Always, citizens present to courts of law a seemingly never-ending stream of weird and unusual facts. Just when you thought you had seen the weirdest, yet another comes along, stranger yet.
The facts of very few law cases could ever match those in The State of Texas v. Chante Mallard.
The Unusual Murder
On October 26, 2001, 26-year old Chante Jawan Mallard and her friend Titilese Frey allegedly shared some alcohol and narcotics before leaving Joe's Big Bamboo Club in Fort Worth, Texas in the wee hours of the morning.
Mallard thought she would be fine to drive but her friend wisely believed she was too stoned and drunk to drive a vehicle. But when they got back to Ms Frey's house, Mallard, who had left her car there, got into her 1997 Chevrolet Cavalier and drove away.
The rest of the story is unbelievable yet true.
On her way home, Mallard's vehicle hit a 37-year-old homeless man, Gregory Biggs. The force of the impact threw Biggs headfirst through the windshield with such force as to lodge him there, with his legs dangling out.
But he was not dead. Mallard later gave this evidence:
"I think when I was coming around the bend from Loop 820, before Village Creek, all of a sudden, Bam! - he was just there. I realized that it was a person I had hit and he had come through the right front windshield. I was scared and terrified and the car didn't even slow down. He was on my car and stuck through the right front windshield. I parked my car in (my) garage (at 3840 Wilbarger Street, Fort Worth) and I put the (garage) door down. I wanted to take him to the hospital but I was so scared."
But that was not the full truth of it.
Unfortunately for Biggs, Mallard, it turns out, was not only a drunk driver but also a sociopath.
Two days later, the body of Gregory Biggs was found in Cobb Park, Fort Worth. His wounds included a broken right leg, the near total amputation of his left leg. An autopsy found that he had simply bled to death.
For four months, the coroner and the police department could not piece together the final moments of Biggs' life. His injuries puzzled both the coroner and the Tarrant County Sheriff Department as they seemed to be consistent with a beating or a motor vehicle accident (the injuries suggested that he had been struck standing up) but yet, there the body was, in the middle of a city park.
Two days earlier, Mallard, with a front-row seat to the writing body in her windshield, still did not stop her car.
She was a certified nurse’s assistant and caregiver at a Fort Worth nursing home, but she continued her drive home and parked her car in her garage with Mr. Biggs, fatally injured, still stuck in the windshield.
Apparently, nobody saw her on the road or arriving at home in the early mornings hours of October 26, some six miles from the place of the accident. But police later gave evidence at trial that she drove past nine pay phones, and that her brother who was an emergency medical technician with the Fort Worth Fire Department. Nearby, less than a mile away, was a fire station manned with officers trained in medical emergencies.
While Biggs was bleeding to death, Mallard apparently agonized over what to do. A friend at a subsequent house party later said that Chante related how, in an alternate version of events, she:
"... then went inside, had sex with her boyfriend, Terrance, went out to the garage and the man wasn't dead yet.... Shantae (sic) stated that the man was asking them to help him but that they just walked back inside. Shantae advised that they waited until he died."1
Mallard also later told the police that she repeatedly returned to the garage to say "I'm sorry" but found that the man was not saying anything; just moaning.
Later, at her trial, her story changed. Ms Mallard then said that on that fateful early October morning on Wilbarger Street, Fort Worth, she had called Titilese Frey to come over immediately; she would tell her why when she arrived.
"Yes", she said she pleaded with Ms Frey: "It's an emergency!"
Titilese Frey arrived on scene to a hysterical Ballard who jumped into her car yelling:
"Just drive! Drive! I hit a white guy. I'm sorry; I didn't mean to do it. I tried to pull him out but he was too heavy! I heard him moan. I think he still alive!"
Frey, according to Mallard's now-second version of the events, on hearing this, promptly turned her car around and drove back to Mallard's residence. There Ms Frey found that Mallard was telling the truth: there was a "back side of a body sticking out of the car's windshield".
Frey urged Mallard to call 9-1-1- but Mallard refused. Instead, they got back into Frey's car and drove to Frey's house and slept. This, again, only the second version of the events.
