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April 29, 2008


George, I'm curious. Are you observing this case in some kind of official capacity, or do you have a personal connection to some aspect of it? I don't mean to pry...I'm just trying to put some context around your observations (which are quite interesting, by the way).

Eric, I'm there in the capacity of a Blogger trying to shine a tiny light into the wheels of justice.

It is very usual for one party to invoke "the Rule" during a criminal trial. Oftentimes one side just happens to invoke it first, but the other side would have if they hadn't been beaten to the punch. Its especially good practice if you expect the other side to call a lot of witnesses.

Thanks Galen. The defendant's wife was the only witness in the courtroom at the time, so it looked a little strange to see his lawyer kick her out.

Interesting coverage, Geo. Thanks.
Recently a retired fire chief mentioned to me his concern that no arson cases were being prosecuted in Odessa or in Midland. Any idea how long it's been prior to this case?

Les, I believe there was a trial in Midland very recently in which a man was convicted of murder and arson. And a few years ago a man was tried and convicted in a case in which he was accused of killing his wife and at least one child then setting the house on fire. But in both of those cases the fires may have been set to cover up another crime.

The current case is the only one I'm aware of that involves a charge of arson for profit.

Invoking the rule doesnt just apply to whoever is in the courtoom at the time, but applies to any and all non party witnesses.

Redman, thanks for clearing that up for anyone who may not have known.

Let me get this straight: the guy was out of town, had been dumped by his girlfriend, so in revenge he didn't set her house on fire, but his own?... makes sense. Also, the genius cops didn't question her rebound boyfriend that had just been dumped, had a temper and gasoline. And to add to their brilliance the cops didn't take finger prints off the gasoline can, door knob or water heater? What am I missing? Why are they going after this guy? Where is the smoking gun that puts him there?
Oh, and did anyone consider that is was USAS insurance that tipped off the IRS to go after Mr. Pickard's finances in the first place?
Sounds like Midland cops are bored.

Kyleigh, just a minor correction to avoid confusion -- the investigation was done by the Fire Department and not the Police Department.

I can't wait to hear the verdict on this, and get your take on it, George. You've done an excellent job of recapping the testimony, and of piquing my interest in a case that would have probably otherwise gone unnoticed.

why did my post get deleted?

Sorry, computer error where I couldn't see the page. Why did the Fire Dept and not the PD investigate? I thought wherever a crime was committed the PD would have taken the reins.... BTW- thanks for an accurate representation of the testimony and not trying to blow it out of proportion in one way or the other and putting a media-inflamed-spin on it.

How do you feel the jury percieves the testimony, information, etc?

Thanks Eric, this has been a very interesting case. I hope my efforts here have been worthwhile.

Kyleigh, since the FD specializes in fires and related matters then somewhere along the line there developed a specialization of investigating the cause and origin of fires. I don't know how it is in other cities, but here those specialists work in the FD. The FD investigators have received the education and training for TCLEOSE certification, and they are licensed peace officers, can carry firearms, and have the authority to make arrests. (And thanks for the kind words!!)

Stephanie, I really couldn't say how the jury has perceived all they've heard. They have been taking notes, and I believe they have been paying close attention. Ideally someone could watch the jury for body language, facial expressions and other signs of agreement or disagreement. But I wasn't able to do that. Sorry.

When is the jury expected to render it's decision? Any indication which way they are leaning? If you were on the jury what would you take into consideration?


Haha!! Not Guilty Verdict In!! That DA can go suck on a tailpipe!!!! :)

And what a DA JackAss- saying that Robert Pickard was the "luckiest guy in the world." Imagine the horror and devestation that man has been going through for 3 years. Loses everything in a fire and then has a blow-hole DA going after him b/c he's bored. Not one person ever said or claimed that Mr. Pickard had ever felt any happiness or relief from watching his entire life's belonging's go up in flames, and there was never a single person that claimed so much as to have heard that he recruited someone. The DA may have been doing his job, or just wanted to fill up his winter since he couldn't play golf, but next time he should try and get a case that actually has elements. The DA and the FD should go blow that smoke up someone else's behind!


Sorry to be filling up your comments section! :p... BUT-- did anyone get a sense of what were the high points that led the jury to find the NG?

Good for the Pickards!


For 3 years I have watched this couple suffer. They have been humiliated, their reputations have been destroyed. They have fought to hold their heads up and face this town with dignity and humility. No two people deserve an apology more than Bob and Lesslie. Do you think the DA or the Fire Investigator will face this town with dignity and humility and apologize to them? I think not! They will hide behind their job titles and use the excuse "I was just doing my job"!!!
To my friends, I say "I am proud to know you and proud to call you my friends".

I don't know any of the people involved in this case, on either side, but based on the reporting done in this post, a not guilty verdict seems like the right decision.

Thanks again, George, for distilling a complicated case into a very interesting and enlightening account. You might have carved out a new niche for yourself in the blogosphere!

Mr. Shelly a hostile witness?? When one has had a heart attack, then been diagnosed with cancer, that makes him uncooperative?! Give me a break! The DA wasn't grasping, but trying to find any way, to try to form some kind of a case. Against an innocent man. How absolutely bored and boring, he must be?


Excellent reporting, Geo. Thanks.
Now look over the dockets and find another case about which you can entertain us. I'll wait right here...
(If I owned a local newspaper I'd be making you an offer to be my court reporter on major trials. Alas, I don't own a newspaper.)

HA HA, good one Les. Tell ya what, let's take turns. The next one is all yours.

eric, thanks for that input

They are nice folks that have lived through a total nighmare. If you new them personaly you would know they would not have done this. That being said, best of wishes to both of them.

The case about the man who was convicted for murder and arson was Mr Ernie Shelly biological son from his first marriage. I just say this case, and the district atty is correct this is not the first arson investigation Mr Shelly has been questioned about.

That's very interesting, JM. Thanks for sharing that.

What was the name of the guy who murder his wife and children and then start the house on fire. He was Mr shelly only son.

Marksjeanne -- Garland Leon Martin was convicted of murder in Midland, County, in 1998 after his common law wife along with two children were found dead following a fire in their house.

Here's his TDCJ page:

And there's info about that case here:

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