the subject of an illegal search of his vehicle, which he felt his attorneys should have objected too.
Sexton spent much of his time providing a rambling narrative of his version of the facts, which often tested Judge Sexton, who repeatedly attempted to get him back on task. Most of the allegations and statements made by Sexton during the course of the hearing can not have any bearing on the judge’s decision, as it was not provided as fact, but merely offered as conjecture.
At the onset of the hearing, Judge Sexton spoke to Sexton about the disadvantages of representing himself, and not having the support of trained legal counsel. In particular, Judge Sexton questioned Sexton about whether or not he intended to testify at the hearing, and, if he did, how he planned to handle the introduction of his testimony, which would be subject to cross-examination by the state. Sexton assured Judge Sexton he was not going to testify, but after the first day of testimony, during which many of the witnesses called didn’t support his version of facts, Sexton announced to the court his desire to testify. “For three years, they all have been consistent, until yesterday,” Sexton told the court. Sexton main reasoning for testifying was an attempt to impeach his witnesses. Judge Sexton wasn’t especially pleased with Sexton’s late hour change of heart. “This is precisely why people need a lawyer,” Judge Sexton said. “The logic of the mind and the logic of law (aren’t always the same),” he added.
As result of Sexton’s announcement, Judge Sexton suspended presentation of proof in the hearing until such time Sexton could provide additional documentation of how he planned to offer himself as a witness, in light of self-representation at the hearing. Further, Judge Sexton agreed to review any and all other written submissions in the case, which may include a petition to allow testimony from a private investigator hired by Sexton, who, he claimed, could contradict the testimony of one or more of the former jurors.
All pleadings in the case must be submitted to the court by April 10, 2017, at which time, Judge Sexton is expected to decide whether or not to close the formal presentation of proof in the case. A definitive written decision on whether or not to grant Sexton a new trial may following in the coming days, weeks, or even months.