Get out of jail free: It's 1981; you are a serial killer and have just moved to the murder capital of the world, Houston, Texas. The killers here know what law-abiding citizens don't, that there is nothing here to stop them from killing. It's now 2004, and by the looks of things, nothing here has changed, at least as far as confessed serial killer Coral Eugene Watts is concerned ("Good Joe," by Glenna Whitley, March 11, and "Evil Eyes," June 13, 2003). IT'S AN OUTRAGE!
In April 1981, the Houston Police Department was informed that suspected serial killer Coral Eugene Watts had arrived in town. Police in Ann Arbor, Michigan, had provided Houston with graphic descriptions of murders Watts was suspected of committing in Michigan. Houston authorities responded with a short "on and off" (their words) surveillance of Watts. Despite 12 murders, five attempted murders and one assault in the 14 months Watts resided in Houston, no further action was taken until his arrest on May 23, 1982, when police officers responded to what was reported as a domestic dispute call. (Let me point out that no surveillance or detective work was involved in his apprehension.)
On September 3, 1982, the state of Texas--being represented by Assistant District Attorneys Ira Jones, John Holmes and the Honorable Judge Doug Shaver (all experts in Texas state law)--agreed to a plea bargain that gave Watts 12 free Texas murders. It is reported that the plea bargain was struck to give victims' families closure. No action was taken by the state of Texas, Jones, Holmes or Judge Shaver (again, all experts in Texas state law) to inform family members that mandatory release laws (not to be confused with parole) were in effect and that Watts would only serve approximately one-third of his 60-year sentence. Nothing here has changed. IT'S AN OUTRAGE!
Starting in August 2002, thousands of outraged citizens petitioned the state of Texas to form a task force to find a way to keep Watts behind bars. In October 2003, Mary Ann Wiley from the Texas Governor's Office met with family members to "look" at several options to keep confessed serial killer Coral Eugene Watts behind bars, but no action was taken. During the last legislative session, Representative Kent Grusendorf asked Representative Jack Stick to write a civil confinement bill. Stick filed shell bills 3478, 3479, 3480, 3481 and 3482 (no text, to be filled in later). These shell bills failed to be voted out of committee on the May 12 deadline. As of this date, no "real" actions have been taken by the state of Texas. Nothing here has changed. IT'S AN OUTRAGE!
Friend of Suzi Wolf, the second Houston victim
Breaking point: Does anybody at the McKinney Police Department or sheriff's office care that they drove a fragile man, Paul Wooley, to the breaking point and death? ("The Wrong Man," by Mark Donald, March 4.) If this were an isolated case in criminal justice, it would stand alone as tragic, but after more than a hundred men have been released from death row exonerated we must question the ethics of the system so eager for death at any price.
Could it be that the commandment against bearing false witness against one's neighbor isn't understood?
Bubbas in Trubba
Decent, honest folk: I just read Mr. Schutze's article about Mesquite in your March 11 publication (I don't think you've earned the right to be called a "news" paper). The incident described could have happened in any town anywhere in the United States, yet Mr. Schutze has for some unknown reason decided to cast all the citizens of Mesquite as ignorant backwater bubbas and the Mesquite police as brutal thugs ("Bubbaland," March 11). I have lived in Mesquite 15 years. I chose Mesquite because the people there are for the most part decent, honest, hardworking people, not pretentious snobs or ignorant hicks. The Mesquite he describes is nothing like my home. Mr. Schutze owes me and the other 100,000-plus decent citizens of Mesquite a huge apology. He should also take a journalism course or two and learn to report the news and leave his biased, fictitious drivel where it belongs--in the bottom of a birdcage.
Bad apples: Though I believe that people like the bubbas are real and that Mesquite isn't the best city in Texas, I find it hard to believe the Mesquite police would act in such a manner. I've had to work with the Mesquite police and city employees on many occasions during my career as a photojournalist, and for the most part they have all been professional and courteous. I would assume this was a HUGE misunderstanding and would like to hear more about the incident as the story unfolds. Taking my personal experience into account, I would guess there were just a few "bad apples" in the department that are spoiling the reputation of a very nice and considerate police force.
Last weeks Stage column misidentified the author of the play Greasy Spork. The playwright is Marc B. Rouse, not Elizabeth Benjamin. The Dallas Observer obtained the incorrect information from WaterTower Theatre press materials. We apologize for the error.
Jim Schutzes column last week contained an error. The Terry frisk, named after a court ruling, allows police to search someone in order to protect themselves from suspicious persons who could be armed. The column misidentified this type of search as a Kerry frisk.