American Justice - A Warrant to Kill   View more episodes

Aired at 09:00 AM on Friday, Nov 12, 2010 (11/12/2010)      View all transcripts from this day


00:00:00>> We all hooked up in our own patrol cars and followed McGowan over to the residence where the warrant was to be served.
00:00:08>> We pull up before the house.
00:00:09We all started walking up the driveway.
00:00:12McGowan began to brief us on what he thought he would find in the house.
00:00:18>> Kind of indicated there could be some trouble in this house.
00:00:21You need to keep your eyes open.
00:00:22We could expect some bad play in there.
00:00:26>> He told us that there'd be a Susan White there, and he said that her son was connected to some gang members.
00:00:33We were probably going to have threats coming from upstairs with her son and any of his friends that might have been with him.
00:00:41>> Kurtis: Mcgowan also said that Susan White was in on the gun running with her son.
00:00:51>> You always expect trouble on a felony warrant.
00:00:53>> Kurtis: The deputies slowly approached the house.
00:00:57>> Myself and Deputy Morong went to the front door.
00:00:59>> I was near the corner of the house, where I could see down the driveway, the side of the house, and the front of the house.
00:01:06>> McGowan banged on the door.
00:01:07There was no reply.
00:01:08He banged several more times and announced the sheriff's department.
00:01:12I heard a female voice say, "Who is it?" >> I told her, "We have a felony warrant; you need to come out." >> Kurtis: Susan white refused and instead called 9-1-1.
00:01:26On the recording, her speech is slurred from the valium she had taken.
00:01:31[phone rings] >> Kurtis: Outside the officers continued pounding on the door.
00:01:52>> McGowan again repeated, "This is the sheriff's office.
00:01:55Ms. White, we have a warrant for your arrest." >> Kurtis: But susan white still refused to step out of her home.
00:02:01She addressed the officers through the door with the 9-1-1 operator still on the line.
00:02:12>> I heard her say, "If McGowan's there, I'm not opening the door." And that seemed odd to me.
00:02:18>> So I leaned over and I told Morong, I said, "Just tell her I left." >> Maybe 20 seconds had past.
00:02:23I said, "Mrs. White, come to the door.
00:02:25McGowan's not here." >> Kurtis: White hung up the phone but remained inside.
00:02:30The officers decided to force their way in.
00:02:33>> I kicked several times on the front door and realized it was not going to break in.
00:02:37At that point, McGowan went around the back with Malloy.
00:02:41>> I told Malloy to kick the door.
00:02:42He kicked it once; he kicked it twice.
00:02:44>> Kurtis: White could hear the men trying to break through the back door.
00:02:48She ran to her bedroom on the first floor and called 9-1-1 a second time, trying to get through to McGowan's boss.
00:03:07>> Kurtis: By this time, the back door began to give way.
00:03:10>> The doorframe cracked, and it set--the burglar alarm went off.
00:03:13>> Kurtis: The sound could be heard by the 9-1-1 operator.
00:03:22>> I recall kicking the door open and losing my balance.
00:03:25>> He tripped and fell over it.
00:03:27When he did, I went and I stepped over him.
00:03:30>> And I went in behind McGowan, and Deputy Morong followed.
00:03:34>> Kurtis: As the officers entered the house, White hung up the phone.
00:03:38>> I was trying to keep an eye on the balcony in the stairwell that was in the living room.
00:03:42Deputy McGowan went pretty much straight for Susan White's bedroom.
00:03:47>> Kurtis: Seconds later, the officers heard McGowan yelling at Susan White.
00:03:52>> We hear McGowan say, "Drop the gun.
00:03:56Drop the gun.
00:03:57Drop the gun." >> "Put the gun down.
00:03:59Put the gun down." >> I couldn't see Mrs. White, what she had in her hand.
00:04:03>> I could just see him pointing his gun and telling her to put her gun down.
00:04:08>> Kurtis: The only person with a clear view of White was McGowan.
00:04:14>> I went in and I leaned in the door, and Susan White, she had her right elbow in her right hip with a pistol pointed at me.
00:04:23I told her twice; I said, "Drop the weapon.
00:04:25Drop the weapon." I told her a third time.
00:04:27said, "Drop the weapon, or I'm going to shoot." Her finger was on the trigger.
00:04:30I saw her begin to pull the trigger, and I fired a three-round burst.
00:04:33>> Boom, boom, boom.
00:04:34Three shots were fired.
00:04:40>> Kurtis: The gunshots hit Susan White in her side, chest, and head.
00:04:46>> We immediately go into the bedroom.
00:04:48I see her on the bed.
00:04:50There's a small pistol on the bed in front of her.
00:04:54>> I reached down my left pinky and reach--pitch the--her weapon, her pistol onto the floor.
