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Review of court ruling sought

Profile image for By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe / Staff Writer
By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe / Staff Writer

DA files petition seeking to reverse decision in Charles Stobaugh case

The Denton County District Attorney’s office has filed a petition to the state’s highest criminal court, in hopes that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals will reverse Charles Stobaugh’s overturned murder conviction.

In January, the Second District Court of Appeals overturned the 2011 jury verdict for Stobaugh in the disappearance and presumed death of his wife, citing lack of evidence in the case. The appeals court ruling upheld the defense’s arguments that the evidence was insufficient to establish murder in the 2004 disappearance of Kathy Stobaugh.

Stobaugh, 58, a Sanger farmer, had been serving a 25-year sentence in state prison when the conviction was overturned. He was released from custody on a $25,000 bond, pending the outcome of this latest, and final, appeal. He also was ordered to wear a GPS tracking device and not leave Denton, Tarrant or Cooke counties.

In its filing, called a state’s petition for discretionary review, the district attorney’s office cited four reasons for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to conduct a review of the appeals court decision, including the court stepping beyond its usual course of proceedings to render the decision, failing to respect the right to a trial by jury, substituting its own analysis of the evidence for the jury’s analysis and failing to consider all the evidence.

“It appears the Court of Appeals was unduly influenced by the fact that the State could not produce Kathy’s body and therefore the Court could not draw any conclusions about Appellant’s intent from the manner in which Kathy died,” Charles Orbison, chief of the district attorney’s appellate division, wrote in one portion of the 20-page petition filed Feb. 24. “But the Court failed to properly focus on the combined force of the totality of the evidence, and reasonable inferences therefrom.”

The district attorney’s office has asked the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals for oral arguments in the case.

Although no reply is required, Stobaugh’s appellate attorney has until today to file a reply to the state’s petition. Wm. Reagan Wynn, Stobaugh’s appellate attorney, did not immediately return a call for comment Monday afternoon.

Typically, the court takes from two to four weeks to decide whether it will review a case. If a review is granted, the full briefing may take place over several months.

There is no set time frame for the state’s highest criminal court to render its opinion. If it affirms the appeals court and the overturned conviction, Stobaugh would be released from any criminal liability, county officials said. But if it reverses the lower court, the case is remanded back to the Second Court of Appeals to consider other issues on appeal.

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.