The George Powell Case: False Testimony and Bad Science Got a Man 28 Years *Farm Fresh Media Staff Writer
Since 2009, Texas native Georgia Powell remains locked up for a crime he says he didn’t commit – robbing a local Killeen, Texas 7-Eleven store.
However, last month, Powell won the right to a new trial, casting doubt on how prosecutors handled the case originally under the tenure of Bell County District Attorney Henry Garza.
Essentially, what it looks like is that Powell’s crime was being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and having too much of a profile on the street.
Some might snicker at this white guy’s rap music career, but his lengthy prison sentence based on junk science and lies is no joke.
Prior to his conviction, Powell was known in the local area as a rapper distributing music that seems to be strangely pro-military but anti-police (a mix tape called “Thank You soldier” seems to have been widely distributed at nearby military installations).
Powell admitted in jailhouse interviews that the local police knew him by name – but did not admit to being anywhere near the store in question when it was robbed at gunpoint.
Another mark in Powell’s favor should have been his height – standing 6’3”, the defendant’s charge should have been thrown out, since it’s clear in hindsight that the bank robber was around 5’6” to 5’8” in height, leading reporters to label the circus of a trial the “too-tall case.”
However, the state had some junk science from a so-called expert, and they also had a coerced confession from a jailhouse informant. Both of these things put Powell away.
In a way, Powell’s case is emblematic of the type of thing that happens all the time – prosecutions simply scoop up some handy scapegoat and put them behind bars in order to close the case.
Just look at the clarifying second statement of informant Demetric Smith (available to the public at Scribd), who testifies that he was seduced into a quid pro quo with the state, and you’ll see how investigators used blunt tools to benefit from the original false testimony:
“I was house (sic) with Mr. Powell and we new (sic) each other because we used to pray together,” Smith wrote. “I was facing a 5-99 years TDCJ prison sentence for Burglary of Habitation in the 2nd degree … I was looking for a way out and I found one in Mr. George Robert Powell III. He was a good MARK because he was one of the very few inmates who is prepared to fight for there (sic) innocence at trial, and he was facing so much prison time that the ADA will give me anything for a false statement.”
According to Smith’s affidavit, his hunch about the prosecution was right:
“The ADA payed me a visit,” Smith writes, “but the ADA had some notes in his hand that I was able to see. It said if you can get your story straight in front of the jury at Mr. Powell jury trial I will see to it that you get the minimum for your case.”
Smith then describes getting cold feet and telling his lawyer he wants to back out.
“(My lawyer) stated to me that the ADA new (sic) already that my story on what Inmate George Robert Powell III has confessed to me was not true (bold added). – instructed me to go along with it and I will be going home soon.”
Then the ADA re-appears as the testimony nears:
“The ADA payed me a visit outside of the court room in a holding tank to give me a heads up on what to expect on the witness stand. At that time I ask the ADA will I get in trouble if I get caught lieing and the ADA just smiled at me and gave me a copy of the testimony.”
This kind of thing looks cool on Law and Order, but in real life, it’s as criminal as some of the types of charges that law enforcement say they are working on for the community.
“I take full responsibility for my actions at the trial,” Smith writes. “I was a COWARD that day – The ADA, my lawyer new I was about to give Perjured testimony.”
It sounds like an apology for being involved in putting an innocent man away – but where’s the apology from the ADA or the state?
Taking years of someone’s life needs to be treated with the serious weight that it deserves – but too often you can see cases where what someone said, or their community profile, led them to be doing hard time.
Follow this case as it winds through the courts, and you’ll see the state reconsidering its hasty and slipshod prosecution nearly a decade later.
Whether Garza will face any real consequences is for you to decide – we’ll continue to present stories of chilling prosecutorial overreach as Exhibit 101 on why experienced lawyers tell their clients ‘you never talk to the police.’