By Carlton Leatherwood
On May 19, in opening remarks at a town hall style meeting held in Espresso y Poco Mas in the Terlingua Ghost Town, to a crowd of about 20, District Attorney Rod Ponton said his office worked very hard at the prosecution of suspect Tony Flint for the killing of Glenn Felts outside Felts’ Terlingua bar, La Kiva, on February 4, 2014. On Tuesday, May 5, the jury in Flint’s trial in Sierra Blanca found Flint “not guilty.”
“We’re more disappointed than anyone for the jury verdict of ‘Not Guilty.’” Noted Ponton.
“Legally, the case is over,” he said. There had been speculation that the Felts family might bring a civil suit. “We’ve had a lot of discussion with the Felts family,” Ponton said, “whether or not to bring a civil law suit, or something else, and they decided that they want to turn the page and go on with their lives; that that is what they believe Glenn would have wanted. So they are going to try to heal from everything that happened.
‘I did get an e-mail message from the family thanking me for everything my office and the many other law enforcement authorities have done for the family. They said that ‘your compassion and effort will never be forgotten.’
‘Our heart goes out to the family.”
Some in the audience wondered if there were any other legal repercussions for Flint.
“Does this trial go on his record, like if he goes to apply for a job?” Collie Ryan asked. Ponton answered that “one thing to remember is he wasn’t found innocent. There’s a difference between found innocent and not guilty. Not guilty is not proven. His record will show he was arrested for murder.”
Another questioner asked what the jury had to say after the case was over.
“Different jurors had different things to say,” the district attorney said. “I don’t think they believed that it was self-defense. I don’t believe that they thought someone else ran over Glennn [Felts]. Some of them wanted to see more 100 percent certain computer type evidence proving that the boot caused a skull fracture. They decided that since we didn’t have that evidence, that was reasonable doubt.
‘There was DNA on the boot, and that was presented to the jury,” Ponton continued. “Glennn’s blood was on Tony’s boots, and that was presented to the jury. Glenn’s shirt was found at Tony’s house, and that was presented to the jury.”
Another questioner asked the DA if he could say anything about the composition of the jury? Ponton said the jury represented a nice cross section of Hudspeth County.
One questioner stated that it seemed like such an open-and-shut case, to which Ponton responded, “Juries have surprised us in the past, and [this one] surprised us all two weeks ago.”
Ryan spoke up again, asking if there was a difference between self-defense and reducing somebody to hamburger?
“Well, of course there is,” Ponton responded. “And that’s what we presented to the jury.”
In his opening remarks, Ponton had said, his office produced 350 exhibits, lots of photographs from the crime scene, lots of photographs from the autopsy.
“We believed that the evidence would show that Tony was criminally guilty of killing Glenn.”
He went on to say that he heard comments after the trial about whether Flint should have been charged with murder or a lesser offense.
“In Texas, we charge people with the most serious offense that the law says is committed. In this case it was murder. And the murder that Tony was charged with was by knowingly causing serious bodily injury to Glenn that resulted in the death of Glenn.”
“Also, under Texas law, when the case goes to the jury, all lesser offenses that are appropriate are also presented to the jury for consideration. In this case, the jury was presented with the option of finding Tony guilty of manslaughter or recklessly causing death.”
He said his office worked on the case for a couple of months, almost full time, with an assistant attorney general from Austin.
Another questioner said a newspaper account depicted a trial in which Tony gave a compelling defense. “Is that your opinion?” he asked Ponton.
“No,” responded the DA, “nor did other observers think so—it was not supported by any evidence at all.”
“When we cross examined Tony,” Ponton said, “it was specifically pointed out that his stories that he told police were at odds with what he was testifying at the trial. Certainly, they couldn’t both be true.”
Another audience member asked if it were true that Flint sat in court and called witnesses ‘liars.’ Yes, he did, said Ponton, insofar as their testimony contradicted anything Flint said.
“Our justice system is a jury system, and it is imperfect,” the District Attorney said. “I’m not pleased with the results, but it is our system.”
Marcos Paredes had the final question: “How much total time did Tony spend in jail?”
The DA said, “Probably about three weeks.”
Rod Ponton, Disrtict Attorney for the 83rd District, issued this statement on the trial of Tony Flint for the murder of Glenn Felts, longtime owner of Terlingua bar La Kiva:
I want to thank everyone from Hudspeth County who assisted the 83rd District Attorney’s office during our prosecution of Tony Flint for murder of Glenn Felts. Although I disagree with the jury’s decision, I respect the jury system in our country.
The jury told me they had a couple of reasonable doubts about convicting Tony, so they said “not guilty.” The jury did not believe self defense. The jury did not say that Tony did not kill Glenn; in fact, Tony admitted to flinging Glenn against a mesquite tree, punching Glenn four times while Glenn’s head was against the tree, such that Glenn went unconscious, could not walk or stand, and then dragged Glenn to where he lay. So Tony killed Glenn.
There are a couple of misperceptions out there. The Brewster County grand jury indicted Tony for murder, because the autopsy showed 15-20 injuries, including two different fatal skull fractures, 12 ribs broken on one side, 5 of 12 ribs broken on the other side, a cut diaphragm, and other internal injuries.
The drag marks in the parking lot proved no other person killed Glenn—no tire marks, just Tony’s size-14 boots. One or two blows might be manslaughter, but 15 or 20 blows is done knowingly. Glenn’s blood was on Tony’s boots and Tony’s overalls.
Murder is not just intentionally killing someone; murder is also when you knowingly commit an act dangerous to human life, that results in the death of an individual. This is what Tony was charged with.
The jury was also given the option of finding Tony guilty of manslaughter, for reckless conduct, as a lesser included offense. So there was no mistake in the indictment, or in the jury charge. We believed that the number and extent of the blows to Glenn showed that Tony acted “knowingly.” The fact that Glenn died of these injuries clearly showed that the acts Tony committed “were dangerous to human life.”
All evidence was presented to the jury, 30 witnesses, 350 exhibits, the Sheriff and three deputies, two Texas Rangers, lab personnel, coroner, and numerous Terlingua witnesses, over seven days. The case was prosecuted by three prosecutors: me, Assistant Attorney General Tina Richardson (Austin), and Assistant D.A. Sam Katz. We were assisted by an investigator and two other persons from my office. The State of Texas provided every possible resource to aid in this prosecution.
The state did its job. Although I disagree, the jury did theirs. The only thing to be blamed is our jury system, which, although flawed, is still the best in the world.
My heart goes out to Molly Felts Gillespie and the Felts family. We should all say a prayer in honor of the memory of Glenn Felts.