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April 18, 2013

Investigation ordered in local murder case

The state’s highest criminal appeals court has ordered the trial court in the case of a Wills Point man, convicted of murder two years ago in connection with a shooting death in January 2010, to investigate whether the defendant received ineffective assistance of counsel.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals issued its ruling Wednesday, in the case of Lanny Dean Campbell, who was convicted in the death of James Michael McKinnis.

A jury in the 196th District Court rejected defense arguments that Campbell shot and killed McKinnis in self-defense. Campbell was sentenced to 35 years in prison for the conviction, which was previously upheld by the Sixth Court of Appeals in Texarkana.

Prosecutors claimed the evidence and testimony during the week-long trial showed Campbell killed McKinnis without provocation in an “over the top” moment.

In his appeal Campbell believed his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance because the attorney failed to prepare for trial, failed to secure testimony from favorable witnesses, failed to impeach the testimony of one of the prosecution’s witness, failing to introduce recordings of the witness in which she admitted to having lied in her statements to police, and failing to adequately develop facts and argue for suppression of evidence obtained in an illegal search.

In its opinion, the appeals court ruled that the trial court should order Campbell’s trial attorney to respond to the claim of ineffective assistance of counsel within 90 days.

“The trial court shall make findings of fact and conclusions of law as to whether the performance of Applicant’s trial counsel was deficient and, if so, whether counsel’s deficient performance prejudiced Applicant,” according to the ruling.

“The trial court shall also make any other findings of fact and conclusions of law that it deems relevant and appropriate to the disposition of Applicant’s claim for habeas corpus relief.”

Campbell, who had listed a Wills Point address in the Waco Bay subdivision, had pleaded not guilty to the murder charge.

Sheriff’s deputies and officers with the Quinlan Police Department responded just before midnight Jan. 30, 2010 to a call of shots fired at a home in the 2400 block of Cottonwood in the Waco Bay subdivision.

The first arriving deputy found McKinnis lying in the front yard of the residence, a victim of gunshot wounds. McKinnis, 21, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Two of the eyewitnesses who testified against Campbell were the defendant’s own children.

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