As mentioned in this week's Queque, I've been subpoenaed by the Bexar County District Attorney's Office in the Theodore Streater trial ("An ice cube's chance ..." February 20-26) I'll know soon if I'll need to testify; the jury is deliberating and Assistant District Attorney Susan Skinner says she wants to use me in the sentencing phase.
Streater, by the way, stands accused of a home invasion and multiple counts of sexual assault. He has steadfastly maintained his innocence. The DNA test, he says, were skewed, and the sheriff's investigator fabricated testimony in a search warrant affidavit.
The reason I was subpoenaed is that I conducted a jailhouse interview with Streater while he was representing himself. Skinner said she'll use the interview to discredit Streater.
The sheriff's office had me conduct the interview in one of their interrogation rooms (one-way window and all) while they taped it. Streater knew they were watching and decided to go through with the interview anyway. John Mahon, a sheriff's investigator, witnessed the interview. Afterward, Mahon told me that this was the first time the sheriff's office and done this sort of thing.
A few days later Streater wrote to alert me the prosecution was adding me to their witness list. He suggested it was a form of intimidation to suppress the story.
So far the subpoena has meant I've been restricted from covering the trial in person; it's generally what's done. But in this case Skinner offered to waive my exclusion, provided that Streater's attorney was cool with it. Streater's defender Stephanie Boyd, although apologetic, declined. Citing attorney-client privilege, she would not divulge her reasoning.
In January, Streater fired Boyd and opted to represent himself. About a week and a half ago, Streater filed a motion with the court asking for a continuance, saying that psychiatric medications were impairing his ability to defend himself. The judge rejected the motion, and within the next few days, at the recommendation of his defense investigator, Streater accepted Boyd back on his case.
Five days ago, Streater wrote me this in a letter:
"I am totally frustrated and, to be honest, I am very afraid of what's going to happen to me once they convict me .... I feel so sick right now deep in my soul. Because I know what they have planned for me, and there is nothing I can do to stop them. They are like a cult."
While I have made no conclusion about Streater's guilt or innocence -- having been barred from hearing testimony in the case -- my reporting focused on Streater's innocence claim. This is in part due to the investigative focus and love of underdogs here at the alternative press. Mostly though, it is a product of the evidence made available by Streater, his ex-wife, witnesses, former attorneys, court records and news archives, which for the most part support Streater's claims.
On the other side: The prosecutor and the sheriff's office do not, and generally should not, reveal details of an ongoing investigation. However, certain public documents in this case were withheld by the justice system.
-- Under judicial standards, the turn-around for case-file request should take no more than 10 days. The District Clerk's office has yet to provide access to Streater's court record.
-- A public-information request was also sent to the Sheriff's office, requesting inspection of the service records of the investigator who, according to KENS-5's Joe Conger, fabricated evidence in a search warrant affidavit. First, a Bexar County official called and suggested there was nothing negative in the file, so why not just forget it. I asserted that I needed to see it anyway. Several days later I received a call from an official claiming that a service record for the investigator did not exist.
Express-News court reporters Graeme Zielinski and Elizabeth Allen are covering the trial, and largely accepting the prosecution's argument without skepticism.
YOUNG GIRL TELLS OF ASSAULT ON FAMILY
By Elizabeth Allen, E-N
Web Posted: 03/06/2007 11:03 PM CST
DNA EVIDENCE PRESENTED AT TRIAL
By Elizabeth Allen, E-N
Web Posted: 03/07/2007 10:42 PM CST
JURORS BEGIN DELIBERATIONS IN HOME INVASION CASE
By Elizabeth Allen, E-N
Web Posted: 03/08/2007 11:27 AM CST
All three articles focus on the prosecution's claims; only two vague sentences speaks of Streater's defense:
“The defense lawyers then put Dr. M. AL. Salih on the stand to dispute crime lab methods. Salih, who has a DNA testing lab in San Antonio, said the crime lab skipped important steps.”
Allen dedicates double the word count to the prosecution's counter-argument:
"Salih had a testy exchange with Assistant District Attorney Scott Simpson, who pointed out that Salih is not certified to do these tests at his own laboratory and was only reviewing the state's tests. Simpson also said that if the crime lab followed Salih's recommendations, it would have included more data pointing to Streater."
In the DNA test evaluation obtained by the Current, this is what Salih said:
“With the logic the prosecution used to perform their calculations, you could match anyone in the courtroom to this mixture.”
“Only one of the suspect's alleles not present in the mixture is enough to exclude him as a potential contributor to the mixture. Between the four disregarded loci, we have 5 of the suspect's alleles not present.”
I confirmed this evaluation with forensic geneticist Howard Coleman, principal of Genelex in Seattle and author of DNA in the Courtroom: A Trial Watcher's Guide.
My article certainly doesn't tell the "whole" story about Theodore Streater and his alleged crimes (my hands are tied, y'all). But it's also clear that the E-N isn't telling it either. When two media outlets produce such widely different reports, I think it's clear that more investigation ought to be done.