The Tarrant County District Attorney’s office has asked the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (TCCA) to vacate Paul Storey’s death sentence, saying that his trial prosecutor “blatantly lied” to his jury that the victim’s family wanted the death penalty and subsequently committed perjury in state post-conviction proceedings to cover up that lie.

In an extraordinary filing on August 17, 2022 shortly after being granted permission to reenter the case to “set the record straight with respect to the veracity of [former Assistant Tarrant County District Attorney Christy Jack’s] statement” to the jury, county prosecutors asked the TCCA to reconsider its prior decision in 2019 to uphold Storey’s death sentence. Quoting Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s dissent from the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to review Storey’s case, Tarrant County prosecutors wrote: “Former Tarrant County Criminal District Attorneys Christy Jack and Robert Foran committed ‘serious … prosecutorial malfeasance’ during Storey’s trial and then ‘ran out the clock by failing to disclose [it] throughout Storey’s initial postconviction proceedings.’” This, the reconsideration motion argued, “is the very antithesis of due process.”

Storey was convicted and sentenced to death in 2008 for the murder of Jonas Cherry during a 2006 robbery of a Fort Worth putt-putt golf course. Prior to Storey’s trial, Cherry’s mother and father, Judy and Glenn Cherry (pictured), told Jack that they did not want the death penalty imposed for their son’s murder. Prosecutors offered Storey and co-defendant Mark Porter, whom one juror later described as the leader, life sentences if they agreed to plead guilty. Porter took the deal, but Storey did not. Despite the Cherrys’ views, Jack told the jury “[i]t should go without saying that all of Jonas’s family and everyone who loved him believe the death penalty is appropriate.”

The motion filed in the TCCA bluntly asserts, “As we now know, this was a lie.”

In March 2017, Cherry’s parents sought clemency for their son’s killer. In a letter to the Tarrant County District Attorney Sharen Wilson, Gov. Greg Abbott, state District Judge Robb Catalano, and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, they wrote that, as a result of their “ethical and spiritual values,” they strongly oppose the death penalty, and said “[w]e do not want to see another family having to suffer through losing a child and family member.” Storey’s execution, they wrote, “will not bring our son back, will not atone for the loss of our son and will not bring comfort or closure.”

Storey was originally scheduled to be executed in April 2017, but the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (TCCA) stayed his execution so the trial court could consider whether the prosecution knew its argument that the Cherry family wanted the death penalty was false and whether the family’s opposition to the death penalty in the case constituted newly discovered evidence.

After hearing testimony from nineteen witnesses, Judge Everett Young overturned Storey’s death sentence, holding that the prosecutor’s argument was false, that Jack had “made the argument intending it to affect the jury’s verdict,” and that she “was aware of [its] falsity” when she did so. However, on appeal in October 2019, the TCCA reinstated Storey’s death sentence without reaching the merits of the prosecutorial misconduct claim, holding that the claim was procedurally barred because Storey had not proven that his post-conviction lawyer, who was deceased, could not have discovered the Cherry’s opposition to the his death sentence in time to raise the issue earlier.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case in July 2022.

When the TCCA returned the case to the trial court in 2017, District Attorney Sharen Wilson asked for her office to be recused, noting that Storey’s trial lawyer, Larry Moore, had become First Assistant District Attorney. This, she said, placed Tarrant prosecutors “in the untenable position of being both prosecutor and witness.” With the testimony complete and Moore walled off from involvement in the case, Wilson in July 2022 asked and received permission for her office to reenter the case to address what it described as “Christy Jack’s blatant disregard for candor to the tribunal.”

Asking the TCCA to reconsider its determination that Storey had failed to prove that his post-conviction counsel could not have discovered that Jack’s argument was false, Wilson argued, “There is simply no way Storey’s initial state habeas counsel­—well-known for his diligence and his work ethic—could have discovered that Ms. Jack had lied during her closing argument when no one had any reason to believe that was the case, when not a single note in the State’s trial file suggested that was the case. … Whatever diligence requires of defense counsel …, it cannot possibly require them to search for, much less find, something hidden from them which they do not even know to search for.”

Summarizing why Tarrant County prosecutors now believe Storey’s death sentence should be overturned, Wilson wrote: “In 2008, Ms. Jack and Mr. Foran failed to disclose favorable, material evidence to defense counsel. Ms. Jack compounded this action when she blatantly lied during her closing argument at trial. Ten years later, Ms. Jack and Mr. Foran compounded that lie even further when they gave perjured testimony to cover up the fact that Ms. Jack had violated Storey’ s right to a fair trial …. Storey should, at the very least, be granted a new punishment trial. Justice demands it.”

In a statement provided to Fort Worth television station WFAA, Jack said: “I stand by my statements to the jury and my testimony during the hearing. I even went so far as to take — and pass — a polygraph related to the truthfulness and veracity of my testimony.”

Jack asserted that she still has a note from the Cherry family “thanking me for speaking on their behalf after the jury returned their unanimous decision for capital punishment.” “I respect that, with the passage of time, the family has forgiven Paul Storey,” Jack said. “Their compassion demonstrates the type of people they are.”