The story continues: the next morning, Mallard says she called her ex-boyfriend, Clete Jackson, who met her at her house. Jackson had a criminal record for burglary and had done prison time. From later court transcripts:
"He saw a man hanging through the front windshield into the passenger side floorboard of the car. Clete touched the man with a rake to see if he was alive, but the man did not move. He decided that they were not going to bury the body; instead, they were going to put it somewhere the victim's family could find him and bury him. Clete stated that he was not going to move the body by himself, so he called his cousin (Herbert "Tyrone" Cleveland), to help. Clete and Mallard borrowed a friend's car and drove it to Mallard's house, where Clete shovelled the body into a blanket, tied up the blanket, put the blanket into the trunk of the car, and drove with Tyrone and Mallard to Cobb Park. Tyrone and Clete removed the body from the trunk, laid it on the ground, and took off the blanket. After leaving the body in the park, Clete, Tyrone, and Mallard went to a car wash and threw away the blanket."
Shocker: Tyrone Cleveland also had a previous criminal record having served time for aggravated robbery.
Luckily for justice, Chante Mallard had a big mouth.
Jurors would later be shown a videotape of Mallard taken a week after Biggs died, back at Joe's Big Bamboo Club, drinking and enjoying herself.
She laughingly bragged about the accident at a party four months later and, finally, the police received the tip they were waiting for. Ms Maranda Daniel, who was at the house party and had overheard Mallard, later met with Tarrant County detectives. According to Ms Daniel:
"Shantae (sic) giggled when she said 'I hit this white guy.'"
Mallard still had the murder weapon, the vehicle, hidden in her garage - she was waiting for her income tax refund check to burn the Cavalier and buy another car.
The police obtained a search warrant and attended Mallard's residence on February 26, 2002. They found Mallard there and willing to talk. She even signed a written statement.
The officers also found the bloodstained car with the seats removed but still smouldering in the backyard: Mallard had burned it to conceal the evidence.
Blood spatter evidence in the car showed that Biggs had breathed and moved long after the collision.
Mallard was arrested and charged with murder, tampering with evidence and failure to stop and render aid at the scene of a accident involving personal injury. At trial, the medical examiner testified that Biggs would have survived the impact with the most basic of first aid. He had simply bled to death.
In September of 2002, Tyrone plea bargained in regard to a separate charge against him. He agreed to testify against Mallard, and received a nine year prison sentence for the lesser charge of tampering with evidence. Four months later, Jackson struck a similar deal with the District Attorney. He received a 10 year prison sentence for tampering with evidence and he, too, agreed to testify at Mallard's trial.
In June of 2003, Mallard faced trial by jury, in what the press would later call the Windshield Murder.
Her callousness in October of 2002 was equal to her stupidity at trial. She finally testified on June 26 and offered a self-serving statement, and a teary-eyed apology, as she steadfastly maintained her innocence, before a disbelieving jury. She had yet another version of events to share, and this one did not omit the time-honored criminal defence strategy of blaming the criminal conduct with alcohol and narcotics.
Mallard added that her ex-boyfriend had disposed of the body, without her consent, and she had not reported the accident because she was "scared".
After a short deliberation, the jury convicted Mallard of murder and the judge sentenced her to 50 years in prison.
In Texas, a person must serve half his or her prison term before becoming eligible for parole: she would be eligible for parole on March 4, 2027, 25-years into her sentence.
The events of October 26, 2002 were scripted and resulted in a Hollywood movie, Stuck, released in 2007, with all the attendants amendments to the true facts of which Hollywood is fully, the memory of Greg Biggs be damned. That Mallard was black and the victim white - this mattered to Hollywood.
Meanwhile, Mallard appealed her conviction of murder arguing that the motor vehicle accident did not actually kill Biggs - at least not on the spot. It was an interesting legal point but the Texas Court of Appeal would have none of it:
"The evidence is both legally and factually sufficient to support Mallard's conviction for felony murder."
If ever the law had to meet the antithesis of the Good Samaritan, it was the case of Chante Jawan Mallard, now housed as inmate #01183569 at the Dr. Lane Murray Prison, Gatesville, Texas.
There she has nothing if not time to ponder her actions on October 26, 2002, as she callously drove through the streets of Fort Worth with a dying man sticking out her windshield, and the law, the worse for wear.
- Associated Press, Timeline of Events in the Chante Mallard Windshield Death Case, June 27, 2003 [retrieved from the Internet on October 25, 2011 from http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,90498,00.html].
- CNN News, Motorist Given 50 Year Sentence in Windshield Murder Trial, June 28, 2003 [retrieved form the Internet on October 25, 2011 from http://articles.cnn.com/2003-06-27/justice/windshield.death_1_chante-mallard-brandon-biggs-mallard-family?_s=PM:LAW]
- Daniel, Miranda, as related in the Affidavit of Tarrant Country Sheriff D. E. Owings, sworn March 6, 2002 [NOTE 1]
- Mallard v Texas, 162 S.W. (3d) 325 (2005)