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Kelly Daws

Other Jefferson County, Texas exonerations
On December 22, 2016, 44-year-old Jerry Daws, a police officer in Port Arthur, Texas, answered a knock on his front door at Willow Lakes Apartments in Port Arthur. When he opened the door, a man attacked Daws with a large hunting knife.

Daws was cut several times on his arms and shoulder but managed to escape. Daws told police that his attacker said that he would have to kill Daws, because Daws had seen the attacker’s face.

Five days later, on December 27, 2016, police arrested Daws’s estranged wife, Kelly, 44, as well as 46-year-old Joal Riley. Kelly Daws was accused of soliciting Riley to kill Jerry Daws.

Police said Kelly Daws told officers that she was under a lot of stress because she was in divorce proceedings and that she had mentioned to Riley that she would be better off without Jerry Daws.

In March 2019, Kelly Daws went to trial in Port Jefferson County Criminal District Court. By that time, Riley had pled guilty to aggravated assault for the attack. He also had agreed to testify for the prosecution against Kelly Daws. He had been sentenced to seven years in prison and ordered to pay $13,000 in restitution to Jerry Daws.

Jerry Daws testified that when he answered the door, Riley lunged at him with a hunting knife.

"He was trying to kill me," Jerry Daws said. Daws was cut several times on his hands and just below his shoulder. Daws said he managed to slap the knife out of Riley’s hand and then escaped when Riley came into the apartment.

"Once he was at the recliner, I took off from my apartment," Daws said. "I went to three different doors before a couple took me in to help."

Jefferson County Sheriff’s Deputy Alton Baise testified that he was led to Riley by a license plate on a reported suspicious vehicle seen leaving the apartment complex. Baise told the jury that when he met with Kelly Daws, she acknowledged dating Riley and said she had told Riley how much easier her life would be if Jerry Daws weren't alive. Baise also said Kelly Daws told him that Riley had been following Jerry Daws for the week prior to the attack.

The prosecution also played a video of the interview. During the interview, Daws said that her relationship with Riley ended just before Thanksgiving 2016, when she began seeing another man, although they continued to have relations and stayed in touch almost every day.

Riley testified that Kelly Daws offered him $12,000 to kill Jerry Daws. He said she gave him $3,000 in September of 2016 and was to give him the balance after Jerry Daws was dead. Riley said Kelly gave him photos of Jerry Daws and the address to his apartment. He used a hunting knife that he already had.

"I never volunteered to do it. I was never like, 'Oh, oh me, I want to do it,'" Riley testified. Riley said also he never sought the $9,000 balance because Jerry Daws was still alive.

“My intent was to kill him,” Riley said.

Kelly testified and denied the accusation. She said that she had broken up with Riley and that he refused to leave her alone. He continued texting and calling daily. She said she agreed to meet with him, but only in public.

She said she did discuss the divorce proceedings and how she was stressed over how the assets were going to be distributed. She said she may have said she would be better off without Jerry.

“When you’re upset, you say things you don’t mean,” she told the jury. But she denied that she ever gave Riley any money to kill Jerry or that she wanted Jerry killed.

On March 28, 2019, the jury convicted Kelly Daws of solicitation to commit murder and conspiring to commit murder. She was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

A month later, her appellate attorneys, Cory Crenshaw, Jamie Matsuka, and Ryan Gertz, argued that Daws’s trial defense lawyer, Glen Crocker, should have requested that the judge give an instruction to the jury that a co-defendant’s testimony must be corroborated by other evidence connecting a defendant to the crime.

The prosecution did not object to the motion and on April 26, 2019, Daws was granted a new trial. She was released pending a retrial.

Crenshaw subsequently discovered that the prosecution had failed to disclose mental health records of Riley, which the defense could have used to impeach his testimony. In addition, Crenshaw discovered that the prosecution had failed to reveal that one of the police officers involved in the case had given untruthful testimony in a prior, unrelated case—evidence that also could have been used to impeach the officer’s testimony.

More than three years later, on June 7, 2022, a jury was selected for a retrial. Before evidence could be presented, Judge Buddie Hahn ruled that the prosecution could not present the video of Kelly Daws’s interview with police because she was not given her Miranda warnings. Defense attorney Ryan Gertz argued that even if Daws agreed to the interview, she should have been given the Miranda warnings. Gertz also argued that deputy Baise, who conducted the interview, should not be allowed to testify about the interview.

On June 8, 2022, based on Judge Hahn’s ruling, the prosecution dismissed the conspiracy to commit murder charge. On October 10, 2022, the prosecution dismissed the solicitation charge.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 10/25/2022
Last Updated: 10/25/2022
Most Serious Crime:Conspiracy
Additional Convictions:Other Violent Felony
Reported Crime Date:2016
Sentence:12 years
Age at the date of reported crime:44
Contributing Factors:False Confession, Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No