'Bad Girls of the Bible' Among Material on Hornbuckle's Defense Table
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.
If convicted, he could be sentenced to probation or to as much as 20 years in prison for each charge.
Rev. Terry Hornbuckle
Photo by The Star-Telegram Archives
Star-Telegram reporter Traci Shurley will offer tidbits from the trial each day.
Wednesday, Aug. 16
Saturday, Aug. 12
- The Rev. Terry Hornbuckle had some interesting reading material at his defense table Tuesday.
A book titled Bad Girls of the Bible was seen among the law books and legal pads. Internet book seller Amazon.com lists several books with the same title, all of the self-help variety.
They claim to allow readers to learn from the mistakes of the less than virtuous female characters of the Bible.
- With the guilt or innocence phase of the trial complete, Terry Hornbuckle's female accusers were allowed into the courtroom as spectators for the first time Tuesday afternoon.
They were there to witness closing arguments, but their presence – as well as a packed courtroom - brought some renewed media restrictions from Judge Scott Wisch.
Wisch usually lets television and newspaper cameras into the courtroom before the trial resumes in the afternoon so they can get footage. He usually tells spectators they can leave if they don't want to be on television.
On Tuesday, however, no one was allowed to leave or they would lose their seat. So, Wisch told the photographers that they'd better skip any photos of the accusers or the families of either side.
To help them get valuable footage, he let them film a hearing held outside the presence of jurors where attorneys discussed instructions to be given to the jury regarding their deliberations.
Friday, Aug. 11
- Another famous name entered the trial Friday afternoon. Hornbuckle's attorney read a letter, which he said football legend Emmitt Smith wrote to a Tarrant County grand jury in February 2005.
Smith praises Hornbuckle as an "honest and trustworthy man." The letter was introduced not long after prosecutors presented two other letters -- one from the Cowboys organization and one from the National Football League -- to dispute Hornbuckle's assertion that he was a counselor to the Dallas Cowboys.
The prosecutors' letters also say that Hornbuckle never played in the NFL; witnesses and court documents have said that Hornbuckle sometimes said he had done so.
In Smith's letter, he says he met the defendant when Hornbuckle was acting as a spiritual adviser to the team. Smith says that he was so impressed by Hornbuckle and his family that he and his future wife asked Terry and Renee Hornbuckle to counsel them at one point.
- Stressful deliberations may be in the future for the jury, but for now the nine women and four men seem to be getting along well.
After lunch Friday, District Judge Scott Wisch joked with the jurors, saying he'd heard that they wouldn't necessarily have to leave the courthouse to get a bite to eat. It seemed some had brought in snacks to share, and Wisch congratulated them on their camaraderie.
- TV cameras and newspaper photographers are not allowed in the courtroom during the trial. So after lunch each day, Wisch allows them in to photograph and tape the players in the case before testimony begins.
But on Friday, the judge was informed that some TV stations weren't using the footage because it didn't look authentic. Too many lawyers were smiling. To help out, he let TV cameras film a 20-minute hearing during which jurors were not present.
The tapes don't have sound, but they are real trial footage.
Thursday, Aug. 10
- Reporters at the Hornbuckle trial observe the testimony and more in the crowded courtroom on the sixth floor of the Tarrant County Justice Center.
Television cameras and newspaper photographers are not allowed in the courtroom while the trial is going on. State district Judge Scott Wisch lets them come in for two minutes each day before afternoon proceedings begin.
Spectators, attorneys, Hornbuckle and the judge wait while the photographers film or snap pictures and then leave.
On Thursday, Wisch asked prosecutor Betty Arvin and defense attorney Leon Haley to help photographers get some action shots.
"Pick up something, just anything, and go talk to Mr. Haley about it," he said to Arvin.
She complied, and the two attorneys became more likely to make the 10 p.m. news.
- As attorneys go, Leon Haley, one of Hornbuckle's defense attorneys, is pretty media-friendly. But he wasn't feeling too friendly toward a radio station Thursday morning.
Another attorney came to court and mentioned that the station's morning on-air personalities had discussed Haley's aggressive cross-examination of a prosecution witnesses. As reported by the attorney, someone on the radio said he didn't know Haley but that he must be a "scumbag" and "shyster."
Haley said he planned to fire back when he has more time.
"After the trial, I'll be writing a letter so he can get to know me better," Haley said.
- Each day about 9 a.m., sheriff's deputies call for the media representatives waiting in the hallway to enter the courtroom.
So, on Thursday morning, reporters got anxious as 9:40 a.m. passed with no call from the court. They got even more anxious when they discovered that a hearing was in progress, but was playing to an empty gallery.
The explanation, and an apology, came about 20 minutes later. That's when Wisch realized his error and had deputies call reporters in.
Wisch said attorneys for both sides had begun the day with a hearing on matters that are not open to the public. Then, they moved on to something that was open, and "I just flat got carried away and forgot you were out there," Wisch explained.
The judge filled reporters in on what had happened: Two new witnesses were going to testify. He assured reporters that the actual testimony would be much more detailed than the summaries prosecutors had provided behind closed doors during the hearing.
If the testimony hadn't been admitted, Wisch said, he planned to read a transcript of the hearing to reporters – ensuring that the public wouldn't miss a thing.
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.
"Sheriff, 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.