00:04:59And then Morong looked at her and checked her, and she had no pulse.
00:05:03>> And the weapon was secured, and she was secured.
00:05:06The room was secured.
00:05:07Deputy Morong and I ended up going upstairs and finding her son up there by himself.
00:05:12>> Kurtis: The officers took Jason into custody as a precaution and radioed the station to report that a civilian had been fatally shot.
00:05:19They searched the house but never found the stash of guns McGowan had described.
00:05:27[siren wailing] Minutes later, rescue vehicles arrived at the scene.
00:05:36Investigators soon followed, including Don Smyth from the Harris County District Attorney's Office.
00:05:46>> It's a nice, very nice neighborhood, very expensive houses.
00:05:50And you're wondering really, "What in the world could this be all about?" >> Kurtis: There would be even more questions once investigators began talking to Officer Kent McGowan.
00:06:01>> He's out there running a warrant, and she's called in complaining about him running the warrant.
00:06:05You're starting to wonder, something's not right.
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00:09:56>> Kurtis: old Oaks, a well-to-do neighborhood in Houston.
00:10:05Shortly after midnight, Harris County sheriff's deputy Kent McGowan shot and killed 42-year-old Susan White while attempting to serve a warrant for her arrest.
00:10:15>> Susan White tried to murder me and the two guys with me.
00:10:18I was a victim of attempted capital murder of a police officer.
00:10:21>> Kurtis: As with any officer- involved shooting, the Harris County District Attorney's Office launched an immediate inquiry.
00:10:28>> My job is to find out what the truth of the matter is, so I'm going to work as hard as I can to uncover what the truth is, regardless of what that truth is.
00:10:37>> Kurtis: At the scene, assistant D.A.s Don Smyth and Edward Porter were told that McGowan had shot White in self-defense.
00:10:43As McGowan stood by, the seasoned investigators quickly sensed that something wasn't right about his demeanor.
00:10:50>> McGowan's attitude was just so odd to me, so different than what I had seen at prior scenes and what I have seen since--very different.
00:11:01>> Kurtis: For one, mcgowan wouldn't stop talking.
00:11:05>> He was jovial, joking, talking.
00:11:10>> His outward appearance would lead you to believe he was very unconcerned about it.
00:11:15>> I've seen officers, they get quiet.
00:11:20They get withdrawn.
00:11:22I've seen officers break down, crying.
00:11:26I had never seen one who seemed happy.
00:11:32>> Kurtis: Porter and smyth now questioned McGowan, wanting to know about his relationship to Susan White.
00:11:38McGowan claimed he'd only spoken to White once before, when he had stopped by her house while another deputy was showing her how to use her new pistol.
00:11:50According to McGowan, he saw White again two days before the shooting, when he arrested her son for selling a stolen gun.
00:12:01>> I was uncomfortable with what had happened, and I wanted to make absolutely certain that I understood what the officer did or at least claimed he did and why he claimed he did it.
00:12:13>> Kurtis: The investigators requested that McGowan give a step-by-step account of the shooting.
00:12:18Later, he acted out the sequence for a police photographer.
00:12:22McGowan claimed that Susan White had been holding a gun in her right hand when he entered her bedroom.
00:12:28He said they were face-to-face and that he shot her first in the chest, then the side, and finally across the bridge of her nose.
00:12:36Neither Porter nor Smyth could put a finger on why, but both investigators thought McGowan's story didn't ring true.
00:12:43As the two men were leaving the scene, Deputy McGowan gave them one final statement.
00:12:48>> He comes kind of trotting over and, you know, I was in deep thought, and I remember him saying, "Thank you; thank you--" >> "Thank you, Mr. Smyth; thank you, Mr. Porter, for coming to this justified shooting." I've never, never had an officer thank me for coming to an officer-involved shooting.
00:13:07And I was, like, very spooked by this guy, very spooked.
00:13:12>> Kurtis:'s office later that morning, Smyth and Porter listened to the 9-1-1 calls Susan White had made just before her death.
00:13:20They hoped the recordings might shed more light on the shooting.
00:13:23>> Once I listened to the tape that early morning hours, I knew--I mean, in my heart I knew this is--there's problems with this shooting.
00:13:34There's problems with this guy's version.
00:13:36You know, she knows who's at the door.
00:13:56>> Kurtis: Lieutenant coons was McGowan's superior.
00:13:58The investigators discovered that Susan White had called Coons two nights earlier to complain about McGowan after he had arrested her son for selling a gun.
00:14:07But Coons never made a formal record of his conversation with White.
00:14:11As Porter and Smyth continued playing the tape, they heard a frantic woman who seemed to have a closer relationship to McGowan than he had acknowledged.
