ROBERT LEE, TX — “This will happen again. Next time it could be worse,” is what murder suspect Jasmine Moreno remembers 51st District Attorney Allison Palmer told her when Jasmine requested the prosecutors help lift a court protective order against her husband, Cisco Moreno, who was accused of assaulting and choking her last March.
Palmer’s ever-presence in Jasmine’s odyssey with her husband’s accusations of abusing her had Jasmine’s defense attorneys perplexed over why now prosecutor Palmer wants to put her away for murder by participating in her murder trial.
Palmer’s foreshadowing, as recalled by Jasmine Moreno, came true three months later. Her husband who Jasmine had forgiven for choking her in March was shot dead by June 2018.
According to court documents, Jasmine Moreno shot and killed her husband, 30-year-old Cisco Moreno, in their Robert Lee home at around 4 a.m. Sunday, June 24, 2018. The Texas Rangers investigated the murder and Jasmine admitted to the responding Coke County Sheriff’s Deputy that morning that she shot and killed her husband. She is charged with first-degree felony murder and faces 5 to 99 years in prison if convicted.
During a pre-trial hearing July 9 for Jasmine’s murder trial in District Judge Carmen Dusek’s courtroom in Robert Lee, Jasmine’s defense attorney Frank Sellers of Fort Worth made a motion to disqualify Palmer from participating on the prosecution’s team. He said he intended to call Palmer as a material witness.
Eyebrows raised, suspicions arose. It seems as if Palmer, who pleaded with Jasmine a little over a year ago to help the State proceed with the prosecution of her husband, now wants her put away for good, in prison.
“Although the defense team has repeatedly reminded her of her ethical duty to do so, Mrs. Palmer has yet to recuse herself. And until the final pretrial hearing, it was unclear what her participation in the prosecution may be. Now, it appears she plans to question witnesses, argue motions, and play a pivotal role on the prosecution team,” Sellers argued in a Motion to Disqualify Palmer from the prosecution team filed Friday in Coke County.
Palmer was prosecuting the previous family violence assault case against the shooting victim and husband, Cisco, and is “clearly familiar with Jasmine and Cisco’s relationship, and had undoubtedly formed opinions about Jasmine, Cisco, and their relationship,” Sellers wrote.
According to a sworn affidavit signed by Jasmine accompanying Friday’s motion, Jasmine claims Palmer apologized to her for not prosecuting her husband earlier for previous incidents of assaulting her.
Jasmine recalled Palmer telling her, “I haven’t done anything about this before and for that I apologize. I will prosecute this time.” Palmer reviewed Cisco’s lengthy violent criminal history with Jasmine, where “several times when he had beaten me,” Jasmine wrote.
According to Jasmine, she was shamed by her husband and his family to drop the March 2018 assault charges. She asked Palmer to lift a court protective order so Cisco could see he children, she wrote.
“While in jail, Cisco continued to blame me for his violence. He said that I had to fix this. He said that it was my fault that he was locked up. He threatened suicide. He made me fee like this was my fault. He apologized for beating me. His brother called me to tell me too ‘fix this,’” Jasmine wrote.
Sellers argued that Palmer’s presence on the State’s prosecution team would confuse the jury, especially when Palmer is called to the witness stand to testify for the defense. Playing dual roles in a trial “may indeed violate ethics rules,” Sellers argued.
Palmer was in the ethics hot seat over the appearance of a conflict of interest during the pre-trial diversion of former City of San Angelo Fire Marshal Ross Coleman’s case late last year.
According to our reports, Coleman was accused of withholding a taped confession, one of multiple, though separately similar recordings of an interview with an arson suspect. This particular recording contained unflattering remarks about Palmer made by Coleman and investigators after the interview with the suspect was concluded and the suspect was dismissed from the room. Coleman claimed he thought this particular recording was lost and did not submit it to the court until it resurfaced months later during the fire marshal’s department’s move to a new office. See “How One Critical Error by the City Fire Marshal Ended a Stellar Career.”
Although Palmer was the subject of the unflattering remarks about her in the recording, she elected to prosecute the case and later forged the plea deal with Coleman. Coleman resigned his position as fire marshal, accepted the pre-trial diversion, and has to submit to two years of arduous probation supervision.
Sellers has faced Palmer before. He was hired by the family of Justin Riordan to appeal Riordan’s conviction. Palmer won a conviction of Riordan for having sexual intercourse in the early morning hours with a 13-year-old girl at a house party in Miles in 2014. Sellers presented his arguments to the Texas 3rd Court of Appeals. In one of Seller’s points to the appellate court, he claimed Palmer attempted to compensate for the child witness’s inconsistent performance on the stand by arguing that she (Palmer) personally believed the witness.
“Prosecutors are prohibited from vouching for the credibility of witnesses or offering personal opinions of guilt during final argument,” Seller’s brief to the appeals court states. “Here, the prosecutor made her opinion that the complainant was telling the truth, a main theme of her [final] argument. She told the jury she personally believed the Appellant was guilty.”
Riordan lost the appeal.
Palmer does not answer our requests for comment.