Abilene Reporter-News

Appeals court nixes retrial for Trent man on murder charge
By Jerry Daniel Reed / reedj@reporternews.com

March 22, 2007

Criticizing prosecutors' handling of evidence considered favorable to the defense, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled on Wednesday that to again try James Masonheimer of Trent on a murder charge would constitute double jeopardy.

But Taylor County District Attorney James Eidson said the 6-3 opinion doesn't necessarily end the case.

''It's obviously a divided court, and it's going to be pursued further,'' Eidson said. The state could petition for a rehearing of the case by Texas' highest criminal court or appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, he said.

Two previous court proceedings involving Masonheimer, now in his mid-60s, ended in mistrials - the first in December 2002, a jury trial; and the second in April 2003 a no contest plea heard by a judge. In the latter case, the judge was charged with determining whether the state had presented sufficient evidence to convict the defendant.

Masonheimer was accused of shooting Gilbert Sanchez, 40, of Merkel five times in June 2001. Masonheimer admitted the shooting, but maintained that he killed his daughter's former boyfriend to protect her from a man who had threatened and terrorized her, according to Reporter-News files.

Then-Senior Judge Billy John Edwards ruled in the April 2003 trial that double jeopardy barred the retrial of Masonheimer, but the 11th Court of Appeals in Eastland later reversed that ruling. The Court of Criminal Appeals opinion on Wednesday reversed the Eastland court's decision.

On Wednesday, Judge Barbara Hervey of the criminal appeals court wrote that the two mistrials ''were provoked primarily by the state's failure to disclose exculpatory evidence with the specific intent to avoid an acquittal at the first proceeding.''

Sanchez's possession of a substance alleged to be steroids, and two witnesses' statements were evidence that Masonheimer's lawyers contended prosecutors were late in turning over to the defense. Steroids are sometimes linked with violent and erratic behavior.

Click HERE to read the full opinion.

Police/Prosecutor Misconduct
Truth in Justice