|Watching Tim Cole (10/12/97)|
You may have also seen his name in the news recently due to his involvement in a capital murder prosecution.
Capital murder is as big as it gets for a prosecutor. It is the equivalent of a million dollar injury case is to the personal injury lawyer, or a MCI - WorldCom marriage to the merger and acquisitions attorney. The difference is, of course, the prosecutor never "hopes" for the case to come across his desk.
But when it does, it is the ultimate challenge.
If a criminal case warrants the seeking of the death penalty, rest assured the facts are horrendous and the defendant is despicable. The situation warrants the maximum punishment that civilized society can administer.
But the ultimate case carries with it the ultimate pressure. A guilty verdict leaves the jury with only two choices: life imprisonment or death. If a prosecutor asks for the death penalty, a verdict of life imprisonment is a defeat. Of course, a "not guilty" verdict in a capital case has tremendous ramifications for the victim's family yet alone the defendant. (Additionally, it doesn't do much for a prosecutor's career. )
With the stakes that high, I watch with interest the State of Texas v. Curtis Allen Gambill being tried in Tarrant County by Tim Cole on a change of venue. The facts, as alleged, are horrid.
According to the Wichita Falls Times Record News, "Gambill, 20, is accused of killing Heather Rich, a 16-year-old Waurika, Okla., cheerleader whose body was found floating in a remote Montague County creek. He was arrested, along with Waurika teen-agers Randy Wood and Joshua Bagwell, both then 17, about two weeks after the girl's body was pulled from the creek. She had been missing for about a week before a passer-by noticed her and alerted authorities . Shortly before his arrest, Gambill dictated a two-page confession to Texas Ranger [Lane Akin, of Decatur] and an FBI agent that claimed Wood shot Rich nine times in the back and head with a shotgun. But Wood is expected to testify that Gambill shot Rich. In exchange for his testimony, Wood will escape the possibility of his own death sentence, instead serving much of a life sentence in a Texas prison."
Which prosecutor has jurisdiction over a criminal case is solely a matter of geography. In general, the county where the crime occurs will dictate who is in charge of the prosecution. Montague borders Wise County to the north. My office would have had that responsibility if the crime Gambill is accused of committing had occurred only a few miles in a different directin.
Instead, I'll serve as a bystander watching the case from the sidelines. Tim Cole is a great prosecutor who has a passion for his job. With that, I wish him luck.
[Most updates on the case can be found on the Wichita Falls Times Record News site]
Barry Green is the District Attorney for the 271st Judicial District.