00:14:21>> Kurtis: By the time officers tried to break down White's front door, her voice sounded desperate.
00:14:34>> Kurtis: A few days later, another investigator, Steve Clappart, interviewed the two deputies who had gone with McGowan to serve the arrest warrant on White.
00:14:43Clappart discovered something unusual about McGowan's actions immediately before the shooting.
00:14:49>> Deputy McGowan went straight to Mrs. White's bedroom, just a beeline.
00:14:54There wasn't any question about where he was going.
00:14:56>> Kurtis: Clappart reviewed McGowan's statement about what had happened once he reached White's bedroom.
00:15:01>> His shots, he claimed, came from the door.
00:15:04>> I leaned in the door and she's basically sat on the bed.
00:15:08And what she did is, she pulled the weapon up like this, pointed it directly at my face.
00:15:13>> He demonstrated that Ms. White has the gun in her right hand and she points it aggressively at him and leans in his direction from the bed and is threatening to kill him.
00:15:26>> Kurtis: Mcgowan fired his gun three times.
00:15:28Two of the bullets lodged in White's body.
00:15:33The third went through the corner of a cable TV box, then through the bridge of her nose, and into the headboard of the bed.
00:15:41>> I took a steel tape, put it in the hole in the wall through the hole in the bedstead and stretched it as tight as we could to the nick in the converter box and then out through the doorway.
00:15:56And in order for him to be shooting from the doorway, he would have had to have been about seven feet tall.
00:16:04>> Kurtis: Clappart concluded that McGowan had to have been standing inside the room and not in the doorway as he had claimed.
00:16:11To investigators, the evidence wasn't matching up with McGowan's version of events.
00:16:16Next, Clappart examined the blood spatter on White's headboard and sheets.
00:16:22>> The direction of travel that these splatters had come from indicated that she had to have her head turned differently than what he had reported it to be.
00:16:31>> She was Based on the angle of the bullet holes and blood spatter, investigators determined that White could not have been pointing the gun at McGowan when he shot her.
00:16:39Instead, they theorized, she had been shot while leaning across her bed, hanging up the telephone from the second 9-1-1 call.
00:16:47This would mean that McGowan shot White first in the face, then in the arm and chest--opposite from what he had claimed.
00:16:55Given this evidence, investigators concluded that McGowan had lied about the shooting.
00:17:00They decided to reexamine the 9-1-1 recordings to see if they supported their findings.
00:17:05>> If you listen to the tape, you can hear the alarm go off.
00:17:09[alarm blaring] When the alarm goes off, you start timing the amount of time between the alarm going off and her saying "Okay" and hanging up-- >> Kurtis: By mcgowan's own account, it took him just seconds to go from the back door to White's bedroom.
00:17:35To investigators, this simply wasn't enough time for White to hang up the phone, then turn and point her gun at McGowan.
00:17:44>> The physical evidence--the hang-up call, everything-- clearly points that she is laying across the bed, leaning across the bed, hanging the phone up, when she is shot.
00:17:57And that's an open and shut case.
00:18:00That's murder.
00:18:02>> Kurtis: But mcgowan was still adamant that his first shot hit White in the chest.
00:18:06It was his word against the evidence.
00:18:12Before investigators could accuse him of murder, they needed to find out more about Kent McGowan and his career in law enforcement.
00:18:19It was a task they knew would not be easy.
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00:22:39>> Kurtis: In the summer of 1992, investigators in Houston were looking into the shooting death of Susan White.
00:22:46The suburban mom had been killed by Harris County's sheriff's deputy Kent McGowan while he was serving a warrant for her arrest.
00:22:54McGowan claimed that White had aimed a gun at him before he shot her, but investigators suspected otherwise.
00:23:01>> I didn't buy his story of self-defense, how she was threatening to kill him, because a whole lot of things didn't pan out.
00:23:10His story just wasn't supported by the facts.
00:23:12>> Kurtis: Mcgowan had insisted that he barely knew Susan White, but detectives soon learned that White had made verbal complaints about McGowan before the shooting.
00:23:22Authorities now wanted to know what McGowan might be hiding.
00:23:27They hoped that by looking into his background and his law enforcent career, they might find the answer.
00:23:39Kent McGowan was born in 1965 to a wealthy Texas ranching family.
00:23:48Kent and his siblings were raised as devout Christians, and Bill McGowan believed his son was special.
00:23:54>> I always thought Kent was very blessed.
00:23:57He just seemed to have angels around him.
00:24:00So we always figured that what he did would be something to bring glory to God.
00:24:09>> Kurtis: After high school, McGowan joined the air force.
00:24:13Just before leaving for duty, he married his high school sweetheart, Michelle Morgan.
00:24:20>> Everybody in Michelle's family knew that this was a mistake.
