December 28, 2010
MARY JANE FARMER : HERALD DEMOCRAT
BONHAM -- The 6th Appellate District Court of Texas overturned the capital murder conviction handed down to Corey Don Louis in 2009 in 2-year-old Channing "Chase" Terrell Matthew's death in 2008. The court granted Louis' appeal with the requirement that the case be returned to Fannin County District Attorney's Office for consideration of lesser charges.
At the time of the capital murder conviction, Louis also was indicted on a charge of injury to a child with intent to cause serious bodily injury. However, he was not tried on that charge.
The Appellate Court's decision states, "We reverse the conviction of Louis for capital murder and render an acquittal of that offense. We remand this case to the trial court for a trial of the lesser-included offenses."
The court based its decision on three points: The evidence is legally insufficient to support the verdict; is legally insufficient to prove Louis had the requisite mental state necessary to be found guilty of capital murder; and is factually insufficient to support the verdict.
The decision also states that there were two errors made in jury instructions involving inferred intent and mistake of fact. It states that the trial court erred by including the following instruction in the jury charge, "Intent or knowledge may be inferred by acts done or words spoken."
Secondly, the appellate court agreed with Louis that the trial court should have instructed the jury that a "mistake of fact" could be a defense. In this case, the appeals court said, if Louis mistakenly believed that his actions would not kill the child, that would be a "mistake of fact" and therefore a defense.
Fannin County District Attorney Richard Glaser said Monday that his office had just received the opinion, that he actually learned about it on the Internet. He said his office and the State Attorney General's Office will be seeking a re-hearing or appeal on the reversal.
Louis' defense attorney Steven Miears called the reversal a "well thought out and reasoned decision by the Court of Appeals. This was absolutely the right thing to do. Oftentimes the facts of a capital murder case are so horrific that juries are led astray by emotion, and what may sometimes be characterized as over-zealous prosecution."
Louis, who lived in Bonham at the time of the crimes, was convicted in the 336th state District Judge Laurine Blake's court in May 2009. The jury sentenced Louis to serve a life sentence without parole. Chase's mother, Danielle Cuba, pleaded guilty, without a trial, to murder and to injury to a child with intent to cause serious bodily injury. She is serving two concurrent 50-year sentences in Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Cuba's conviction on injury was for the severe beating of Chase's 3-year-old sister. Louis has been indicted, but not tried, on the same charge.
When reached for a comment on the decision, Blake said she cannot comment on cases before her court.
The incident began when the two toddlers woke up in the middle of the night and got into the kitchen. They smeared mustard, dog food and household chemicals over much of the house and themselves.
When Cuba and Louis discovered the mess, they punished the children. What Cuba and Louis called spankings and normal punishment, the appeals court called horrific beatings.
Louis admitted to hitting them with a belt several times, then leaving instructions with Cuba that they stand in the corner until he returned home from work. Cuba admitted to hanging Chase by his arms inside a closet after the other punishment and after Louis left. Chase died later that same day and his sister was treated for critical wounds in a Dallas hospital.
Louis, who is now 41, was Cuba's live-in boyfriend, and at the time there were three other children inside the house, ranging in ages from infancy to 14 years old.
Louis appealed his decision in October with Miears representing him in front of the appellate court which sat in Bonham. On Dec. 15, Appellate Court justices Jack Carter, Josh R. Morriss III and Bailey C. Mosley rendered the decision.
Louis remains in a TDCJ prison. Prison system spokesman Jason Clark said that Louis had been free on parole at the time of Chase's death. Because of the capital murder conviction, the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole revoked his parole in 2009.
"They (TBPP) would need to revisit the revocation and make a decision before he could be released," Clark said. Those two earlier sentences were for aggravated robbery, for which he received a 10-year-sentence in 1996, and delivery of a controlled substance, for which he received a 20-year sentence in 1993. He had been released on parole in April 1999."
"We just received the opinion, and we don't agree with it, and he (Louis) won't be released," Glaser said. "We will ask the Court of Criminal Appeals in Austin to review it (the decision). We support the decision of the jury and we are satisfied that he (Louis) will not be let loose on society." Assistant District Attorney Brad Setterberg will lead the appeal team for the Fannin County D.A.'s Office.
"We've also been offered support, and graciously accepted it, from the state prosecuting attorney in Austin, also supporting the conviction," Glaser added. "Depending on what opinion happens then, thinking further on down the line, if the appeal decision is sustained in any regard, we expect to at least re-try it."