Friends, family and supporters of Greg Kelley, who is seeking to overturn his 2014 conviction for super aggravated sexual assault of a child, are anxiously awaiting a ruling in the case by Williamson County District Judge Donna King.
However, Keith Hampton — Kelley's post-conviction attorney — said over the weekend that the ruling will likely be delayed because Judge King is “determined to get it right."
"There is a strong sense that the judge wants to make sure she has dotted every ‘i’ and crossed every ‘t’," Hampton said Saturday, Sept. 9. "She is working nights and weekends and is carefully reviewing all the evidence, listening to the recordings and asking me questions and the district attorney questions. To see a judge work this hard to get all of the facts and get it right is very impressive.”
Kelley was released on $50,000 bond Aug. 22 after Judge King granted his bail pending a recommendation from the judge to the Texas Court of Criminals on whether Kelley should be returned to prison, exonerated or given a new trial.
In her order for releasing Kelley on bond, Judge King said the three-day hearing in her court in August raised questions about the effectiveness of Kelley's criminal defense attorney during the trial that convicted him three years ago.
King criticized the investigation that led to Kelley's arrest, specifically the actions of Cedar Park Detective Chris Dailey. The judge said Dailey did not speak to Johnathan McCarthy, the other possible suspect in the case, nor did he conduct a follow-up investigation into McCarthy’s involvement.
"Detective Daily failed to interview any adult at the McCarthy household daycare, who might have provided information concerning the reported offense," Judge King said.
McCarty’s attorney, Kellie Bailey, has said that her client is innocent.
Kelley's release, which buoyed his legal team, family, friends and supporters, came three weeks after Judge King began reviewing the facts involved in Kelley's conviction. Kelley, now 22, was in prison for three years before current Williamson County District Attorney Shawn Dick requested a hearing into his conviction.
Judge King's ruling, when it comes, will be in the form of a recommendation to the nine judges on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to drop the charges and free Kelley, give him a new trial or send him back to prison in Huntsville.
Hampton said he believed a return to prison is unlikely.
"I don't believe Judge King is going to take that option,” he said. “She has already made two findings that would lead to an appeal. But the final say will be with the Court of Criminal Appeals. If this is not done correctly, those nine state judges can keep him in prison."
Hampton said the likely extension in Judge King's ruling will probably occur because of the work still remaining to be done to satisfy the judge's review of the case — and also because Patricia Cummings, Kelley's trial attorney who was criticized for her handling of his defense during his trial in 2014, is filing numerous motions in the case.
"That has been a sideshow," Hampton said.
Few of the people involved in Kelley's 2014 conviction have been willing to comment. The Cedar Park Police Department said Chief Sean Mannix and Detective Chris Dailey would not be available to discuss the case until it has been heard by the Texas Court of Appeals.
However, Cummings's attorney did respond to Hampton's claims that motions she has filed are delaying the case. Attorney David Botsford, part of the legal team representing Cummings' interests, said Cummings is ethically prohibited from publicly commenting on those materials, but she can state that “Mr. Hampton's characterization of them is obviously wrong.”
"Ms. Cummings is simply trying to ensure the courts have the necessary information needed to properly rule on the case," Botsford said. "We feel confident that once the court reviews the law and considers the facts, the court will find that Ms. Cummings was not ineffective in her representation of Greg Kelley."
Despite Cummings’ motions and some leaks from disgruntled sources in the Williamson County court system — which Hampton also condemned — Kelley's legal team and his supporters remain optimistic.
"Based on the testimony I have heard, I am very confident that Judge King will recommend a full exoneration of Greg Kelley to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals," said Jesse Mahan, a Kelley supporter. “I applaud Judge King and District Attorney Shawn Dick for their quest for truth and justice.”
"No matter what happens," Hampton said Saturday, "I am convinced this judge has given us a fair shake."