Felony prosecutor Shelley Hallman, who prosecutes death penalty cases and has a knack for acting like a 7-year-old, has struck again. The wife of failed district attorney candidate Toby Shook was the subject of a Dallas Observer feature story on how she used the testimony of a second-hand witness in a murder case. Then, in a separate case, Hallman asked a misleading question in the sentencing phase of a vehicular manslaughter case, prompting an exasperated judge to toss out the conviction and call a mistrial. Outside legal experts who reviewed transcripts from two of Hallman's trials expressed astonishment at her lack of ethics and professionalism.
Well, here's another one for them: On Wednesday afternoon, defense attorney Brian Gray, who was critical of Hallman in our feature, says he walked by her office and saw a picture of him -- the same photo, in fact, that accompanied the Observer story. It had been cut out of the paper and affixed to a shooting-range target, then hung on her office wall. Hallman also marked up the picture, giving Gray a pair of glasses and a comic-book text bubble in which she had written, "I [HEART] YOU."
Gray says he managed to snap the picture of his likeness on Hallman's door, but it came out rather blurry because one of Hallman's colleagues hurried him away. An enlarged copy of the photo Gray sent Unfair Park certainly looks like the original accompanied by the alterations Hallman -- or someone in her office -- made to it. Gray sent Unfair Park the photo, and it's after the jump.
An incensed Gray says he left a message for District Attorney Bill Hill about the photo. Outgoing spokeswoman Rachel Raya claims that a staffer for the office said there is no such photo montage on Hallman's desk or in her office. She says doesn't know if anyone had talked to Hallman about it.
In any case, this is hardly the first time she's acted unprofessionally. In 2004, after Hallman just lost a trial to defense attorney Lena Levario, she sent the e-mail to her fellow prosecutors:
"In the past couple of months, there have been several defense attorneys who have accused prosecutors of misconduct during closing arguments. Robert Burns is notorious about this. Just now in trial Lena Levario pulled the same shit. I think we should all be aware of which attorneys do this and be prepared to address such unfounded allegations and prevent this type of improper argument before they even open their big fat mouths. If anyone runs into this same type of thing from other defense attorneys, please notify other prosecutors. All we have is our honest and our reputation for 'taking the high road,' and when that is unjustly attacked, I think we need to do something about it."
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the Observer's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Dallas's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Apparently, what several of Hallman's colleagues decided to do was share that e-mail with Levario. Ironically, both Burns and Levario were elected to judgeships last month. We're guessing that when it comes to arguing in their court, Hallman will be hard pressed to "open her big fat mouth."
After the elections, Unfair Park caught up with Levario, who was dismissive of Hallman's missive: "Her opinion as to what my ethics are are of no concern to me," said the judge-elect.
Brian Gray is a bit more critical.. "This is just an example of the attitude that permeates the attitude of the Bill Hill era where D.A.s like Shelly Hallman feel like they have the power to make personal attacks on people," he says. "This is just an example of trying to attack me personally based on a negative news story that came out where they can't attack the facts. The story was legit and all they can do is lash out at me." --Matt Pulle