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A Very Trying Capital Murder Case in Hunt County

Hunt County District Attorney Duncan Thomas
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The strange capital murder case of Brandon Woodruff, accused of killing his parents in Royse City in October 2005, has taken another odd twist. A graduate of Rockwall High School, Woodruff, now 21, has been in the Hunt County jail almost two years, unable to make $1 million in bail. His trial was set to begin at the end of this month.

That’s unlikely to happen now -- since Judge Richard A. Beacom decided yesterday not to even let Hunt County District Attorney Duncan Thomas's office try the case. Which is ... just what the Hunt County District Attorney wants? Beacom instead is going to ask the Texas Attorney General’s office if they can lend a special prosecutor to try Woodruff. And a weird story gets even weirder.

After all, a month ago, the Hunt County District Attorney’s office was forced to reveal that it had been systematically taping Woodruff’s phone calls from jail, including those to his defense attorney Jerry Spencer Davis. Saying that Woodruff’s attorney-client confidentiality had been violated, Davis filed a motion asking the judge to dismiss the case -- or failing that, to appoint a special prosecutor.

Hunt County Assistant District Attorney Noble Walker opposed the appointment of a special prosecutor, arguing his office had learned nothing on the tapes of value to their case. Prosecutors claimed Woodruff had waived the privilege because each time he called out, he heard a message saying that the conversation could be recorded.

Beacom initially refused to appoint a special prosecutor but agreed with Davis’ argument that Woodruff’s constitutional rights had been violated. He ordered the prosecution to turn over the tapes and transcripts and ruled they could not use any evidence at trial that could have come from the recordings.

Well, yesterday the prosecutors went to court to tell the judge, “Never mind.” Turns out there’s a lot of evidence connected to the case on those tapes, and the District Attorney's Office decided it could not win a conviction if thus restricted. This time it was the prosecution asking the judge to recuse them and appoint a special prosecutor. The judge agreed: “In essence, both sides want the district attorney out of the case,” Beacom told the Herald-Banner in Greenville. --Glenna Whitley

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