On St. Patrick’s Day weekend of 2008, Catherine Adair woke up to a man who threw her in a closet, threatened to rape her, and then proceeded to rob her of her belongings in her house. Police proceeded with the investigation of the robbery and linked Adair’s stolen credit cards to several retail stores, which led them to the arrest of three men. The suspects were then placed behind bars to await their trial.
One of the men, Joseph Bishop, was first to receive his trial, which ended in a hung jury in 2009. Gary Prust and David Tucker, Adair’s prosecutors, failed to show the video footage of the men who stole and used her credit cards, as well as video footage of Bishop’s interrogation.
To this, District Attorney Sam Oatman claims that he is “responsible for everything that goes on in his office, (although) he was not aware of the (video footage) evidence either.” Adair claims she then dealt with a new pair of prosecutors and then Oatman assigned Cheryl Nelson (prosecutor number 5) to her case. Although Nelson convinced a jury to put Bishop away for life, the case was still far from over.
Now, 2 ½ years later, the 33rd District Court is finally getting around to the trial of the other two men, which resulted in hefty prison time for Adair’s other 2 attackers. Adair now questions as to where the ball was dropped and why in fact it took this long to convict two attackers, while a sufficient amount of evidence was provided. Public records reveal that seven prosecutors have come and gone in Oatman’s office in the past two years. Oatman claims that his staffing issue does not affect any of their cases and is in the process of filling two prosecutor positions. Drawn-out cases, such as Adair’s, can equal more tax dollars to keep suspects behind bars. For example, Hilary Matthew Steelman was accused of shooting and killing his sister-in-law and has been in Llano County jail just under a year.
Oatman told a local newspaper that his case would be set for trial in the next six months. Steelman’s case was never tried and was actually re-set three times, as well as replaced with another case. If the case were to be set for trial this coming January, taxpayers will have spent $8,200 to keep Steelman in jail due to his case being reset time after time. Oatman claims that they have to weigh out their cases and decide which one takes precedence over the other, but they do not let cases sit so that it exhausts taxpayer’s money.
Oatman says that he feels that his office is doing about as good as any other D.A.’s office in the state of Texas, but some law enforcement disagrees with him. One source claims, “ the process is far too slow and often so ineffective it does not provide a real deterrent to the criminal element.” “Whether this is an issue of personnel shortages, lack of funding, court availability, or more complex management issues is debatable but the system is not working as it should.” Oatman denies any allegations to these issues and claims that if there is an issue, he would try to explain it and correct it.