00:24:23It had been a really volatile relationship.
00:24:25From the very beginning, it was really troubled--even before they got married.
00:24:30>> Kurtis: After only three months, Michelle left Montana, where Kent was stationed, claiming that McGowan was verbally abusive.
00:24:38But the couple eventually reconciled and went on to have three children before they finally divorced.
00:24:47In 1984, McGowan left the air force and moved to Houston.
00:24:51Here he decided to fulfill his childhood dream of becoming a cop.
00:24:56>> Yeah, when I was a kid, I always wanted to be a police officer, yes, sir.
00:24:59And then, when I was probably 13 or 14, my brother was a police officer--still is.
00:25:06And that was just something I always wanted to do.
00:25:10>> Kurtis: In march of 1986, McGowan was hired by the Houston police department.
00:25:15His swearing in was a proud moment for his parents.
00:25:20>> I call Kent a crusader.
00:25:22It may be the wrong word, but in my definition, he sees wrong and he thinks it should be corrected.
00:25:31>> Kurtis: Mcgowan's official personnel file from the Houston PD indicated no problems.
00:25:35But what investigators looking into Susan White's shooting tracked down McGowan's internal file, they found a thick stack of negative reports and admonishments.
00:25:45One entry was a report written by McGowan's supervisor at the time, Sergeant CJ Grysen.
00:25:52>> Sergeant Grysen wrote a report which detailed how he felt about Kent McGowan, and it spelled out no uncertain terms that Kent was a bad cop.
00:26:02>> Kurtis: Grysen wrote that McGowan was "an arrogant malingering malcontent." Others complained that McGowan always wanted to ride "where the women were" and that he was "immature and conceited." When asked what assignment McGowan might be suited for, Grysen wrote, one in which "He would work alone with few responsibilities and no contact with the public." McGowan claims Grysen's negative report was an unfounded personal attack.
00:26:28>> When I worked at Houston, I had no problems with anybody.
00:26:33Sergeant Grysen basically blackballed me down there, because he didn't like me.
00:26:39>> Kurtis: Mcgowan left the Houston PD in January 1989, and by mid-May, he was working at the Tomball County Sheriff's Department, 30 miles northwest of Houston.
00:26:50The commander who hired McGowan knew nothing of his internal file at the Houston PD.
00:26:54That file was not released when calls were made to verify McGowan's employment.
00:27:02This failure to share such information was a problem throughout Texas.
00:27:07>> Police officers, they are terminated and rehired--nobody seems to be willing to step up to the plate and say, "I fired him because he's a bad police officer and shouldn't be a police officer again." >> Kurtis: In his new position, McGowan sometimes exaggerated the importance of his duties and the significance of his cases.
00:27:30>> Kent McGowan lies.
00:27:33He tells stories.
00:27:36He inflates himself.
00:27:38He talked about how he was just on the verge of making a big arrest and he was going to bring down a Colombian drug lord.
00:27:44And of course it never did happen.
00:27:47>> Kurtis: When mcgowan had difficulties at this job, he quit and was quickly rehired by another department.
00:27:54This soon developed into a pattern for McGowan.
00:27:58>> Things became too hot for him with one policing agency, he would leave and go to the next.
00:28:05They readily hired him.
00:28:07It's amazing how easily he moved from one agency to the next.
00:28:13>> I thi >> Kurtis: But mcgowan claims he was an exemplary police officer.
00:28:18>> Every six months, we had civil service evaluations.
00:28:20Every--they rate you from poor to excellent, and the highest rating you can get is a 30.
00:28:26Every one of mine--I think the lowest I got was, I got one 27.
00:28:28The rest of them were 28s and 30s.
00:28:30>> Kurtis: In the fall of 1990, McGowan took a job with the Harris County Sheriff's Department.
00:28:36>> At the time that McGowan was hired by the Harris County Sheriff's Department, they were in a huge crunch.
00:28:41They hired I think it was close to 1,000 deputies in a very short period of time.
00:28:47>> Kurtis: A year after joining the force, McGowan was assigned to the upscale neighborhood of Old Oaks.
00:28:53>> He's the patrol officer who's job is mainly to patrol the streets, looking for speeders and people running stop signs and answering loud music calls and noisy kids.
00:29:07>> Kurtis: It was here in old Oaks that Deputy McGowan would cross paths with Susan White.
00:29:12In the summer of 1992, 42-year-old Susan White was on medical leave from her job as a mortgage broker and was in the process of divorcing her third husband.
00:29:21White also was struggling with an addiction to prescription medication.
00:29:26>> Like all of us, we have our little faults, you know.
00:29:29We all don't do everything right.
00:29:31She was a good mother.
00:29:32She was a good sister and a wonderful daughter.
