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Tarrant County DA: Prosecutor asked for death penalty against family's wishes

Paul Storey was sentenced to death after a jury found him guilty in the 2006 robbery shooting death of Jonas Cherry, a Fort Worth miniature golf course manager.

FORT WORTH, Texas — Editor's note: The video published above is a WFAA report from 2017 when Paul Storey's execution was stayed.

The Tarrant County district attorney has acknowledged that a prosecutor told jurors that a victim's family wanted the death penalty for defendant Paul Storey when, in fact, they did not, according to a motion filed last month.

District Attorney Sharen Wilson's motion was to reinstate her office as the prosecution on the case. 

Tarrant County prosecutors were recused from the case in 2017 because Larry Moore, a county prosecutor, had represented Storey during his trial in 2008. Although Moore is now Chief of the Criminal Division at the Tarrant County District Attorney's Office, he is totally recused from the Storey case, so Wilson filed the motion to reinstate her office to the case, and Wilson's motion was granted.

A jury in September 2008 had sentenced Storey to death for his role in the 2006 robbery shooting death of Jonas Cherry, who worked as the assistant manager of a miniature golf course near Fort Worth. Storey's co-defendant was also convicted, but avoided the death penalty.

A jury voted to have Storey put to death, and his execution was set for April 2017. But the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ordered it to be stopped less than a week before it was to take place. 

Storey's defense attorneys accused prosecutors of lying to the jury during his original trial. The jury was reportedly told that the parents of Jonas Cherry wanted Storey executed, which they deny.

Now, District Attorney Sharen Wilson is on board with a review of that accusation, according to the motion she filed in July. In the letter, Wilson wrote that, during arguments, then-Assistant Criminal District Attorney Christy Jack told the jury that Jonas Cherry's family favored the death penalty when they said they did not. 

View Wilson's full motion here

Credit: Christy Jack
Former Tarrant County Assistant Criminal District Attorney Christy Jack

In a statement provided to WFAA on Thursday, Jack stood by her position to seek the death penalty in the case.

"This case was appealed to Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, and the United States Supreme Court -- all of which upheld the death penalty as decided by the jury," the statement from Jack reads. "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."

Her statement continues: "I faithfully served the citizens of Tarrant County for 24 years and am proud of the work I did at the District Attorney’s Office. I still have the note from the victim's 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. Their compassion demonstrates the type of people they are."

Jack provided WFAA a copy of a note she said was sent to her by the Cherry family.

Credit: Christie Jack
Christy Jack provided WFAA with the following note she said she was sent by the Cherry family following her pursuit of the death penalty in Storey's case.

But the Cherry family has said that they strongly-opposed the death penalty, and  they have since advocated for Storey to receive a sentence of life without parole. Cherry's parents have also met with Storey's parents throughout their fight to obtain a new sentencing hearing to get the death penalty overturned. 

The Cherry family has also directly appealed to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott about their wishes. Wrote the Cherry family in a letter to Abbott: "We do not want to see another family having to suffer through losing a child and family member. Due to our ethical and spiritual values we are opposed to the death penalty."

Storey's defense attorneys have also accused prosecutors of lying to jurors during his original trial. 

Wilson's motion comes after the state’s highest criminal court sent the case back to the Tarrant County trial court to review those claims. 

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