In a remarkable move, the Fourteenth Court of Appeals out of Houston has reversed two of the Mineola swinger’s club cases and sent them back to Smith County for new trials. The cases are those of Patrick Kelly, also known as Booger Red (above), and Jamie Pittman. They were convicted in 2008, along with Shauntel Mayo, of running a sex kindergarten in Tyler and putting on a series of child-sex shows at a swinger’s club in nearby Mineola (I wrote about the case in April 2009). There was no tangible physical evidence and no adult witnesses, just the words of five children—but it was enough to send Pittman, Mayo, and then Kelly to prison for life in 2008.
Now in a couple of scathing opinions, the Kelly and Pittman cases have been overturned; Mayo’s was affirmed—but clearly because her appeal didn’t complain about the same things Kelly and Pittman complained about. The court in Kelly noted many of the strange things about the swinger’s club cases, such as the bizarre, inconsistent testimony of the kids about things such as the shooting of a dog, the hanging of chickens, flying around the swingers club on a broomstick, and the use of magic spells. “Of course, the believability of the children‘s testimony is at the heart of this case,” wrote the court, which then went on to note that none of the kids made any claims about sex abuse until they were in the home of new foster parents Margie and John Cantrell—after the kids had initially denied that anything bad had happened to them. The court also noted that the first time they did make such claims to someone other than Margie, it was during their first interview with Texas Ranger Philip Kemp, at which Margie was present and allowed to answer questions—a big no-no, according to anyone who knows anything about interviewing children in these kinds of cases.
But the court ultimately based its decision on the “numerous evidentiary errors” it found were committed by trial judge Jack Skeen. For example, Skeen refused to allow any testimony about allegations that John Cantrell, the kids’ foster father, may have abused other kids. Skeen also permitted Kelly’s prosecutors to tell the jury that Mayo and Pittman had already been convicted of running the child-sex ring that Kelly was on trial for. Kelly’s attorney Thad Davidson repeatedly objected to statements made by investigators and CPS workers about what