00:29:36>> Kurtis: White lived with her 17-year-old son from her first marriage, Jason Aguillar.
00:29:42Jason had gotten into several scrapes with the law, and Susan struggled to control him.
00:29:49>> That's her baby.
00:29:49She'd do anything for him.
00:29:50And she just wanted to take care of him and make sure he did the right thing.
00:29:55>> Jason was a difficult kid who was getting in trouble and needed a strong hand.
00:30:02Susan was a mom who found it very, very hard to say no to her kid and who tended to appease the situation by handing him money or trying to buy whatever he wanted.
00:30:17>> Kurtis: According to mcgowan, he briefly came into contact with White that summer, when he was called to break up one of Jason's parties.
00:30:27>> There was a large disturbance in the neighborhood.
00:30:29It was 200 to 300 juveniles out there, drinking.
00:30:33>> Kurtis: Susan's boyfrie at the time, Ray Valentine, tells a different story.
00:30:37He says that several weeks before the shooting, Susan confided to him that McGowan had been stalking her.
00:30:43Susan told other friends that McGowan had made sexual advances toward her.
00:30:47Valentine decided to call a friend of his, CJ Harper, who worked in the sheriff's office.
00:30:53>> We just explained, you know, what was happening to CJ, and CJ said, "Well, what you need to do is, you need to call the sheriff and then we'll get in touch with the--what do you call it--IAD, Internal Affairs.
00:31:08>> Kurtis: After her death, investigators could find no official record of White's verbal complaints.
00:31:13McGowan denies that he ever stalked White and insists the only way he knew her was through her son and his run-ins with the law.
00:31:21>> Susan White's son, Jason, is constantly in problems, causing trouble for one thing or another.
00:31:25She's always bailing him out, and she's always picking on her son.
00:31:30>> Kurtis: Jason's friend, 19-year-old Michael Schaffer, told investigators that McGowan pressured him into setting Jason up to sell a stolen gun.
00:31:43The gun sting occurred on August 22, 1992--three days before White was killed.
00:31:50>> I observed Michael Schaffer, the informant, hand Jason Aguillar the $200 for the stolen pistol and then saw Jason Aguillar hand Michael Schaffer, the informant, the pistol.
00:32:04At that point, I got my radio and told them it was a go.
00:32:07We came in and took everybody down.
00:32:09>> Kurtis: The next day, susan White told McGowan's supervisors that he'd sexually harassed her and that the gun bust was intended as revenge because she'd rejected him.
00:32:19At the time, McGowan not only denied the accusations but also made a charge against her.
00:32:23He said that Susan White had called Michael Schaffer's mother, saying "Informants in Houston don't live long." In Texas, threatening to retaliate against an informant is a felony.
00:32:35McGowan told his bosses that he wanted a warrant for White's arrest.
00:32:40>> Susan White was threatening my informant to have him killed, and I was going to get a warrant to arrest her that night.
00:32:47>> Kurtis: Authorities were now convinced that Kent McGowen had murdered Susan White to put an end to her complaints against him.
00:32:52But they still needed evidence to back up their suspicions.
00:32:55They would soon find it in the very arrest warrant McGowen was serving the night he killed Susan White.
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00:34:45The times that you had out here together, something I'll never forget.
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00:36:33gs)GC1G >> Kurtis: October 1992, Houston.
00:37:19Investigators looking into the shooting death of Susan White had come to believe that she was murdered by one of their own, sheriff's deputy Kent McGowan.
00:37:30But authorities didn't think they had enough evidence to win an indictment from a grand jury.
00:37:34>> We felt like it was murder.
00:37:38Whether or not a grand jury, you know, 12 citizens who naturally were going to give the benefit of the doubt to a police officer, might not see it that way.
00:37:49But it sure looked like murder.
00:37:51>> Kurtis: Prosecutors needed concrete evidence, not just a suspicious crime scene and McGowan's history of deceit.
00:37:59Authorities would soon find what they were looking for.
00:38:02>> We began to realize there were serious problems with the warrant that had been issued for Susan White's arrest.
00:38:08>> Kurtis: Getting a warrant under false pretenses is illegal, and any of McGowan's actions in connection with a fraudulent warrant would be considered a crime, including breaking down White's door, entering her house, and firing his gun.
00:38:22McGowan had claimed that after his informant, Michael Schaffer, set up White's son in a gun bust, White called Schaffer's mother and said, "Informants in Houston don't live long." When investigators questioned Michael Schaffer's mother, she confirmed that White had indeed made the comment, but said, "I did not feel that Susan White threatened me or my son in any way." Michael Schaffer told investigators that he was the one who had informed McGowan of the conversation.
