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James Ybarra

Summary of Goines Cases in Groups Registry
On August 7, 2014, Officer Gerald Goines of the Houston Police Department in Texas arrested 43-year-old James Ybarra and charged him with possession of a controlled substance. In court papers, Goines said that Ybarra had been found to be in possession of between one to four grams of methamphetamine.

The arrest happened after Goines and other officers executed a no-knock search warrant on an apartment residence. In his application for the search warrant, Goines said that a reliable confidential informant had bought drugs at the apartment on Lockwood Drive.

More than a year after his arrest, on November 6, 2015, Ybarra pled guilty to the charge in Harris County Criminal District Court and was sentenced to 12 days in jail.

On January 28, 2019, Goines led a raid on a home belonging to 59-year-old Dennis Tuttle and his 58-year-old wife, Rhogena Nicholas. Goines 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, 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.

The Houston Police Department opened an investigation. 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. Goines was indicted by a federal grand jury in November 2019 on charges that he deprived Tuttle and Nicholas of their civil rights by killing them.

In February 2020, Houston District Attorney Kim Ogg said that a review by her office’s conviction-integrity unit (CIU) of cases Goines played a substantial role in between 2008 and 2019, found 69 people, including Ybarra, who might have been convicted on false evidence presented by Goines.

Ybarra, represented by the Harris County Public Defender’s Office, filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus on November 16, 2022. The petition said Ybarra’s plea was not made knowingly or voluntarily because he was unaware of Goines’s pattern of falsifying evidence.

In the petition, Ybarra said he did not possess any drugs at the time of his arrest and that he pled guilty because he could no longer afford to fight the charges. Ybarra said he and his wife had gone to the apartment to get haircuts from a man he knew as “Styx,” something he had done in the past.

Goines’s search-warrant application said a man named “Slim” was selling drugs from the apartment. Ybarra said he had no knowledge of that man or his activities. “I was only there to get a haircut.”

Ybarra, an Army veteran who served in Desert Storm, said the conviction had enormous collateral consequences. He lost his job as a licensed electrician and was unable to renew his license or be approved as a caretaker for his mother. “Officer Goines’s actions against me have literally ruined my life,” he said.

The district attorney’s office joined with Ybarra in recommending that his habeas petition be granted.

On November 16, 2023, a judge in Harris County Criminal District Court accepted the joint recommendation and referred the case to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

The appellate court granted Ybarra’s petition and vacated his conviction on January 11, 2024. The state dismissed Ybarra’s charge on February 6, 2024.

On February 19, 2024, Ybarra filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas against Goines and the City of Houston, claiming they violated his civil rights and seeking compensation for his wrongful conviction.

– Ken Otterbourg

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Posting Date: 2/28/2024
Last Updated: 2/28/2024
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2014
Sentence:12 days
Age at the date of reported crime:43
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No