Attorney testifies in murder case, says he found spent bullet in then-client's home
A Texas lawyer testified Wednesday in the murder trial of a former client, telling the jury that he had found a spent bullet at the scene of the fatal 1986 shooting. He also admitted that he’d lied to a grand jury last year when questioned about the case.
Attorney Marshall Shelsy represented William Porter during the investigation into the shooting. He now works for Harris County as a staff attorney for misdemeanor judges, according to the Houston Chronicle and KPRC. Shelsy testified that he found the bullet at Porter’s home in 1986, where Gerald Oncale Jr. was shot to death.
Porter, now 52, had claimed Oncale was a burglar. He told authorities in 1986 that he shot Oncale in self-defense. He was not charged at that time. However, Harris County sheriff’s officers arrested Porter last year after they learned he knew Oncale, and that the man owed Porter money, the articles report.
The prosecution is now saying that the trajectory of the bullet Shelsy found shows Porter shot the victim as he was sitting on a sofa, according to the articles.
On the stand Wednesday, Shelsy said he found a bullet in 1986 behind a couch, as he searched Porter’s home with Porter’s wife. “It was either in the wall or on the floor right behind the sofa,” the lawyer told jurors.
Porter’s current defense counsel unsuccessfully argued that Shelsy’s testimony was inadmissible, because it was protected by attorney-client privilege, the Chronicle reports.
Shelsy testified that attorney-client privilege didn’t apply, because he found the bullet by calculating its trajectory through holes in the couch rather than through anything Porter told him.
He said he picked up the bullet and kept it in a file for 20 years, then threw the entire file away in 2008, KPRC reports. However, when asked last year about it during the cold-case investigation he initially lied to a grand jury before coming clean about his discovery, Shelsy admitted.
While he says he now knows this was wrong, at the time “It was my belief that in protecting my client I could keep a piece of evidence,” he told the jury on Wednesday. “If I was ever asked about it, I would have to release it. I thought I was doing the right thing.”
The Chronicle says the statute of limitations has expired for pursuing an evidence-tampering case against Shelsy. KPRC says Shelsy testified under a grant of immunity.