Heath Stoneman Legal Defense & Support Fund
$26,090 raised
104% of $25k goal
47 contributors
5 Years running

Heath Stoneman is the closest thing you're ever going to find to a modern day George Bailey.  What happened to Stoneman could have happened to Bailey.  Faced with a surprise financial difficulty against the backdrop of an ongoing battle with depression, Stoneman did what George Bailey did--he contemplated suicide. 

Like Bailey, Stoneman was heavily involved in his community prior to this low moment.  He was a youth coach for his children's soccer, softball, & basketball.    He was not only a faithful member of the flock at CrossRoads Fellowship church in Odessa, TX but also he was a dedicated & frequent volunteer there.  More importantly, Stoneman is widely known as a person who always faithfully responds to anyone who needs his help. 

Like George Bailey, Heath Stoneman struck out on finding a career that connected to his passion.  Instead, because he dedicated so much time and energy to his family, Stoneman didn't end up conquering the world on that front.  What he discovered, however, is that he was happiest serving others.  He was trying to find a way to pay the bills doing exactly that. But he felt a bit trapped by his situation and the depression started taking a toll on him.   After the incident, Stoneman laid out his dream which is to help run youth church camps.  He might not be able to make this dream a reality with a felony conviction.  

The only substantive difference between George Bailey and Heath Stoneman was in the way his community responded to his situation.  In "It's a Wonderful Life," Burt the cop went looking for George after finding his crashed car to make sure he was safe. In Stoneman's case, the police came to his house and shot him with a .308 caliber sniper round as he sat on his own front porch using his iPhone to talk to a neighbor.  The police blamed the shooting on Stoneman.  But the evidence in the case paints an entirely different scenario.  The shooting appears either accidental, uncalculated or even illegal by the standards laid out in Tennessee V. Garner (1985) and Graham V. Connor (1989). 

After the incident, a call went out to support Heath Stoneman but the message didn't carry far and wide.  We've got another shot to help our friend but it's going to take an effort to attack apathy and encourage generosity and only you and me and his fellow supporters can make that happen. 

Anyone who has ever known Heath Stoneman for any period of time, wants to help him.  But people aren't familiar with the criminal justice system or what needs to happen. 

So how can people help Heath Stoneman? Right now, he needs a robust legal defense. Since he was pressured into pleading guilty to a crime he didn't commit, his legal recourse will likely go into a Writ of Habeas Corpus which is a highly specialized area of law.

I have spent a couple months investigating this area of law and the top attorneys in Texas who practice it. I believe I've identified some of the most talented, experienced and ethical attorneys in this area.  (Note: links to attorneys do not mean these will be hired but they are who we hope to hire subject to agreement to terms. Additionally, these links are in no way a suggestion they endorse or are soliciting funds an are provided for illustration purposes only to show we've found good folks to hire). 

Most Writ attorneys have told me that taking a case like this involves two stages. The first is an investigation of the facts in the case. I've done a fair bit of the leg work here but the investigators who will take it from here are experienced and know what they are looking for and how to get it.

My plan is to help these investigators by guiding them through the released evidence. This will save us some bucks and, more importantly, time. They will then go a step further and track down witnesses, court records and additional facts.

The cost estimates for Stoneman's defense has been estimated at $25K-$50K with most estimates falling around $25K-$30K. Most of these estimates break the cost into 50/50 investigation vs legal work.  Some attorneys want the full amount up front. Others want the fees for the investigation up front. 

Here's the thing. An attorney can only pursue a case if there are bonafide legal grounds. The investigation determines if that is the case. So it is theoretically possible that an attorney could conduct the investigation and then state there is not a sufficient case to bring together a petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus.

I strongly doubt that will happen because I looked into potential grounds (as a layman) and Stoneman's case has the potential to fall into many of those grounds.   But these are not easy cases to win. 

If the investigation proves a case exists, the attorneys will then write and file a Writ of Habeas Corpus. If the district judge agrees with the petition, it goes to an appeals court with the district judge's recommendation.

Here's the important thing. Stoneman has pled guilty and received a 10 year sentence. This makes him eligible for parole 5 years after the incident. His time served was credited and so he is parole eligible June 6, 2017. If this Writ of HC fails, it does not impact his parole eligibility. In other words, Stoneman is not damaged by a failed Writ.

