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Otis Mallet, Jr.

Other Harris County, Texas exonerations with no crime
https://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/PublishingImages/Otis_Mallet_Jr.jpeg
On April 29, 2008, Houston police officer Gerald Goines along with other officers arrested 52-year-old Otis Mallet Jr. and his 49-year-old brother Steven on charges of possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine.

By the time Otis Mallet went to trial in Harris County Criminal District Court in January 2011, Steven had pled guilty to one count of possession of crack cocaine and was sentenced to 10 months in Texas State Jail. Steven was allowed to be released immediately, due to time spent in custody after his arrest. Months earlier, Steven rejected a similar plea offer from the prosecution because it required him to implicate Otis in the crime.

At Otis Mallet’s trial, Goines testified that he received a tip from an informant. While working undercover, he arranged a meeting to purchase crack cocaine from Steven at a house located at 1121 Danube Street in Houston. He said that after he drove up in an unmarked vehicle, Steven approached on a bicycle. Goines said he asked for a “quarter” and gave $200 to Steven, who then rode his bicycle to a truck parked in the driveway where Otis was standing.

Goines said Otis took a blue can out of the truck, took an object out of the can, and gave it to Steven. Goines said that Steven gave Otis the $200, and then returned to Goines’s vehicle to give him the object, which was crack cocaine.

Goines said that he then signaled other officers waiting nearby to move in and arrest the Mallet brothers. Goines said that before the officers arrived, Otis took the blue can around to the rear of his neighbor’s residence. He was arrested as he walked back out toward the street.

The can was not tested for fingerprints, Goines said, because he saw the transaction—there was no need.

Goines testified that he used “police money” to make the purchase. And although he said he didn’t know if a drug-sniffing dog alerted to the truck, a police report showed the dog did not alert on the truck.

Officer Raleigh Jordan testified that he was in civilian clothes and drove by as a precaution in case there was trouble. He said he did not see a drug transaction, but did see Goines talking to a man on a bicycle. Under cross-examination, Jordan said that he assumed that Goines had marked money on him and that he accounted for it at the end of the day.

After Jordan’s testimony, the prosecution recalled Goines to the witness stand to explain why the $200 was not recovered. He said that police money was “money that we are not going to ever try and recover. It’s just money that we use and we spend.”

A crime lab employee testified that the substance inventoried by Goines tested positive as crack cocaine.

Donna Massey, who lived at 1121 Danube Street, testified for the defense that she was sitting outside when Otis Mallet pulled up his truck. She said that the backyard was “congested” with scrap metal that Otis collected and resold. She said that Otis was present for about 20 minutes when police came and arrested him. Massey said she did not see any drug deal nor did she see Goines parked in front of the house. She said she did not see Otis with a blue can.

Lester Locking lived next door at 1119 Danube Street. Police said the blue can was recovered from Locking’s back yard. Locking said he never saw Otis walk into the backyard of 1119 Danube, did not see Otis with a blue can, and did not see Goines. He said Otis was standing in his yard when police arrived.

Steven Mallet testified that he was stopped in the street while riding his bicycle. He said he never saw Goines and he never received $200. He said he saw his brother come to check on his scrap metal. Steven said he pled guilty because he wanted to get out of the Harris County Jail. He said he could have gotten out sooner, but he refused to take a deal from the prosecution requiring him to testify against Otis.

Otis testified and denied there was any drug transaction. He said he had been married for 24 years and had four children. On the day of his arrest, Otis said he took his boys to the barber shop and then coached a basketball practice. He said he operated a scrap metal business, had not been involved in a drug transaction with his brother, and that he never saw the blue container until police produced it.

In rebuttal, Goines was called to testify again by the prosecution. He said that he witnessed Otis walk behind 1119 Danube, where Goines said that the blue can was recovered.

During closing argument, the prosecution noted that Goines was with the Houston Police Department for more than 25 years and “deserves to be treated with more respect than he’s been treated with.”

