Henderson County sexual assault conviction upheld by appellate c - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Henderson County sexual assault conviction upheld by appellate court

Chris Swofford (Source: Henderson County District Attorney) Chris Swofford (Source: Henderson County District Attorney)

From the Henderson County District Attorney's Office

HENDERSON COUNTY, TX - Last Week, the Twelfth Court of Appeals in Tyler, affirmed Christopher Swofford’s convictions for Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child, Indecency with a Child by Contact, and Indecency with a Child by Exposure.  Swofford alleged fourteen points of appeal which were all denied.

The response to Swofford’s appeal was litigated by Assistant District Attorney Justin Weiner. The original trial lasted six days back in November of 2013. Weiner and Nancy Rumar prosecuted the case on behalf of Scott McKee’s District Attorney’s Office.

After the convictions were affirmed, Weiner stated: “The hardest part about prosecuting cases like this is that we can’t undo what has been done to these children. However, I am proud to work for an office that fights relentlessly to seek justice on behalf of children like these that can’t defend themselves. This decision is one more piece of finality that will hopefully help these children move forward and have closure.”

The 2013 trial involved testimony from Swofford’s wife, Sasha, who was convicted by a Henderson County Jury in June of 2013 for acts arising out of the same events. Throughout the trial, the court heard extremely disturbing evidence throughout the entirety of the trial. This included four hours of homemade pornography in which Swofford discussed sexual offenses with the young children while engaging in sadomasochistic acts with his wife. Ultimately, it was the testimony of the 7-year-old victim that graphically described the offenses committed by the Swoffords which also involved another younger 5-year-old family member.

In his appeal, one of Swofford’s arguments was that the home video footage should not have been admitted because it was too harmful to his case.  Justice Greg Neeley, a member of the three judge panel who authored the memorandum affirming the convictions, wrote the following: “The evidence that Appellant sadistically abused his wife and methodically instilled a fear of more and worse abuse if she failed to assist him in sexually abusing their children is highly prejudicial. But it is not unfairly so. The evidence is prejudicial for the same reasons it is probative. We conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in determining that the probative value of the video portions that the State wanted to show is not substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice.”

“In all my years as a prosecutor, this case is one of the most disturbing and wicked I have ever worked on,” said McKee. “It took a real toll on all those involved.”

McKee also credited the work of Henderson County Sheriff’s Investigators Jessica Halbert and Nick Webb for their efforts in bringing the Swofford’s to justice. McKee also personally thanked Sheriff Ray Nutt and his commitment and tough stance on crimes against children.

McKee indicated that almost every conviction from a jury trial results in an appeal state-wide. “This office puts a tremendous amount of work into every case we try,” said McKee.  “However, after conviction is when a great deal of work on the case begins.” McKee indicated that unlike many offices in the state, his office does not have a dedicated appellate attorney.  “The county simply doesn’t have the resources to hire one.  Therefore, we do our own research, write our own briefs and argue them in the Courts of Appeals when necessary,” he said.

The DA also indicated that since assuming office in 2009, they have never had a conviction overturned.  McKee credits that success to the county’s experienced and well-qualified judges on the bench who are very rarely overturned.

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