00:38:50>> He was just telling McGowan something that he thought McGowan wanted to hear, but he really wasn't in fear of his life.
00:38:58>> Kurtis: Prosecutors now concluded that McGowan had exaggerated the situation as a way to secure a warrant against Susan White.
00:39:05This was the information authorities had been looking for.
00:39:09Now, two months after the shooting, prosecutors took the case to a grand jury.
00:39:13>> I wasn't sure we were going to have an indictment for murder until we had it in our hand.
00:39:18And I was afraid that the grand jury would say, "Well, look, we're dealing with a woman who is overreacting to her son's arrest." >> Kurtis: But the grand jury agreed with the prosecutors and indicted Kent McGowan for the murder of Susan White.
00:39:30An officer sworn to uphold the law would stand trial for using his badge to commit murder.
00:39:36>> I just sat there.
00:39:37I felt like I'd been hit with a baseball bat in the back of the head.
00:39:41My lawyers, they said, "Look, just take it easy.
00:39:44This is going to be a couple of years before it goes anywhere." >> Kurtis: Two years later, on March 1, 1994, in Houston, Kent McGowan went to court.
00:39:57In opening arguments, the state painted a portrait of McGowan as a bad cop with a tainted record.
00:40:04They said he was bent on preventing Susan White from filing a complaint against him that might have cost him his job.
00:40:12So he lied his way into her house and shot her point-blank.
00:40:16McGowan's attorneys maintained their client had acted in self-defense.
00:40:22>> A police officer serving a felony warrant was involved in a shooting and had two police officers standing right next to him as witnesses.
00:40:32That we thought was a very strong portion of our case.
00:40:35>> Kurtis: As the prosecution began, they presented blood spatter and ballistic evidence that they claimed proved Susan White was not pointing a gun at McGowan.
00:40:45>> There's only one wound that gives you that high velocity blood stain, and that would be the wound that is the bullet crossing the bridge of the nose.
00:40:52So that puts her head in a low position on this side of the bed, which is in dramatic contrast to his claim that she is sitting on this edge of the bed, pointing the gun at him.
00:41:06>> Kurtis: Prosecutors also called members of Susan White's family to testify that Susan was left handed.
00:41:12Even if she had pulled a gun on McGowan, they said, she would not have held it in her right hand, as the deputy had claimed.
00:41:19It was compelling evidence.
00:41:21But prosecutors weren't sure if it was enough to convince a jury that a police officer was guilty of murder.
00:41:26>> If I want to win this case, I have to get him on the stand, because the jury has to see who Kent McGowan is and they have to understand that he is such a liar about everything.
00:41:39>> Kurtis: If the state called McGowan as a witness, they knew he'd invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and refuse to testify.
00:41:48The prosecution could only hope that the evidence they presented would force McGowan to tell his side of the story.
00:41:56>> The officers who had been on the scene with McGowan had not witnessed the shooting, so they were unable to corroborate his version of events.
00:42:05McGowan was the only person who could contradict the state's case.
00:42:09>> Kent McGowan claimed that he had killed Susan White in self-defense, and theprosecutors knew that in that case, he would have to get on the stand.
00:42:21>> Kurtis: After two days of trial, the prosecution rested.
00:42:26>> The state was rather clever in the way they presented their case, forcing us to put McGowan onto the stand to claim self-defense.
00:42:34>> Kurtis: Mcgowan's attorneys began with witnesses who recounted the events leading up to the shooting.
00:42:39They then called Kent McGowan to the stand to explain why he shot Susan White.
00:42:48During his testimony, McGowan also talked about his career, claiming that he was a good cop.
00:42:54>> He started out relatively well, but the longer he was on the stand, the more he just kind of couldn't help himself and the more stories he started to tell.
00:43:12>> Kurtis: Under cross-examination, prosecutors were able to attack McGowan's credibility.
00:43:18He had claimed to have extensive knowledge of gangs in the area, but when prompted to name one, he couldn't.
00:43:27McGowan also admitted that even though he thought White's threat against his informant, Michael Schaffer, was serious enough to issue a warrant for her arrest, he never made a move to protect Schaffer.
00:43:39On March 7th, after two days on the witness stand, McGowan stepped down, and the defense rested.
00:43:47Now the prosecution was able to call rebuttal witnesses, six of them who were fellow officers.
00:43:53>> And one after another, they got up on the stand and said that Kent McGowan was not to be believed and he was not to be believed under oath.
00:44:03>> It was almost like a darkened veil slowly moving over the courtroom.
00:44:09I just got this sense that you could almost look over at the jury and you could almost see them--they were looking like, "Oh, my God, the entire law enforcement community is here to say this is a bad cop." >> That for me, professionally, I think is when I think the tide turned against the defense, when so many rebuttal witnesses, all from law enforcement, testified against Kent McGowan.
