DALLAS, Texas – Three years after he was freed from prison, a 51-year old man, Clay Reed Chabot who spent 21 years in prison after a murder conviction in a Garland case, pleaded guilty to the same crime Friday. According to reports, Chabot was granted a new trial because DNA evidence showed that his original conviction was tainted.
Clay Reed Chabot, who had until then maintained his innocence and had been represented by attorneys with the Innocence Project, was sentenced to time served after entering his plea. The agreement allows prosecutors to claim a conviction and Chabot to go free. He was taken into custody by Dallas County sheriff’s deputies but was expected to be processed out quickly. Chabot pleaded to a murder charge in the death of Galua Crosby on April 29, 1986. The woman was found tied up and gagged in her Garland home. She had been shot three times in the head. Prosecutors portrayed it as a drug deal gone bad.
Chabot was first convicted of killing her in 1986, partly because of testimony by his brother-in-law Gerald Pabst, who said on the stand that Chabot raped and shot Crosby. But a 2007 DNA test on a vaginal swab excluded Chabot as the rapist but linked Pabst to the crime. Pabst was convicted of capital murder in 2008 and sentenced to life in prison. After Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins agreed that Pabst’s perjured testimony had tainted the original conviction, Chabot won his freedom and a new trial. But Watkins insisted that both men killed Crosby. Chabot had maintained his innocence until Friday. It was an unusual case for the New York-based Innocence Project, which as its name suggests, does not typically represent clients who plead guilty to murder.
Meanwhile, Crosby’s sister-in-law said the legal center’s representation of Chabot “puts a black mark on anyone who says they are innocent.” “He abused the Innocence Project,” Susan Campbell said. “To try to proclaim his innocence is a terrible injustice.” At Chabot’s original trial, prosecutors said that he was angry about $500 worth of bad methamphetamine he had bought from Crosby’s husband and that he sought retribution by killing the man’s wife. Pabst testified then that he and Chabot drove to Crosby’s home and demanded drugs, before Chabot lost his temper and disappeared into the bedroom with Galua Crosby. Pabst said he heard several gunshots, and the two men then fled. Chabot maintained that he was home sleeping at the time and that Pabst had borrowed his gun and killed Crosby. Authorities found a knife from Crosby’s home in Pabst’s car and a pawnshop ticket for a radio stolen from Crosby’s home in his possession. But Pabst cut a deal with prosecutors in 1986 to testify against his brother-in-law and avoid prison.
Watkins acknowledged the adversarial nature of the case, unusual because he has worked with the Innocence Project on several of the two dozen Dallas cases where convictions have been set aside because of DNA or new evidence. Dallas has more DNA exonerations than any county in the nation and all but two states. “This was probably not the best case for them,” Watkins said. “They, overall, do a very good job.”