Why the Jury Found Accused Strip Bar Shooter Not Guilty Despite Recorded Confession
Anthony Walters told police he was the one who shot a .45 cal. handgun multiple times at Desiree’s Gentlemen’s Club and San Angelo Police Detective Antoine Callum had recorded his confession. Detective Callum also recorded a witness statement from Walters’ drinking buddy that night, Jose Chinos, who said the same thing. The security manager at Desiree’s that night testified that he saw a white dually Ford pickup that looked like Walters' speeding away down W. Washington St. after experiencing bullets whizzing past his head while eating a late dinner in Desiree’s office located on the south side of the building.
Walters was facing a Second Degree Felony, 2-20 years in prison and a possible $20,000 fine for Deadly Conduct, Discharge of a Weapon as his trial began Monday.
Yet, a jury of 10 women and two men found Walters not guilty last night after about five hours of deliberation. The closing arguments ended at 4:47 p.m. Wednesday afternoon and the jury didn’t emerge with a verdict until 9:43 p.m. that evening.
The defense, led by local attorney Evan Pierce-Jones and assisted by Todd Simons, executed a defense strategy that meticulously impeached the physical evidence and testimony of the prosecution’s witnesses. For Walters’ defense, the duo only called one witness—a local private investigator and former San Angelo Police Department detective James Johnson who served as an expert crime investigator to confirm Pierce-Jones’ previous impeachment of the State’s witnesses.
Wednesday, the prosecution’s final witness, Detective Callum told the jury about how, after finding Walters’ business card discarded in the parking lot of Desiree’s, he and another SAPD investigator traveled to Big Lake to find Walters and Jose Chinos, Walters’ running buddy that night, on an oil field job site.
When the two arrived at Walters’ truck in Big Lake, they detained Walters and pressed him for a confession while they also searched his truck and Walters’ girlfriend’s gold Chevrolet Tahoe parked next to Walters’ white Ford F-350 dually.
Inside Walters’ truck, police discovered multiple spent .45 cal. bullet casings and an unfired bullet. All of them matched the brand of the single spent bullet-casing police found in the middle of W. Washington St. the night prior.
According to the prosecution, Walters and co-worker Jose Chinos had Monday, Mar. 20, 2014, off and decided to make a trip to San Angelo to party. The duo started off at Twin Peaks restaurant where the two were drinking and having a good time. At some time after dark, the two decided that visiting a topless bar, Desiree’s, located near downtown at the intersection of Koenigheim and W. Washington St., would be fun. So they went.
Once there, Desiree’s security guard Maurice “Mo” Payne told the jury that Chinos was in the VIP section breaking club rules. He was attempting to touch the female dancer during a lap dance. Chinos testified that it was Walters who was touching the dancer while Chinos said he was away in the men’s room.
Both Payne and Chinos were testifying for the prosecution, each offering differing accounts of why the duo was kicked out of the club by Payne that night.
The defense made a big deal out of the credit card receipt entered into evidence by the prosecution. The receipt showed an ineligible “scrawl” as a signature with the tip line scratched out. The night out at Desiree’s cost the two $55. No tip. Pierce-Jones argued that it was Chinos who was angry, and the way he signed the credit card receipt that night proved it.
After leaving the club, testimony revealed that Chinos used his smartphone to search for another bar to visit and they drove off with Walters driving. Pierce-Jones argued that Chinos’ Google search for topless bars returned “Maximus”, the former name of Desiree’s with the same address. The duo looped around San Angelo for 15-20 minutes and ended up back at San Angelo’s only strip bar at around 11:20 p.m.
The prosecution’s witnesses suggested that Walters pointed his .45 cal. handgun out his window as the truck was traveling eastbound on W. Washington St. and fired multiple shots into the Desiree’s building. Payne said he saw the pickup as it sped off after he ran out Desiree’s side door facing south.
The duo stopped at McDonald’s at S. Bryant and Houston Harte Expy. on the way home back to their trailer on the oil field job site at Big Lake. Chinos testified that, on the way home, Walters invited him to handle the .45 cal. handgun, and he did, before putting it away. That put Chinos’ fingerprints on the gun.
The defense used the prosecution witness Detective Callum to discredit the recorded confession. In the confession, the prosecution argued, and Detective Callum stated, that Walters admitted he fired the gun and later hid the .45 cal. handgun in his girlfriend’s Tahoe.
The defense argued that the confession was coerced. Under questioning in Walters’ trailer, the defense said that Callum, who looks like a tall and muscular NFL linebacker, was intimidating.
“If you don’t confess, your going to get the book,” Callum told Walters during the interrogation. “This is your chance. You better tell us some truth.” This is how the defense said the interrogation went.
