By MARY RAINWATER
A jury verdict of 58 years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for Anthony Mares, 37, for the 1998 armed robbery of Chang’s Chinese restaurant in Palestine was upheld on Sept. 25 by the Tyler Court of Appeals.
The decision means Mares will continue serving the sentence for aggravated robbery he received in July 2011 as a result of the re-trial of the case which was originally tried in April 1999.
Retired visiting Judge Jerry L. Calhoon presided over the 2011 trial and ruled that statements allegedly made in 1998 to then District Attorney Jeff Herrington by the shooting victim of the robbery, Yin-Lu Yao, describing the shooter as the taller of two assailants could not be presented to the jury.
“I am pleased the court of appeals agreed with Judge Calhoon,” said Anderson County District Attorney, Doug Lowe. “The result was fair because we were not going to be able to use a conflicting statement that Mr. Yao gave to then Palestine Police Department detective, Larry Mars.”
Around 9:30 p.m. on Jan. 9, 1998, Mares, then 22, and Jessica Whitlock, a juvenile who was his girlfriend at the time, robbed Chang’s Chinese Restaurant in downtown Palestine.
After one of the parties entered the restaurant armed with a handgun and demanding money, Yao emerged from the kitchen after hearing the screams of his wife and confronted the masked assailant, authorities have said.
The assailant then turned the gun on Yao, attempted to cock it and ran out of the restaurant, authorities have said.
Yao pursued the assailant to the back of the building where he saw the initial intruder and a second assailant just before tripping and falling, according to authorities.
As Yao attempted to get to his feet, the state has contended that Mares shot the restaurant owner in cold blood from behind with a .45-caliber handgun, leaving him to die in a gutter.
In April 1999, Mares was found guilty of aggravated robbery and sentenced to 99 years in prison shooting the 60-year-old Yao outside a Chinese restaurant in downtown Palestine.
In 2010, the Court of Criminal Appeals, the state’s highest court on criminal matters, remanded the case to the trial court for a new punishment hearing.
The punishment retrial was held in July 2011 at the Anderson County Courthouse, with Calhoon presiding. The jury sentenced Mares to 58 years in prison and elected to assess a $5,000 fine against the defendant.
The Court of Criminal Appeals made its ruling after Mares’ attorneys filed a writ of habeas corpus, claiming that the state had failed to disclose statements from the shooting victim to then-Anderson County District Attorney Jeff Herrington regarding the shooter’s physical characteristics during an alleged conversation in the summer of 1998.
Yao survived the shooting, but died of a heart attack on Sept. 12, 1998 — months before Mares’ first trial in spring 1999.
Mary Rainwater may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org