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The lawyer who originally represented Texas teen football star Greg Kelley after he was accused of molesting children was later accused by his supporters of having a conflict of interest and of working against her client.
When Kelley's own parents got sick, his lookalike friend Johnathan McCarty’s parents invited him to stay at their home — which also served as an in-home daycare facility. While living there in 2013, a boy made an outcry (an allegation of abuse) that Kelley had molested him, and an outcry from another little boy soon followed. To fight the accusations, McCarty's parents connected Kelley with attorney Patricia Cummings, whom they had worked with before.
Showtime’s new docuseries “Outcry” shows how Cummings seemingly went to bat for Kelley. When Kelley turned down what appeared to be a sweetheart deal from the district attorney’s office — they would have given him no jail time if he admitted guilt — Cummings helped him fight the claims that he was a child molester. She represented him during a controversial trial which divided the small Texas community where Kelley grew up. Some believed Kelley was guilty while others maintained he was wrongfully accused.
Cummings and Kelley lost that initial fight to prove his innocence. Kelley, then 17, was convicted in 2014 of two counts of super aggravated sexual assault and sentenced to 25 years in prison without parole. At the Ohio Summit on Wrongful Convictions in 2018, Cummings seemingly referenced Kelley when she told a crowd that represented a teen client she thought was innocent but who was sentenced to 25 years for something “I believe he didn’t do," according to footage seen in "Outcry."
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals eventually decided Kelley did not commit the acts he was accused of. He was exonerated last year but not without a long fight. During the battle to clear his name, many of Kelley's supporters publicly pointed out that not only did law enforcement allegedly neglect to investigate McCarty as a suspect but Cummings did as well. McCarty was later arrested on multiple sex crime charges, and he was named an alternative suspect in the crimes that Kelley was accused of. Williamson County District Attorney Shawn Dick reinvestigated the conviction once he took office in 2016 and he recently told Oxygen.com that Cummings "had a conflict of interest” representing Kelley because she was friends with the McCarty family.
A statement from Cummings' lawyer, provided to Oxygen.com, disputes a conflict of interest and disputes that she neglected to investigate McCarty.
"Outcry falsely claims that Ms. Cummings deliberately did not investigate an alternative suspect in Johnathan McCarty, due to an alleged conflict of interest," it reads, in part. The statement notes that none of the nine judges on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals "found that Ms. Cummings was in any way unethical or ineffective." The statement contends that Cummings did, in fact, consider McCarty an alternate suspect. It adds that two of those judges "expressly rejected" that she had a conflict of interest in separate written opinion, provided to Oxygen.com. The opinion states that with Kelley's approval, Cummings decided "'it was not in Greg's best interest to try the case on a theory that McCarty commited the crimes'; a better theory of the case was that the accusations were false."
"Outcry" director Pat Kondelis, however, told Oxygen.com in a statement that "Cummings’ own investigator testified under oath that when he presented side-by-side photos of Greg Kelley and Johnathan McCarty to Ms. Cummings, she responded by saying 'We’re not going to investigate Johnathan McCarty.'"
Furthermore, Kondelis added, "it is true, as we state in the program that two of the judges expressly rejected the ineffective counsel claim. It is important to note though that a majority of the court did not join in that opinion."
Cummings has also taken issue to claims made in "Outcry" that she tried to halt her former client's exoneration. Kelley’s post-conviction lawyer Keith Hampton claims in the docuseries that Cummings and other lawyers were working with the State's Prosecuting Attorney to deny the local district attorney's office, who wanted Kelley exonerated, the ability to exonerate him without making him go through the court of appeals. At the same time, Cummings was representing the Texas Innocence Project and she was pushing for a bill that would allow district attorney's offices to do just that. Hampton also claimed Cummings filed amicus curiae brief to influence the court against Kelley. Cummings vehemntly denies these claims.
The statement from Cummings' lawyer states the the docuseries "advances the outrageous lie that Ms. Cummings was working with the State Prosecuting Attorney to keep her former client incarcerated. The truth is the State Prosecuting Attorney actually filed a brief advocating for Mr. Kelley's innocence — so it is hard to imagine how Outcry had the audacity to make this baseless claim."
Where is Cummings now?
She currently supervises the Philadelphia District Attorney's Conviction Integrity Unit which “investigates complaints of municipal corruption and misconduct by government and law enforcement employees,” according to their website.Through that agency, Cummings helped, along with the Innocence Project, get Chester Hollman III —who was wrongfully convicted for a 1991 murder — exonerated in 2019.
She is actually featured in an episode of the Netflix docuseries “The Innocence Files,” which chronicles the work that the Innocence Project does to exonerate the wrongfully convicted. However, in contrast to “Outcry,” she is portrayed in a more favorable manner in that docuseries.
“I apologize to Chester Hollman. I apologize because he was failed, and in failing him, we failed the victim, and we failed the community of the city of Philadelphia," Cummings said at Hollman's exoneration, as Oxygen.com previously reported.
Before her current role, Cummings ran the Dallas District Attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit. Through them, she assisted in the 2018 exoneration of Steven Mark Chaney, who was wrongfully convicted of murder in 1987. For him, Cummings spent “hundreds of hours rigorously reexamining Chaney’s case, demonstrating an inspiring commitment to justice that sets the standard for conviction integrity units across the country,” according to the Innocence Project. A representative for the Innocence Project of Texas told Oxygen.com that she also worked for them in a part time capacity from late 2016 until early 2018.
Through her lawyer's statement, Cummings expressed outrage over the portrayal of her in "Outcry."
"The depiction of Patricia Cummings in Outcry is a misguided attempt to malign an outstanding, honorable, and nationally renowned attorney. In a malicious effort to manufacture a TV villain, certain individuals involved in making and participating in the film not only played fast and loose with the truth, they told outright lies about Ms. Cummings," the statement reads.
Kondelis maintains that the docusereies "doesn't make any false claims about Patricia Cummings."
The director adds that "perhaps the most surprising and puzzling element of the efforts being made to discredit Outcry is the aggressive campaign by Ms. Cummings and her allies to discredit a project which focuses on a case that they – of all people – would presumably see great value in: i.e., the exoneration of an innocent young man wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for a heinous crime he did not commit."
The statement made on Cummings' behalf ends on the promise: "I can tell you that we will exhaust all legal avenues to right this wrong and restore her good name and reputation. All parties who had a hand in concocting these awful lies about Patricia Cummings will be held accountable in a court of law."
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