00:44:35That was the final nail in the coffin.
00:44:38>> Kurtis: On march 9, 1994, the jury deliberated for 4 1/2 hours before returning with a verdict.
00:44:49Kent McGowan was found guilty of first degree murder.
00:44:55>> I couldn't believe this whole thing was--all this going on was over this one situation, surrounding me, if you would.
00:45:02It was just--it was surreal.
00:45:04>> Kent's family cried.
00:45:05Kent started crying and his attorney, Clint Greenwood, was sobbing right along with him, which is something I had never seen before.
00:45:18>> Kurtis: For the family of Susan White, the verdict was a relief.
00:45:21>> Just kind of smiled and said, "Amen," you know, and was just glad.
00:45:26We just kind of held hands, you know, and looked at each other.
00:45:28>> It was a quiet kind of a release.
00:45:32Kind of, well, it's finally over.
00:45:34You know, it's finally really done.
00:45:38Of course, then it turned out it wasn't.
00:45:43>> Kurtis: Mcgowan's sentence could range from probation to life in prison.
00:45:48The next day, the jury announced their decision: 15 years behind bars.
00:45:52The light punishment stunned prosecutors.
00:45:57>> I couldn't believe 15 years, because of course my analysis of the caseas that he had lied to get the warrant, which as far as I was concerned, made him pretty much a burglar, kicking in the back door.
00:46:09>> We thought 15 years, that was really a slap in the face, I thought.
00:46:13>> Kurtis: What was even harder for White's family to accept was that according to Texas law, defendants who receive 15 years or less can be freed on bail while they appeal their case.
00:46:24>> If Kent McGowan had gotten 15 years in one day, he would have gone directly to jail.
00:46:28But his sentence was 15 years.
00:46:31>> We didn't--we didn't like that at all.
00:46:33I didn't like it at all either.
00:46:34It's a shame that you go through all that.
00:46:37It's like he has more rights than we do.
00:46:41>> When they gave me the 15, we were basically elated, because I knew I was going home.
00:46:50>> Kurtis: Mcgowen remained free on bail for the next four years while he appealed his case.
00:46:54In April 1997, he was granted a new trial.
00:46:58As the court date approached, one of McGowen's ex-girlfriends would step forward with startling allegations and become the key witness at his second trial.
00:47:13>> Kurtis: You tell us at
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00:50:13find your santa com >> Kurtis: In march 1994 in Houston, sheriff's deputy Kent McGowan was found guilty of murdering Susan White while serving a warrant for her arrest.
00:51:29Three years later, a Texas appeals court overturned the conviction on the basis of procedural errors.
00:51:36Now, on March 19, 2002, McGowan's second trial began almost ten years after White's death.
00:51:44Allen Goodling was one of McGowan's lawyers.
00:51:48>> Going through, obviously, the first trial, you learn from other people's mistakes, which is sometimes fortunate.
00:51:54>> Kurtis: Goodling decided to focus his case on the actions McGowan took when he served the warrant for Susan White's arrest.
00:52:01>> A police officer still has a right, in Texas, to use force to serve a felony warrant.
00:52:09He was doing that.
00:52:12She had a gun.
00:52:13He defended himself.
00:52:15>> Kurtis: After mcgowan's poor performance at his first trial, the prosecution believed his attorneys would not risk putting him on the stand again.
00:52:24>> He was such a bad witness the first time, I felt like he would not take the stand, that they would try and do it some other way to put on the defense.
00:52:33>> Kurtis: Though prosecutors would not be able to question McGowan himself, they did have a witness who could testify about incriminating statements he'd made after the shooting.
00:52:43The witness was Kent McGowan's former girlfriend, Summer Edwards.
00:52:48>> I met Kent McGowan a couple weeks before his initial trial.
00:52:52He was nice, funny, had a very fun-loving kind of personality.
00:52:57He was kind of fun to be around, and he treated me great.
00:53:00>> Edwards testified that she had known about the charges against McGowan when they started dating.
00:53:05>> I heard the story, his side, which was that he killed a woman in self-defense.
00:53:10I had no reason to not believe that story.
00:53:16>> Kurtis: When mcgowan was convicted of murder at his first trial, Edwards testified that he started to change.
00:53:24>> He would become distant and I could just only assume that, well, he's got a lot on his mind.
00:53:30And he would really turn inward, where he just really wouldn't share much of what was going on.
00:53:35>> Kurtis: Mcgowan recalls their relationship differently.
00:53:38>> I never went in public with this woman.
00:53:40I never went anywhere with-- never took her to eat anything.
00:53:42There was no love affair there at all.
00:53:44It's simply a three-week physical situation with her.
