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Texas: Prosecutorial Misconduct May Stymie Death Sentence

On October 26, 2006, Paul David Storey, then 21, and his accomplice, Mark Devayne Porter, robbed Putt Putt Golf & Games, a miniature golf course in Fort Worth, Texas. During the course of the robbery they shot and killed assistant manager James Cherry. Porter pleaded guilty in exchange for a life sentence while Storey went to trial, was found guilty and sentenced to death in September 2008. 

Prosecutors told the jury: “It should go without saying that all of [James Cherry’s] family and everyone who loved him believe the death penalty was appropriate.”

Except that was not what Cherry’s family believed, and his parents said prosecutors lied. In a letter to the governor, Glenn and Judith Cherry stated, “We do not want to see another family suffer through losing a child and family member. Due to our ethical and spiritual values we are opposed to the death penalty.”

Under current Tarrant County District Attorney Sharen Wilson, a Conviction Integrity Unit has been established. In a letter to Wilson, the Cherrys wrote: “Paul Storey’s execution will not bring our son back, will not atone for the loss of our son and will not bring comfort or closure.” 

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals stayed Storey’s execution in April 2017, less than a week before he was to receive a lethal injection, and ordered District Judge Everett Young to hold an evidentiary hearing based on claims of prosecutorial misconduct. 

Judge Young issued his findings in May 2018, stating, “had this evidence [of the Cherry family’s opposition to the death penalty] been disclosed, there is a reasonable probability” the jury would have reached a different decision. He recommended Storey’s sentence be changed to life in prison without parole and forwarded the evidence, his findings and recommendations to the Court of Criminal Appeals. 

The case remains pending, while Storey remains on death row. 

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Sources: dallasnews.com, texastribune.org