Lamar Burks Legal Defense Fund

Lamar Burks: In Jail for 18 Years For a Murder He Did Not Commit?

Federal agent is now charged with falsifying evidence in other cases; Burks’ attorneys urge Harris County District Attorney to review case

New evidence shows that former federal agent Chad Scott, now charged with falsifying evidence in numerous cases, played a critical role in the dubious prosecution of Lamar Burks, who is serving a 70-year sentence for a murder his attorneys contend he did not commit.

Scott has been indicted in New Orleans for lying under oath, falsifying records, falsely identifying suspects, accepting bribes, and stealing cash and other property during arrests, according to court records. Two of Scott’s law enforcement associates also have pled guilty. Several of Scott’s cases have been reversed or dismissed, including a double-murder case, because of the investigation.

Attorney Michael J. Wynne, a former federal prosecutor who represents Burks, has advised the office of the Harris County District Attorney, that the allegations against Scott in the indictments are similar to what happened in Burks’ case.

“The scope of the allegations against former Agent Scott only strengthens our belief that Lamar Burks has been wrongly imprisoned for 18 years,” Wynne said. “I have urged the DA to review the Burks case. The case raises some troubling questions about what can happen with rogue agents, but we’re hopeful the DA will take another look at the Burks case.”

The State of Texas case against Burks was originally dismissed on May 11, 1998, after the state’s only witness in the Houston murder recanted.

Wynne said, “Scott, a former Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agent, and his partner, John Schumacher, revived the case against Burks a year and a half later for personal reasons. Congress had cut funding for their long, failed investigation of Houston-based Rap-A-Lot Records and J. Prince. Scott and Schumacher took matters into their own hands. They apparently did this often. It was revealed during a Congressional hearing that Schumacher has been professionally disciplined 19 times and that he has killed at least 9 civilians in the line of duty.”

According to Wynne, in the Burks case, Scott contrived a pretextual traffic stop of a DEA informant, threatened him, took his Rolex as collateral, and personally took him in to HPD and held him through the night until he claimed Burks committed the murder. The informant also identified a person named Derevin Whitaker as a second shooter. Scott then personally took the informant to the grand jury to testify against Burks and Whitaker.

On the morning of Burks’s trial in 2000, in the 208th District Court before Judge Denise Collins, Whitaker was told by the lead prosecutor that the indictment against him had been dismissed, but he had to testify against Burks. He took the stand and did so. He proclaimed his own innocence and told the story Scott wanted him to tell but a different second shooter, Clayton Brown, was substituted in.

Burks was convicted and sentenced to 70 years. Days later, Wynne said, he was interrogated in the Harris County Jail’s basement by Scott and other members of the prosecution team. He was promised release if he turned on J. Prince.

Wynne said, “Lamar Burks refused to lie and go along with the story Scott wanted, and he has paid a terrible price for that decision. He remained locked up.”

In the meantime, Clayton Brown agreed with prosecutors working under the direction of former Harris County Assistant District Attorney Kelly Siegler, now a reality TV star, to plead guilty in exchange for a five-year sentence.

“Everyone has moved on in this case, except Lamar Burks,” Wynne added.

MEDIA CONTACT: Michael J. Wynne, Hughes Arrell Kinchen, LLP, Houston, 281.450.7403, mwynne@hakllp.com.