The Fourteenth Court of Appeals overturned a jury verdict on behalf of previously convicted Anderson bank robber accomplice Billy Jo Wyatt of Huntsville on Tuesday. In October 2010, a Grimes County jury sentenced Wyatt to three, concurrent 22-year prison terms for 3 counts of aggravated robbery - one for each of the tellers held at gunpoint by his accomplice Christopher G. Tolbert of Navasota at the First National Bank of Anderson on Aug. 24, 2009.
Navasota appellate attorney, R. Scott Shearer, said it is highly unusual that a Court of Appeals render an appeal, much less with an acquittal for Wyatt attached to it.
The conclusion, made by Chief Justice Adele Hedges, Justice Martha Hill Jamison and Justice Sharon McCally, states, “Because appellant (Wyatt)’s conviction for aggravated robbery based on a theory of party liability is not supported by the evidence, and because neither party requested or received an instruction on any lesser-included offenses, we reverse the judgment of conviction and render a judgment of acquittal.”
District Attorney Tuck McLain said the ruling is “very disheartening. The other part of this decision that disturbs me is the fact that the court entered a verdict of not guilty. If that opinion stands, Wyatt can never be retried for aggravated robbery.”
Even so, the district attorney said if his office is unable to get the aggravated robbery conviction reinstated, they would be researching options for a robbery trial against Wyatt.
“It is my opinion that Wyatt could possibly be tried for robbery under this opinion but I still need to do some more research to be certain,” McLain said.
Shearer said he was appointed by District Judge Don Kraemer of Huntsville as the appellate attorney because the previous defense attorney was “conflicted out,” as he was the trial attorney for Tolbert.
“It’s the first court appointment I’ve done in 10 to 15 years,” said Shearer. “The previous defense attorney told me there wasn’t any error in this case. As an appellate attorney, I don’t listen to trial lawyers because they’re 2 different kinds of laws.”
Attorney Shearer said other interesting facts of the trial, which he researched via court transcripts, is that it took the jury approximately 7 hours to reach the verdict and Wyatt was never identified - after he made a purchase at a local store, shortly before the robbery - as a person inside the vehicle in question.
“They said they saw a car that looked like his,” said Attorney Shearer.
Assistant District Attorney Andria Bender previously described Wyatt as “the boss and mastermind behind this,” and told The Examiner, “He thought he could get away with it with the story about marijuana.”
Wyatt was found in possession of $4,086 by Huntsville police officers, which detained him after matching his vehicle description with the one released by Grimes County Sheriff's Office, just an hour and a half after the robbery took place.
Capt. Blake Jarvis said the serial numbers on the money matched those on bills stolen from the bank.
Though Wyatt told officers the money was obtained through a marijuana transaction with Tolbert - 30 pounds for $5,000 - an expert from DPS Narcotics Services testified it was an extremely low amount of marijuana for that amount of money, Bender said.