Monday, February 3, 2020

Judge Finds That the Houston Narcotics Officer Whose Lies Killed a Couple in 2019 Framed Another Suspect in 2008

By Jacob Sullum - February 03, 2020 at 03:50PM

When Houston narcotics officer Gerald Goines arrested Otis Mallet in 2008, he described a crack cocaine purchase in which Mallet retrieved the drug from a can inside a truck and handed it to his brother, Steven, whom Goines had paid $200. Thanks to Goines' testimony, Mallet was sentenced to eight years in prison. But today, the Houston Chronicle reports, Harris County prosecutors joined Mallet's lawyers in urging a judge to declare him "actually innocent" because Goines "repeatedly lied about nearly every aspect" of the case. The judge agreed.

The handling of Mallet's case seems to be in character for Goines, who wrote the fraudulent search warrant affidavit for the January 2019 drug raid that killed a middle-aged couple, Dennis Tuttle and Rhogena Nicholas, in their home on Harding Street. To justify the Harding Street raid, which resulted in state murder charges and federal civil rights charges against Goines, the officer invented a heroin purchase by a nonexistent confidential informant. His story about Mallet's involvement in the 2008 crack deal appears to have been equally fictitious.

"Now we know [Goines] was lying and using the district attorney's office as a tool to convict people wrongfully as early as 2008," said Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, whose office is reviewing some 14,000 cases involving Goines and other members of the Houston Police Department's Narcotics Division. "Anybody who was convicted as a result of Gerald Goines' testimony, or involvement in a case that is significant or relevant, will now be given a presumption when they file their writ that Goines' testimony or evidence in their case was false."

Mallet, who served two years in prison before he was released on parole, has always maintained that Goines framed him. "Goines gave conflicting testimony about why he didn't use marked bills," the Chronicle reports. "Mallet's neighbors disputed seeing him engage in a drug deal or carrying the blue can Goines said he'd handled." And while Goines claimed in an expense report that he paid $200 to a confidential informant who helped incriminate the Mallet brothers, he testified that he gave that money directly to Steven Mallet.

Goines declined to testify during Otis Mallet's hearing, citing the Fifth Amendment's protection against self-incrimination. Ogg said Goines' silence about Mallet's case is "compelling evidence that the entire alleged narcotics transaction was a fraud." Judge Ramona Franklin's recommendation that Mallet be declared innocent will be reviewed by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

Ogg said the Mallet case "raises questions about how buy money was being issued by the Houston Police Department's narcotics division and used by narcotics officers like Gerald Goines, and how drug payouts were being supervised—and audited." Goines was employed by the department for 34 years before he retired in the wake of the raid that killed Tuttle and Nicholas. If he routinely lied to incriminate people that he arrested during that long career, the fault for such fraud and the resulting injustices cannot be his alone.


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