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John Hill Trial: 1971 - Outburst Leads To Mistrial

kurth judge hooey allowed

If Haynes had been discomfited by some of what Effie Brown had to say, then he wanted nothing at all to do with the testimony of Ann Kurth. Indeed, he believed that under Texas law she should not even be allowed to take the stand against her former husband. But his strident and lengthy objections on this point were overridden by Judge Frederick Hooey after the prosecutors had unearthed yet another obscure precedent, this time a case in which a wife had been permitted to testify against her husband. Judge Hooey let it be known, however, that he was uneasy with his own ruling, and had agreed only to Kurth taking the witness stand on condition that he might stop her testimony at any time.

McMaster first led Kurth through her relationship with Hill, then he asked if she had seen anything "unusual" at Hill's apartment during the week of Joan Hill's illness. She told of entering the bathroom and finding three petri dishes—the kind used in laboratories—with "something red in them." Hill had come in and angrily shooed her from the room, saying that it was "just an experiment." The next day she also spotted some unusual pastries in the refrigerator. Hill, again annoyed, told her not to eat them.

But the main thrust of Kurth's testimony was given over to a vivid account of an incident in which, she said, Hill had attempted to kill her. It came just one month into their marriage. They were out driving when, Kurth claimed, Hill deliberately smashed her side of the car into a bridge.

"What happened next?" asked McMaster.

"He pulled a syringe from his pocket and … tried to get it into me." Kurth said that she managed to knock the syringe from Hill's hand, but that he then produced another hypodermic needle.

"And what did he do with that one, if anything?" queried MeMaster.

Kurth, who several times had to be admonished by the judge for her overly theatrical presentation, crescendoed, "He tried to get that syringe into me!"

Here the prosecutor speculated. "Was he attempting to treat you? Or harm you? Do you know?"

"Yes, I knew." Kurth hesitated, as if unsure what to say next, then blurted out, "Because he told me how he had killed Joan with a needle."

Haynes leapt to his feet, demanding a mistrial on grounds that the defense had not been given an opportunity to prepare themselves against a direct accusation of murder. (This was the first that Haynes had heard of any syringes). Judge Hooey, plainly worried by this turn of events, at first denied the request but did order a recess. During the adjournment, however, Hooey had second thoughts. The tenuous legal precedent by which Kurth had been allowed to testify, and then her foolhardy outburst, convinced him that if he allowed the trial to continue there were clear and palpable grounds for appeal. Accordingly, 11 days into the hearing, he granted the mistrial.

Interestingly enough, the jurors, when polled afterward, indicated that they were inclined to believe John Hill innocent. Ann Kurth's story hadn't impressed them at all.

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about 9 years ago

I lived in Houston close by the Hill

and Ash Robinson homes. It is very

bad what happened.

I have read where Robert Hill is now

a Prosecutor and is married. I am so

proud of Robert in what he has done

with his life. I hope he now has chi

ldren and they never go through what

he did.

I also hope his step mother Connie

has been blessed with a good and

happy life after John Hill.

I read where Robert Hill has horses

just like his Mother Joan. Joan was

SUPERB when riding her horse. May she rest in Eternal Peace.

I hope that Robert and Connie will

always be happy in their lives for-