Melissa Pool demonstrates stress hold used on her at the local jail
Somewhere South of Houston – On a frosty night a couple of years ago, Melissa Pool’s entire family wound up in jail over a shop lifting charge for which her juvenile daughter should have been released.
Ordinarily, police write a summons for Juvenile Court and release defendants for petty crimes to the custody of their parents.
When she and her cousin proved uncooperative with Wal-Mart loss prevention specialists at the Bellmead Super Center, they called the local police force.
The two officers who responded ordered the child to put down her cell phone, and when she refused, they began to struggle with her.
Mrs. Pool fairly shouts her opinion over the phone, “She was under no obligation to do anything, anything at all, as a child!”
That’s when Mrs. Pool and her husband Victor arrived. The fighting took place inside a small office with one-way mirrored windows in the entry vestibule. Her child could see out, but they couldn’t see in.
But they could hear, and what they heard alarmed them as parents.
They forced their way in and fought to protect their child.
Surveillance tapes shown in court make that clear.
But juries who heard their trials were not impressed. They convicted both for interference with the duties of a public servant in separate proceedings. She was sentenced to one month behind bars, her husband to six months, both terms to be served in the McLennan County Jail.
“I’m not turning myself in to do the time in that jail,” said Melissa Pool in a phone call. She wouldn’t say where they are, only that they’re somewhere “a little south” of Houston.
“I won’t go to a jail where they rape women.”
She is vague on the details of what she heard, or where, but insists that women are raped in the Waco Jail.
Earlier this year, the Sixth District Court of Appeals at Texarkana rejected her appeal after the court system sent it there from Waco to “level” the number of cases heard in any of the state’s 14 intermediate courts of appeal.
Because she attempted to defend herself, the justices noted, the transcript shows a great deal of confusion about just how evidence was presented on her behalf, the way questions were asked.
There was even more confusion when a prosecutor made a motion that she was “incompetent” to conduct her own defense. Judge Cates of McLennan County Court at Law No. 2 agreed and repeatedly admonished her. He also told her he could not give her legal advice as to how to phrase questions.
The appeals court ruled that Cates was within the discretion of the Court to appoint standby counsel and proceed on that basis.
The judges agreed with Cates that Mrs. Pool appeared to be of competent intelligence, but simply lacked competent acumen in her legal skills.
In a second point on appeal, the appeals judges ruled that the trial court was within bounds to accept her waiver of counsel.
The transcript shows an exhaustive series of examinations both pre-trial and during the case in chief in which Cates attempted to let her know the dangers of self-representation, and the responsibilities inherent in taking on the role of defense counsel.
They concluded, “On this record, we cannot conclude that the trial court erred in finding Pool’s waiver of counsel knowing and intelligent.”
They affirmed the judgment of the trial court.
In an interesting note, Mrs. Pool said that after the trial was over, the judge stopped to talk to her in the corridor outside the courtroom.
“This was after he had taken off his judge’s robe. He asked me, ‘Have you ever thought about going to law school?'” she remembers.
What happened to the shop lifting charge agains her daughter?
“They dropped the charge against her,” said Melissa Pool.
Officer Sellers of the Bellmead P.D., now retired, struggles with the Pools’ daughter at Wal-Mart to make her give him her cell phone