Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

T. Cullen Davis: The Best Justice Money Can Buy

Cullen on Trial

Pretrial notoriety and juror misconduct in the voir dire process quickly brought an end to the case in Tarrant County. Haynes was successful in getting the trial moved to the plains of Texas, far away from the high society life of Dallas-Fort Worth. It was a major victory for the defense. In Amarillo, juries dont take kindly to women who cheat, and they have a history of looking the other way when a husband kills his wifes lover.

On the day the trial opened, as expected, Racehorse, not Cullen, was the center of attention. He strode into court in a carefully tailored suit offset by his trademark anteater-skin cowboy boots, looking every bit like a lawyer who could get away with charging a million dollars.

Burleson (left), Cullen Davis, and Richard Haynes in court
Burleson (left), Cullen Davis, and Richard Haynes in court (Corbis)
The prosecutions case depended wholly on motive and eyewitness testimony. It had no murder weapon and no forensic evidence linking Cullen to the murder scenes. The Tarrant County district attorney, however, felt the case was strong based on the credible identifications by Bev Bass, Bubba Gavrel and Priscilla Davis.

Racehorses philosophy toward the defense was simple. He planned on diverting as much attention from Cullen as possible to allow for reasonable doubt to be introduced. Still, his tried-and-true approach was not limited to putting all of his eggs in one basket. Haynes explained his philosophy years later before a speech to the American Bar Association:

"Say you sue me because you say my dog bit you. Well, now this is my defense: My dog doesn't bite. And second, in the alternative, my dog was tied up that night. And third, I don't believe you really got bit. And fourthI don't have a dog."

Said one Houston prosecutor who faced him in court, "He develops several scenarios simultaneously, and when it gets to final arguments, he picks the one he thinks will work."

Cullen had an alibi witness, his girlfriend, Karen Master, who claimed he was asleep in bed with her at the time the crimes were committed. However, Master had changed her story between her interview with police and the time she appeared before a grand jury. To law enforcement, Karen said she had taken a sleeping pill and was out cold until the phone call from Cullens brother. To the grand jury, however, she reported being awake and alert during the time the killings occurred. It was a discrepancy the prosecutors intended on exploiting and one Racehorse planned on ignoring.

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