If his Writ succeeds, then his case goes back to square one with the District Attorney. The DA could refile charges and bring it to trial. That is a possibility but the standard in such a proceeding is reasonable doubt. I'm personally confident (but can't guarantee) that all of the evidence in the case supports Stoneman's innocence. 

It is an ugly case from the perspective of an officer involved shooting and would seem to be one a DA would not put on trial due to an inability to meet the reasonable doubt standard. But you never know. Texas is tricky. Here's a similar & recent case with, in my opinion, less controversy than Stoneman's.  

Note that in a new case, Stoneman could be facing life again in a trial. He is aware of this and wishes to proceed with a Writ. He was never apprised of the state's evidence against him the first time around. Almost all of the things that I found in my investigation were news to him.

Back in June, based on my initial read of the evidence in Stoneman's case, I was able to rally about 4 or 5 key people (namely some Lovington buddies including my own family) to raise $11K for Heath. I hired an attorney who, while possibly experienced enough to file a Writ, is not by any means recognized as an expert in that area. More importantly, we (me, Stoneman & Stoneman's family) did not find the pace of the representation optimal. At the present time, we don't know what the balance is but it should be a healthy amount which I'm guessing is around $8K. Whatever this balance is, it will be transferred to Heath's new representation.

The delay we experienced was frustrating but it actually caused me to become better acquainted with Writs and the lightbulb went off that indicated we really, truly need someone who practices this law primarily and is not spread across lots of different areas of family and criminal law. Heath needs an expert. There aren't many of them in the space but I found 3 of them who are top in their field. How did I determine this? I called alot of attorneys who work on writs and asked them who the best of the best were. Eventually I narrowed it down to a few key attorneys.

One thing. I want to hire one primary attorney with one or two consulting attorneys. This will allow Heath to gain more than one opinion about minute details of his case.

What do I personally believe about Heath's chances? I think they are very good although I can't tell you that as an attorney. I think grounds exist for Writ relief and I don't think there is a jury in Texas who would look at this case and convict Stoneman.

But what if I'm wrong about that and what if Stoneman is convicted? One thing a judge could do is sentence Stoneman to time served. He could get probation. Or he could get a longer sentence than he has. Regardless, all of us would have the ability to weigh in on Stoneman's behalf and write a letter or possibly testify about his character. 

What happens if we raise more than $25K? What happens if we raise more than Stoneman needs for legal defense? Well, any additional funds, would go to Stoneman to help him get back on his feet. He's going to need to bounce back into life. That's not going to be easy.

What am I going to donate to this cause? I'm going to match the first $5K. I'll make the donation when the total on this campaign reaches $5K.

How much should you donate? Let me not beat around the bush. If you knew Heath and were friends with him and can afford it, I would recommend you donate at least $1,000. We're not going to get there with $25 and $50 (there's not enough of us) although every bit will help. And don't be deterred if you don't have $1,000 laying around...donate what you can! 

Here's the thing. Whether you get involved in this or not isn't going to deter this campaign from moving forward.

When I first became acquainted with Stoneman's case, I asked myself a simple question: if no one is coming to his defense, who would ever come to my defense if I ever needed it? Heath Stoneman is a great guy. He is the same guy we all knew and loved. He needs our help.

So, talk it over with your family. Talk it over with your financial planner. But be generous. This is a just cause.

For more information about the Heath Stoneman case, visit http://StonemanRights.com/stoneman

Some of the factors that lead to Stoneman's wrongful conviction flow from Texas Laws that must be reformed.   Fortunately, particularly the Open Records law has a shot at being fixed.  But all of that reform talk is for a later date. Right now, we gotta focus on Stoneman

Questions about this Campaign:

How does the money go to Stoneman?

Stoneman's mother, Mona Standard, opened a bank account at Western Commerce Bank in Heath's name using power of attorney.  There is a branch in Lovington.  (Incidentally, you can donate directly to that account yourself in person at any branch).   This bank account is tied to a WePay account in Heath Stoneman's name and any funds donated here will transfer to that bank account.  

Campaign Manager:

Brennan J. Murphy 

Take Action:

1) Make a donation. 

2) Share this story with everyone you know using all of your social networks.  Point people to this web page or to http://StonemanRights.com/stoneman and ask them to watch the documentary. 

3) Say a prayer. 


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Washington DC July 4th Weekend
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