Law Offices of Tim Powers
A Texas man accused of dousing a boy with gasoline and setting him on fire
when he was a teenager can be tried as an adult for murder after the victim
died from his burns nearly 13 years later, a judge ruled Thursday.
Authorities allege that Don Willburn Collins was 13 when he attacked Robert
Middleton in 1998 on his eighth birthday near the younger boy’s
home in Splendora, about 35 miles northeast of Houston. Middleton was
burned across 99 percent of his body and endured years of physical therapy
before he died in 2011 from skin cancer blamed on his burns.
Middleton had initially named Collins as his attacker and the older boy
was arrested in 1998. Collins spent several months in juvenile detention
but was released after prosecutors said they did not have enough evidence
to pursue the case.
Shortly before he died, Middleton gave a videotaped deposition in which
he accused Collins for the first time of sexually assaulting him two weeks
before the attack. The sexual assault allegation prompted investigators
to reopen the case, and prosecutors charged the now 28-year-old Collins
with murder last year — but they needed to move the case from juvenile
to adult court to take him to trial.
After a three-day hearing on that issue this week, state District Judge
Kathleen Hamilton ruled that Colllins’ case could be transferred.
The ruling enables the prosecutors’ murder case against Collins.
Several witnesses testified during this week’s hearing that Collins
had confessed to them or others that he had been responsible for the attack
on Middleton. Part of Middleton’s taped deposition also was shown
during the hearing.
In a separate case, Collins was convicted of sexually assaulting another
8-year-old boy. Now an adult, the victim testified during this week’s
hearing that Collins had threatened to burn him if he told anybody what happened.
Collins’ attorney, E. Tay Bond, had argued that moving the case to
adult court would violate his client’s constitutional rights. Bond
also questioned the reliability of Middleton’s statements, as well
as secondhand statements made by other witnesses, saying there was “no
new credible evidence in this case.”
Bond argued that the case should not be transferred to adult court because
under state law in 1998, a juvenile had to be at least 14 years old for
a capital felony offense case to be transferred to adult court. The law
was changed in 1999 to lower the age to 10.
Prosecutors said the crime of murder did not take place until 2011, well
after the law was changed. But Bond said the law couldn’t be applied
retroactively to Collins.
Tim Powers, Criminal Defense attorney and legal analyst for Fox Radio News
and “The Russ Martin Show” on KEGL 97.1, commented this morning
that “any conviction that may occur in this case would likely be
appealed. There are potentially numerous constitutional issues with the
court’s ruling and the final outcome of this case may take years.”
If you are seeking aggressive criminal representation by an experienced
criminal defense attorney for your Denton County criminal case or arrest
in Denton County, contact the offices of Tim Powers today. There is no
charge or obligation for the initial consultation. 940.580.2899
*Tim Powers is an attorney licensed to practice law by the Supreme Court
of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. For
legal advice about any specific legal question you should directly consult
an attorney. Criminal Defense Lawyers with Unparalleled Passion for Success
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