On January 18, 2011, the jury convicted Otis of possession with intent to distribute more than four grams and less than 20 grams of crack cocaine. He was sentenced to eight years in prison. On February 27, 2014, he was released on parole.

On January 28, 2019, Goines led a raid on a home in the Pecan Park neighborhood of Houston belonging to 59-year-old Dennis Tuttle and his 58-year-old wife, Rhogena Nicholas. Goines had obtained a no-knock warrant after telling a judge that he had set up a controlled buy of narcotics there using a confidential informant. Goines and his partner, Steven Bryant, and other officers broke down the front door of the home and shot a dog that they said lunged at them, which prompted a gun fight. Tuttle and Nicholas were killed.

When only a small amount of cocaine and marijuana was recovered—not the amounts that major dealers would be expected to have on hand—an internal investigation was opened. When Goines’s informant could not be found, Goines eventually admitted there wasn’t an informant.

In April 2019, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office dismissed several dozen pending cases involving Goines and Bryant, and began reviewing more than 2,200 cases the two officers handled throughout their careers. In August 2019, Goines was charged with felony murder and Bryant was charged with tampering with a government record after the raid. By then, Goines and Bryant had retired. Ultimately, the district attorney’s review of cases was expanded to cover about 14,000 cases handled by other members of the same narcotics unit in which Goines and Bryant worked.

In November 2019, Goines was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges including depriving Tuttle and Nicholas of their civil rights by killing them.

In February 2020, Houston District Attorney Kim Ogg said that a review of cases Goines played a substantial role in, between 2008 and 2019, found 69 people who may have been convicted on false evidence presented by Goines. Attorneys for the defendants were being notified so they could take steps to vacate the convictions.

In 2013, six years before the 2019 raid, Otis had filed a state application for a writ of habeas corpus seeking to vacate his conviction. Otis’s habeas attorneys had discovered proof that Goines testified falsely at the trial based on his expense records that showed that he had not gotten $200 in “police money.” However, a series of missteps, including the Harris County District Court Clerk’s office misplacing the habeas file and a hurricane that shut down the Harris County courthouse, delayed the case for several years.

On February 3, 2020, prosecutors joined with Otis’s lawyers, Troy Locklear and Jonathan Landers, to support granting of the writ and a finding of actual innocence. The official court findings said that there was no drug deal with Steve and Otis Mallet and that Goines had testified falsely. The court noted that the blue can was tested for fingerprints and no prints were recovered.

In addition, no record could be found of any use of police money by Goines relating to the arrests. Goines’s expense reports, which were not disclosed to the defense before Otis’s trial, showed that he lied about using police funds to buy drugs from Mallet. The expense reports also showed Goines said he paid an informant for information leading to the arrest of the Mallet brothers—information that was not disclosed to the prosecution or the defense, according to the habeas petition.

A recommendation that the conviction be vacated was forward to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

On February 13, 2020, in response to a separate habeas petition filed on behalf of Steven Mallet, the district attorney’s office agreed that Steven was innocent as well. That declaration cleared the way for Steven’s petition to be forwarded to the Court of Criminal Appeals.

On July 1, 2020, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted Otis’s writ and vacated his conviction. On August 17, 2020, the case was dismissed.

His brother’s habeas petition was still pending in the Court of Criminal Appeals.

On July 31, 2020, a Harris County grand jury indicted Goines, Bryant and four police officers (all of whom had retired) who were involved in the raid. District Attorney Ogg declared, “These indictments reinforce our decision to prosecute the graft, greed and corruption in this troubled Houston police division. We look forward to presenting all the evidence in a courtroom to a jury and the people of Harris County.”

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 8/20/2020
Last Updated: 8/20/2020
State:Texas
County:Harris
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2008
Convicted:2011
Exonerated:2020
Sentence:8 years
Race/Ethnicity:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of reported crime:52
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No