A Texas homicide investigator was fired for admitting sexual relations with a key witness in the murder of Harris County sheriff’s deputy Darren Goforth, the Houston-area cop shot 15 times while fueling his patrol cruiser in August.
That key witness was also Goforth’s lover, admitting to a 15-month affair with the married deputy.
But it didn’t take her long to move on to Harris County Sergeant Craig Clopton, who was assigned to investigate the capital murder case until he admitted earlier this month that he’d had consensual sex with the key witness.
Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman called Clopton’s actions “unethical and inexcusable” and terminated the detective’s employment barely two weeks after the bombshell disclosure in court.
The woman’s name has not been released.
Harris County Sheriff’s Initial Police Reports on Goforth Murder Omitted Key Witness
On the scene witness reports bubbled forth in September that Goforth was at the gas station to meet his mistress rather than on official business – even though initial police reports omitted the woman’s presence.
The woman who claims to have been Goforth’s mistress was noted by on-the-scene witnesses as a well-dressed lady who referred to Goforth as her “best friend.”
It was only later she became the key witness in the case, saying she’d had a 15-month long affair with the slain deputy..
It was enough for Harris County prosecutors to file a “Brady Disclosure” – required anytime the state receives potentially exculpatory evidence in a criminal proceeding, per the famous Supreme Court ruling. (see below)
Initially, Sheriff Hickman claimed that Goforth was murdered just for wearing a uniform, casting the blame on the Black Lives Matter movement.
These unexpected plot twists could mean anything or nothing, but certainly hints at the impending courtroom drama to follow in Houston as both sides race to construct a narrative of what happened outside of the surveillance video district attorneys will present in court
Oddly, no outlet has reported on how Miles, a man committed twice for mental illness, managed to acquire a firearm and the 15 fatal rounds used in the shooting.
Texas Judge Recused Self From Case Without Comment
Further adding to the drama, the judge presiding over the criminal case had a conflict of some sort too, but under Texas law didn’t have to disclose it publicly.
But that didn’t stop the jurist from ruling during arraignment that Miles is competent to stand trial, even though his own lawyers said at arraignment, that he’s got a history of mental illness, and was committed twice in the last 5 years.
Judge Denise Collins recused herself from the case earlier this week.
Darren Goforth left behind his wife –a schoolteacher – and two young children. Defense counsel subpoenaed the murdered cop’s cell phone records two weeks ago.
Shannon Miles, the 30 year-old suspect in the case isn’t scheduled for court until November, but with the state’s lead investigator dropping the ball, and recent news from key witnesses, the state’s prosecution of him for capital murder charges isn’t so clear cut as it appeared when he was apprehended.
The standard to lower a charge of capital murder – which is punishable by death – to a regular murder charge that defense lawyers face will be daunting for the allegedly mentally ill man who killed the uniformed deputy – who was fueling his marked car but may not have been on official business at the time.
We asked former assistant DA in Collin County and current criminal defense lawyer Hunter Biederman about the the hurdles facing Miles’ defense team to obtain a normal life sentence with possibility of parole vs. capital murder of a peace officer with a whole life or death sentence who said:
“The key in this case will be whether or not he officer is in the lawful discharge of an official duty. Typically an officer is in uniform and or a marked car and this isn’t a focal point by the defense.
However in this case it can be a point of contention. This element must be proved by the prosecution beyond a reasonable doubt just as any other element in the case.”
“Capital murder carries with it a punishment of death or life in prison without parole. If the prosecutors do not seek the death penalty, then life in prison is the automatic sentence.”
Conversely, murder carries a punishment range of 5-99 or life. But the convicted person will have the opportunity for parole.”
But this is Texas, the state with the most executions in the country, and it’s attorney general is under indictment by a Collin County prosecutor today, so it’s way to early to draw any conclusions.
Reaction to the Murder of Darren Goforth Runs the Gamut of Texas Passion.
This isn’t the first firing of a government employee connected to the case either. A nurse at the Harris County Jail was fired in September for allegedly telling a co-worker she wanted an autograph from accused cop-killer.
The gas station owner where it happened plans to create a permanent memorial where the murder took place
Texas activists took to Facebook in the state capitol of Austin, in an inarticulate attempt at satire which fell flat. But their divisive words spurred police to begin hyping a “war on cops” narrative through the considerable Police PR Spin Machine in the state of Texas which has spread nationally, and a backlash amongst activists who believe in reforming a broken system over disparaging police.
Needless to say, none of these debates are settled today, but what we do know is that the activists are lucky Harris County didn’t attempt to have them dubiously arrested for their insensitive and inflammatory remarks.
A Sam Houston State student wasn’t so lucky.
Monica Foy was arrested by Montgomery County Sheriffs for a disparaging tweet about Deputy Goforth on what the Houston Chronicle termed an outstanding warrant for, “assault causing bodily harm.”
PINAC News has frequently covered similar cases of police using arrest powers in Texas to retaliate against free speech found distasteful by the listener.
Sadly, it’s not uncommon for police in the United States allege ‘social media crimes’ of free speech, then later pass the settlement bill for civil rights lawsuits to taxpayers like this lawsuit over a Facebook comments arrest that cost a Wisconsin town $43 per resident.
In this case, it remains to be seen what shape the gas station owner’s memorial will take to commmorate the slain Texas officer cheating on his wife, his mistress, and his mistress’ affair with the investigator of his homicide in the weeks after the unfortunate demise of the deputy.
With so much to commemorate, it’ll have to be big, just like Texans brag about being.