DALLAS (AP) — A former Dallas County prosecutor has surrendered his law license after the State Bar of Texas said he withheld evidence that led to the wrongful convictions of two men who spent 14 years in prison in the fatal stabbing of a pastor.
The Dallas Morning News reports that Richard E. “Rick” Jackson surrendered his law license last month. The State Bar concluded that he failed to inform Dennis Allen and Stanley Mozee’s defense attorneys about evidence that could have cleared them at their capital murder trials in 2000.
“This case is not about someone disbarred for making a mistake or a prosecutor who accidentally or even sloppily failed to turn over favorable evidence,” Nina Morrison, a lawyer with the Innocence Project in New York who worked to clear Allen and Mozee, told the newspaper.
“This is someone who repeatedly and intentionally hid favorable evidence from two defendants who were on trial for their lives.”
Allen and Mozee had been sentenced to life in prison in the slaying of the Rev. Jesse Borns Jr., who was stabbed 47 times at his leather and woodworking store in 1999.
Allen and Mozee were freed from prison in 2014 after the Dallas County district attorney’s office said they were wrongfully convicted based on prosecutorial misconduct.
They were declared innocent five years later after DNA testing helped clear them.
The district attorney’s office under former DA Craig Watkins had reopened the file and found evidence that defense lawyers said they’d never received, such as accounts from witnesses who saw two men argued with Borns outside the store the evening he was killed. Witnesses said one man was distinctly taller than the other and one had a noticeable scar across the side of his neck. Allen and Mozee are about the same height, around 6 feet. Neither had a scar.
The file also included previously undisclosed letters from people in jail who agreed to testify against Allen in exchange for favors in their cases.
Jackson was among prosecutors who were not invited to remain in the Dallas County district attorney’s office after Watkins won the 2006 election. Jackson, who had spent 17 years as a Dallas County prosecutor, sued Watkins in federal court, claiming that his termination was race based. Jackson is white and Watkins is Black. A judge tossed the suit.
The Innocence Project in New York and the Innocence Project of Texas filed a 196-page grievance with the State Bar in 2018 against Jackson.
Jackson’s lawyer, Bob Hinton, said Jackson has long maintained that he handed over the evidence to the defense and still believes that Allen and Mozee are guilty. Hinton said Jackson didn’t want to comment.
Jackson retired from practicing law in 2013 after he was fired from the Denton County district attorney’s office. Hinton said Jackson now spends his summers driving tour buses in Alaska.
Hinton said that against his advice, Jackson chose not to spend his retirement savings fighting the accusation at a disciplinary hearing where he faced losing his law license.
The person who killed Borns has not been caught.