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Duffy waives appeal of 20-year sentence

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In a surprise appearance in Hopkins County's Eighth Judicial Court Thursday afternoon, convicted murderer Roy Dean Duffey waived all rights to an appeal of the 20-year sentenced he received for the stabbing death of David Harrison Cooper in February of 2011.

Attorney Frank Hughes, who represented Roy Dean Duffey, said his client told him he wanted to spare the Cooper family from further grief in any appeal of his sentence.

“He waived appeal today,” Hughes said. “I explained all his rights to him and, although I still feel as comfortable and confident as I did before on the success of an appeal, he was reminded because of the trial, the mother's testimony about how close the two of them were when David Cooper was young.

“When Patricia Cooper testified, it reminded Roy Duffey of how close that they have been as a family and how he was almost a uncle, was actually an uncle to, acted as an uncle for David Cooper,” Hughes said. “He instructed me not to file a motion for a new trial to try to get [sentence] set aside or to take it up on appeal.

In his original trial Duffey agreed to a plea agreement just jury selection was to begin.

That plea agreement specified a sentence of 10 years in prison with a provision for “shock probation” which would mean 180 days in prison, including two months time already served, before Duffy would have been released serve the remainder of his sentence on probation.

Attorneys for Duffy appealed the sentence last year after then District Judge Robert Newsom rejected the plea agreement.

Newsom's rejection of the plea bargain came after members of David Harrison Cooper's family met with the judge and without defense and prosecution attorneys in what was termed an ex parte meeting.

Following that meeting, attorneys Chad Cable and Frank Long filed a motion to recuse or disqualify Newsom from the case.

That motion left Judge Newsom with two options, he could have either removed himself from the case or asked the presiding judge of the First Administrative District to appoint another judge to hear the case. Newsom chose the latter.

Presiding Judge John D. Ovard rejected the motion to disqualify Judge Newsom.

The conviction was then appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Appellate District of Texas at Texarkana.

The appellate court, after reviewing the trial, sent the case back To Hopkins County for a new trial.

“While the recusal testimony indicates the trial judge [Newsom] refused to discuss the details of the case during the ex parte meeting, he clearly listened to the concerns and objections of the Coopers and [Pastor Lavelle] Hendricks regarding a sentencing decision that was not yet final,” the appeals court wrote. “Allowing this trial judge, even if he were to sit mute, to meet privately with a crime victim's family and pastor regarding sentencing and unfinalized plea agreements would create a dangerous precedent that could prejudice injustice in other cases. Characterizing this behavior by a jurist [judge] as harmless would undermine public confidence in the judicial system.

“Accordingly, we [appeals court] reverse the trial court's judgment and remand the case for a new trial by a different judge,” the ruling stated.

The question before the court Wednesday morning was whether the original plea bargain agreement in the second-degree felony manslaughter trial had been accepted by the court or not.

Eighth District Judge Eddie Northcutt elected to take the case back to the beginning and, after hearing testimony, found Duffey guilty.

Judge Northcutt took about 40 minutes to summarize testimony and evidence presented in the trial and determined that Roy Dean Duffey had acted under influence of sudden passion based on the thrown hack saw.

Northcutt then ordered Duffey into the custody of the sheriff's department until he could be transferred to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Institutional Division where he would serve out a sentence of 20 years.

With Thursday's surprise move, Roy Dean Duffey will now be headed to prison.

“He is going to go ahead and do his time,” attorney Frank Hughes said. “He feels very badly, tremendous remorse, and he gets to make the decision now and not me.”

Christmas in July

For weeks, Main Street Theatre’s Special Children’s Workshop students have been learning the fundamentals of stage acting and preparing two plays to present to the public. Tickets are now on sale for back-to-back productions of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” and “Becoming Claus,” which debut next week.

“Right now, we are right in the middle of our annual children's summer workshop and our theme this year is ‘Christmas in July,’” said Co-Director Leah Conner. 

Co-directors David Woody and Conner have orchestrated the camp for years. The workshop lasts five weeks and is comprised of children from 7 to 17 years old.

“We teach the kids all the basics of theater. We focus on stage direction, history, set design, costuming, make-up and a little bit of lighting,” said Conner.

“The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” is about a group of small town bullies who have never heard the story of Christmas. After a series of events, the bullies  star in a church play on the subject. Although they are difficult to control at first, the bullies find out the true meaning of Christmas.

“A lot of people are familiar with this production. It came out in the early 80s and many people have read the book. I actually had to read the book in the school,” said Conner. “It’s about the Christmas story and church musical that is put on by children. This story has a twist with the town bullies.” 

The second play of the evening is an original play entitled, “Becoming Claus.” Workshop veteran students who have participated for years in the summer program decided to write and direct their own production.

“‘Becoming Claus’ follows the life of a little girl from a very young child to an adult,” said Conner. 

As the young girl reaches the age where most people stop believing in Santa, she takes a stand. Telling her friends that she actually saw Santa, she is ridiculed. 

“As time goes on, she becomes a bit of a skeptic. By the end, this play has a very uplifting, serious tone. The story has a redemptive quality,” said Conner. “The kids have really done a good job with the play. It’s really not very long but it is deep. Some of the kids have been crying while they are practicing. It has a punch.”

Conner commented that as the camp comes to a close, she is looking forward to opening night next Thursday. 

  “My favorite part of the camp is when it all comes together. Everyone is so proud of themselves because some of them don’t really get it until the show happens,” said Conner. “They realize how much they have done and why it was all worth it. When they are on stage and people are watching them, their faces light up.”

The Christmas in July themed double production is open to the community and runs July 16 through 26. Shows  begin at 7 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays.  Tickets are $10 and can be purchased online at www.mainsttheatre.com. 

For more information, contact Main Street Theatre at 903-885-0107. 

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