00:53:47I mean, she's an absolutely mental case.
00:53:50>> Kurtis: In court, edwards described an evening shortly after McGowan's conviction when the two were on vacation.
00:53:56>> We were just alone together, and at one point we were in the living room watching movies.
00:54:00He got up but he never returned.
00:54:02I just saw him from the back, but I could tell he was crying and he was holding his hands like this, like pounding the sides of his head.
00:54:10And he just kept--kept mumbling and swearing and saying, "ThatMQ She [bleep] up my life." >> Kurtis: Edwards testified that she believed McGowan was talking about Susan White.
00:54:22Edwards then wanted to know if he had killed her deliberately.
00:54:26>> And he said, "Well, hell, yeah.
00:54:28She needed to be killed." Over and over, he kept saying that she needed to be killed.
00:54:33I said "Why?" And he said, "She was [bleep] with my job." >> Kurtis: On cross-examination, McGowan's lawyers grilled Edwards about how she could remember so clearly the details of an eight-year-old confession.
00:54:48>> I had a journal I wrote in all the time.
00:54:50That's why maybe I remember it so well.
00:54:52And he said, "Well, do you know where this journal is now?" And I said, "Well, yes, sir, I do.
00:54:56It's right there on the prosecutor's desk." And you could have heard a pin drop, because he didn't know where to go after that.
00:55:03[laughs] >> Kurtis: The diary corroborated Edwards' testimony.
00:55:11>> I knew by the way the trial was going that I was going to prison, that we were going to lose this, because I was not being defended.
00:55:20>> Kurtis: On march 28, 2002, Kent McGowan was again found guilty of the first degree murder of Susan White.
00:55:27>> I was glad.
00:55:29I mean, now we had 24 people who have said he was guilty of this crime.
00:55:34>> Kurtis: This time, the jury sentenced McGowan to 20 years in prison.
00:55:39>> When they said, you know, 20 years, of course we all fell apart.
00:55:46>> Kurtis: On april 2, 2002, ten years after the murder of Susan White, Kent McGowan was sent to prison.
00:55:53>> What do you want me to say?
00:55:55You know, I was sunk.
00:55:56I was screwed.
00:55:58To this day, I'm frustrated.
00:55:59You know, I am.
00:56:01This has ruined my entire family socially, financially, professionally.
00:56:07It's--it's destroyed us.
00:56:09>> I'm just devastated over the whole situation.
00:56:14I just want my son to come home.
00:56:16He's innocent and his life is going by every day.
00:56:27>> Kurtis: For edward porter, putting a bad cop behind bars was the high point of his career.
00:56:33>> This is the case of my life.
00:56:34You know, I mean, my God, for a prosecutor to get to try this type of case.
00:56:39I mean, it's just incredible.
00:56:42What a sense of satisfaction to know you had that type of officer on the street and you were able to remove him.
00:56:52>> Kurtis: Susan white's family feels that justice has been served and that this rogue cop finally ended up where he belongs.
00:56:59>> We were just trying to get him in prison, so he can, you know, hopefully have a bad time.
00:57:04I want him to have a bad time for a change, because he's given us all a bad time.
00:57:13>> Kurtis: Kent mcgowen will be eligible for parole in 2007, after serving five years of his sentence.
00:57:18To those who put him behind bars, McGowen's case underscores the need for police departments to share personnel files.
00:57:25But according to prosecutors, Texas law-enforcement agencies still do not release this information, even to help identify other unfit officers.
00:57:35ForAmerican Justice, I'm Bill Kurtis.
00:57:46>> Kurtis: She was 16, a family's only daughter, a high school cheerleader.
00:57:51>> Heather was not afraid of anything.
00:57:53She'd try it all.
00:57:55>> Kurtis: Then she was brutally murdered.
00:57:57[gunshots] >> She had been shot with some sort of high-powered weapon.
00:58:00>> Kurtis: The hunt for the killers turned on three friends, including the high school football star.
00:58:07>> Just pure crazy.
00:58:08Young kids started out having fun, and it took a wrong turn.
00:58:11Now you have four wasted lives.
00:58:16[Captioning sponsored by THE department of education and A&E TELEVISION NETWORKS] >> Kurtis: For most families, a child's teenage years are often difficult, marked by experimentation, rebellion, a search for one's own identity.
00:58:3516-Year-old heather rich was testing her limits and her parents' patience when she snuck out of the house one october night.
00:58:45But what began as an adventure with friends ended in tragedy.
00:58:48On this program, one of those friends will tellamerican justicehis story of how, for no special reason, three teenagers became killers.
00:59:12In a remote region of southern oklaha, just across the red river from texas, sits the quiet town of waurika.
00:59:25A tiny community of 2,000 people, waurika has few distractions to offer its