Another Accuser Apparently Enters the Picture
Star-Telegram [Fort Worth TX]
August 8, 2006
The Rev. Terry Hornbuckle, 44, the founder of Agape Christian Fellowship in Arlington, is on trial in state district Judge Scott Wisch's court, accused of raping three women, including two from his congregation.
Photo by the Star-Telegram Archives
If convicted, he could be sentenced to probation or to as much as 20 years in prison for each charge.
Photo by the Star-Telegram Archives
The trial resumed at 9 a.m. Tuesday after a four-day break.
Photo by the Star-Telegram Archives
Star-Telegram reporters Melody McDonald and Traci Shurley will offer tidbits from the trial each day.
Thursday, Aug. 10
Wednesday, Aug. 9
- First came "Jane Doe" and "Kate Jones," the pseudonyms used to conceal the identities of two of the Rev. Terry Hornbuckle's accusers.
Now, another unidentified woman has entered the proceedings.
Early Wednesday, prosecutor Sean Colston approached members of the local media to ask about their companies' policies regarding identifying people who say they have been sexually assaulted.
Some said their outlets generally didn't identify such people. (That includes the Star-Telegram.) Others said they'd have to ask an editor about specific circumstances.
Later, attorneys announced that both sides had agreed that a third female witness would be allowed to testify under a pseudonym. The woman, who came to court to be sworn in, will apparently testify about another case involving Hornbuckle.
That kind of evidence typically is presented during the sentencing phase of a trial.
The new witness will be known as "Rachel Johnson."
Only one of Hornbuckle's accusers, Krystal Buchanan, is testifying under her own name.
- Outside, it may have been sweltering, but in 372nd State District Court on Wednesday, the air conditioning was quite effective.
A few women on the jury donned heavy jackets and another covered her legs with a blanket. Attorneys and the defendant seemed content to keep their suit jackets on.
- On Tuesday, state District Judge Scott Wisch threw two spectators out of the courtroom after a bailiff found that their cell phones were turned on.
Wisch told spectators he could confiscate their phones if they were found on during testimony.
On Wednesday, a muffled ringing sound came from the judge's bench.
"Jeff, come get my phone," Wisch said to a bailiff.
The flub drew roars of laughter from the packed courtroom.
"No double standards," he said. "However, I do get mine back at lunch."
Tuesday, Aug. 8
- When a judge says, "Turn off your cellphone," it is not a suggestion.
Tuesday morning, as defense attorney Mike Heiskell stood to begin questioning a witness, a ringing sound came from the back of the packed courtroom.
Having repeatedly reminded people to turn off their phones, state District Judge Scott Wisch stopped Heiskell. Who was the offender, he asked? No one 'fessed up. So Wisch directed bailiffs to find the person who "doesn't have the guts to stand up and show their phone's on and fix it."
Bailiffs examined all spectators' phones on the right side of the room where the ringing sound came from. They found a woman with a Blackberry on and a man with a phone on.
After a few moments, the woman admitted that the Blackberry had rung. She said it was an accident.
"You're free to leave the courtroom, ma'am, and don't come back until tomorrow and don't bring your Blackberry with you or you will not be admitted," Wisch said.
Wisch wasn't finished. The man's phone was apparently set to record, which sent up "red flags," the judge said. The man, who proclaimed innocence, was kicked out as well.
- Tuesday's lunch break took a little longer than expected, for which Wisch apologized.
It was his 52nd birthday, and his staff had organized a little party.
"If there had been enough cake to send 13 more pieces back there, I would have," the judge told jurors.
- A tip that Renee Hornbuckle, Terry Hornbuckle's wife, had been arriving at the courthouse in a limousine sent reporters and photographers to the sidewalks outside the courthouse Tuesday morning.
False alarm. There wasn't a limo in sight when Renee Hornbuckle walked into the courthouse shortly before 9 a.m.
- Leon Haley, one of Hornbuckle's defense attorneys, took issue Tuesday afternoon with the title that prosecutor Betty Arvin used when referring to his client.
A former church employee was testifying about a two-year sexual relationship that she said she had had with Hornbuckle. When Arvin questioned the woman, she referred to "Bishop Hornbuckle."
Haley asked the judge to prohibit Arvin from calling his client "bishop" in that context, arguing that Hornbuckle was acting as a man, not as a man of God.
"It's not a relationship with a bishop," Haley said. "It's a relationship with Terry Hornbuckle."
Wisch responded that he wouldn't allow trial participants to "pick and choose" when they wanted certain titles used. So, if one witness couldn't use the term bishop, no one could.
Haley withdrew his objection.
Still, for much of the rest of the day, Arvin referred to the defendant as simply "Hornbuckle."
- Hornbuckle and his church staff hobnobbed with some of the Metroplex's rich and famous – including former Cowboys players Deion Sanders and Quincy Carter.
In August 2004, two days after Krystal Buchanan told her stepfather that she had been drugged and raped by Hornbuckle, her stepfather got on a plane with Hornbuckle and flew to California to pick up Carter, who had been cut from the team.
Buchanan testified that she and her stepfather, who worked as Hornbuckle's right-hand man, decided to act like everything was normal for a time until they decided how to deal with their bishop.
- Jurors were not in the courtroom on the day last week when Krystal Buchanan's civil attorney, Lee Finley, pointed to Hornbuckle and shouted, "That man right there brutally raped her" – a statement that got Finley booted from the trial.
The prosecutors and defense attorneys had agreed, as a courtesy, to allow Finley to watch the trial instead of staying outside like the other potential witnesses. After the outburst - which was made while he was being questioned by defense attorney Mike Heiskell about the $2 million demand he made on Buchanan's behalf - Hornbuckle's attorneys requested that Finley be permanently banned.
"You were asked a question and it led into a tirade," Judge Scott Wisch told Finley. "You are out of the courtroom for the rest of the trial."
- Apparently, a spectator thought Hornbuckle's defense team needed some pointers Thursday during their cross-examination of Krystal Buchanan. After borrowing a piece of notebook paper from Star-Telegram columnist Bob Ray Sanders, a man in the gallery - who later declined to identify himself – passed a note to defense attorney Leon Haley.
It read: "Not responsive. Make the witness answer the question." The judge, who was none too pleased, called the spectator to the bench and warned him not to do it again.
- Bishop T.D. Jakes, the senior pastor of the 30,000-member Potter's House in Dallas, and former Cowboys player Deion Sanders have been subpoenaed by prosecutors to testify - but whether they will actually take the stand remains to be seen.
Their attorneys are fighting to keep them out of court, saying that Jakes and Sanders talked to Hornbuckle as "spiritual leaders" and that their conversations are privileged.
A hearing on the matter was postponed Friday because of a scheduling conflict. No word yet on when it will be reset.
- The trial has already been salacious, with testimony about sex, drugs, strippers and lesbianism. But all that might just be scratching the surface.
Prosecutors at some point plan to present evidence that Hornbuckle gave sexually transmitted diseases, specifically herpes, to three alleged victims, including two whose cases are being heard this month in the trial, according to court documents.
The defense team is working to keep that bit of information from the jury, saying that there "exists no medical evidence" that the women actually have the disease, documents state.
- A jury of 14 Tarrant County residents, which included two alternates, is already down to 13. Before testimony even got under way Tuesday, a juror called in sick with a "gastrointestinal-type" illness.
The prosecution and defense agreed to immediately dismiss the juror rather than waiting for a doctor's note. The judge said no one wanted to take the chance of being exposed to the illness.
It is, after all, expected to be a long trial.