Walters finally broke down, the defense argued. He finally stated, “I shot the gun …if you said I did,” Pierce-Jones relayed what the recorded confession revealed. “In reality, I don’t remember,” Walters continued, the defense said the recording revealed.
“That’s a start. Don’t go backtracking on me,” Callum warned.
During deliberations, the jury asked to listen to the recorded confession and did.
The heart of the defense was to deconstruct the crime scene investigation. Pierce-Jones argued that the investigation was improper. The scene wasn’t sterilized, and the CSI investigators and the detectives didn’t follow procedures found in two textbooks Pierce-Jones used to discredit the investigation.
Above: A bullet hole in a Desiree's patron's car Monday night, Mar. 10, 2014. Other bullet holes in the building located north of where this car was parked were used by the defense to argue that the shooting position wasn't from a moving vehicle on W. Washington St. (LIVE! Photo/John Basquez)
Pierce-Jones argued that the police arrived with a theory of what happened at the very beginning of the investigation and then gathered evidence and obtained witness testimony to back up that theory.
Significantly, the defense proved the gunshots at Desiree’s likely didn’t originate from a vehicle traveling on W. Washington St. Pierce-Jones meticulously traced the trajectory of the bullets and showed the jury that several of the shots through the front of the building and the front air conditioning ducts were impossible because there were three vehicles between the bullet holes in the building and W. Washington St.
Also, an examination of the firing pin on the single-spent bullet casing found in the middle of W. Washington St. did not match Walters’ handgun’s firing pin. Pierce-Jones showed a triangular impression on the casing found and compared it to a circular firing pin impression found on the casings police recovered from Walters’ truck the next day. The casings were not dusted for fingerprints either.
Above: Bullet hole in the door of the main entrance to Desiree's from Monday night's gun fire on Mar. 10, 2014. (LIVE! Photo/John Basquez)
“What is impossible could not happen,” Pierce-Jones repeated over and over. He even wrote it on a white board in the courtroom.
As the jury deliberated, the defense grew antsy about a hung jury and the prosecution’s opportunity to retry the case. Walters later said that at around the fourth hour of deliberations, his defense team offered deferred adjudication in return for the prosecution dismissing the case. The prosecution would not budge off demanding a felony conviction and no deal was made. As the back-and-forth continued, suddenly the bailiff announced there was a verdict.
Above: Outside Desiree's shortly after the suspected drive-by shooting on Mar. 10, 2014. Desiree's is a topless bar in San Angelo, Texas. (LIVE! Photo/John Basquez)
When the jury returned to the courtroom, Walters’ mother Trish said that one of the jurors looked at her and smiled. “That’s when I knew it was going to be okay,” she said.
Judge Jay Weatherby read the verdict, “Not guilty.” Walters hugged his mother and father, Tracy, who were seated directly behind the defense table. Tears flowed down the mother’s face.
“I was absolutely worried when I came back to San Angelo two years after the incident. You never know what a jury is going to do,” Walters said after his exoneration.
Walters was fired the day after his arrest for bringing a firearm onto a job site. “They said come back when you get this thing cleared up,” Walters said of his former employer.
Walters, 31, saved his money while working in Big Lake as a horizontal driller and had enough to pay for his own defense.
“I paid for every bit of it out of my own pocket,” he said. “Evan Pierce-Jones and Todd Simmons were the two best attorneys I have ever encountered. They really did me justice and put a lot of hard work into it.”
Walters said he believed the State didn’t have enough evidence against him. “They should have never charged me,” he said.
As of today, Walter remains unemployed; he said he was unemployable with the felony charges hanging over his head.
“I am now looking for employment. I now have enough free time to look for it instead of fighting this unjust cause,” he said. “I believe the justice system served me well as far as the trial is concerned. I really do thank the jury and the community of San Angelo for listening to the facts and acquitting me of the charges.”
Walters said that he and his girlfriend with the gold Tahoe, Melanie Case, are still together.
- Leading the prosecution: Assistant DA Richard Villarreal
- Leading the defense: San Angelo Attorney Evan Pierce-Jones
- Judge presiding: Judge Jay Weatherby
- Jurisdiction: State of Texas 391st District Court
Other news stories about the Desiree’s Drive-By Shooting:
- Prosecution Presents Conflicting Testimony in Desiree's Drive-By Shooting Trial (Mar. 23, 2016)
- Desiree's Strip Club Drive-By Trial Begins (Mar. 22, 2016)
- Shots Fired at Desiree’s (initial report, Mar. 11, 2014)
- Desiree’s Shooter Apprehended (Mar. 17, 2014)
- Desiree’s Shooter Fired .45 Cal. Bullets (Mar. 11, 2014)