DNA Evidence Ain't No "Get Out of Jail" Free Card for One Man
Clay Chabot stays in prison -- for now.
For 21 years, Clay Chabot has been imprisoned for the 1986 murder of Galua Crosby. But a A DNA test has implicated the state’s chief witness against him, Gerald Pabst, but prosecutors told Judge Lana Myers this morning they intend to retry Chabot. His attorneys welcome the chance to prove his innocence. The case was the subject of a cover story in the paper version of Unfair Park last month.
“We don’t believe he’s innocent,” assistant district attorney Mike Ware told the court today. “He was convicted on the perjured testimony of Gerald Pabst. But that doesn’t mean he’s not the shooter or an active participant in the crime.” Ware was appointed as special prosecutor dealing with DNA requests and “conviction integrity” by Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins, who sat in the courtroom for part of the hearing.
Myers said she would forward to the Court of Criminal Appeals her recommendation that Chabot receive a new trial.
After spending the last 21 years in prison, Chabot -- a small gray-haired man who appeared in court today wearing a blue suit -- requested release on bond until trial. The court heard testimony from his brother Mark Chabot, who said he and his extended family in Ohio would be responsible for Clay if he were released.
Ironically, Pabst was living within 30 miles of the extended Chabot family in Ohio when he was arrested. Pabst now sits in the Dallas County Jail, awaiting trial for Crosby’s murder.
At trial, Pabst had testified he was present, under duress from Chabot, in the home of Crosby and her common-law husband when Chabot murdered her. Pabst claimed his participation in the crime was limited to stealing her TV and radio.
Unknown to the defense, Pabst had made a secret agreement with the prosecution to testify against Chabot, then his brother-in-law. Several days after Chabot was convicted and sentenced to life in prison, Pabst pleaded guilty to the reduced charge of misdemeanor theft and was released from jail on time served: 30 days.
More than a year ago, Judge Myers had granted Chabot’s post-conviction request for sophisticated DNA testing on 20-year-old evidence preserved in the case. The results on sperm found in Crosby’s body matched that of Pabst, and excluded Chabot and Doug Graham, Crosby’s boyfriend.
Chabot’s attorneys, Bruce Anton of Dallas and Vanessa Potkin, an attorney with the Innocence Project of New York, said they believe the DNA completely exonerates their client. “The DNA exposed not only that the case against Chabot was based on perjured testimony, but it links Pabst directly to the crime,” says Potkin.
She claims that there are now no “credible” witnesses linking Chabot to the crime.
“Ironically, Clay came forward to help the police solve the crime,” Potkin says. “He went to prison for 21 years on perjured testimony, and the man who did it went scot-free after spending 30 days in jail.”
Judge Myers will hold another hearing next Friday, during which there will further testimony concerning Chabot’s request to be released on bond. --Glenna Whitley