Jurors in the trial of a 48-year-old Texas Department of Criminal Justice inmate accused of cutting the throat of a Coffield Unit correctional officer two years ago viewed a video confession from the accused man Tuesday at the Anderson County Courthouse.

Robert Earl Turner, 48, is being tried this week on the first-degree felony charge of aggravated assault on a public servant, stemming from the Aug. 20, 2005 incident during which he allegedly used a homemade weapon consisting primarily of razor blades to slash the throat of Coffield correctional officer April Colburn.

An eight-man, four-woman jury was seated early Monday afternoon in the trial which is expected to conclude by the end of the week.

Following the reading of the state’s indictment Monday, Turner, who is currently serving a life sentence on a burglary of a habitation conviction, pled not guilty to the charge.

Colburn, who was 22 at the time, had been on the job for less than two weeks when the alleged assault occurred. She underwent surgery at a Tyler hospital shortly after the incident and did not return to her job as a correctional officer.

Colburn was expected to testify this morning at the courthouse.

John Riggle, a criminal investigator with the prison system’s Office of the Inspector General, testified Tuesday afternoon, telling the jury he interviewed Turner on two occasions at the TDCJ’s Skyview Unit in Rusk within days of the alleged assault.

The Skyview Unit is a psychiatric unit where Turner was transferred after he cut his wrist with a razor blade within moments of allegedly attacking Colburn.

Jurors were shown a videotape of the second of those interviews conducted on Aug. 24, 2005 during which Turner told Riggle that he assaulted the correctional officer from behind with a razor blade – just days after she had filed a disciplinary case against him.

“Four or five days” after a hearing relating to that case, Turner said he “grabbed” Colburn from behind after the doors in his cell block had been opened to allow inmates to go to the day room.

“What did you do after you got her?” Riggle asked on the tape which was of fair-to-poor audio quality.

“Cut her throat,” Turner said.

During the interview, Turner said he was uncertain how many times he cut Colburn.

Following the incident, Turner said he went back into his cell and cut his wrist.

During cross examination, Barbara Law of the state’s counsel for offenders asked, “Would you say he (Turner) was genuinely upset?”

“Yes, I believe he was,” Riggle testified.

Earlier Tuesday afternoon, Christy Link, a forensic scientist with the Texas Department of Public Safety, testified that she performed DNA analysis on two razor blades submitted to her agency.

Both razor blades were “consistent with the DNA profile of the victim (Colburn),” Link testified.

Link also performed similar testing on a shirt and pair of pants submitted in relation to the same case, testifying stains taken from those items were “consistent with the DNA profile of Robert Turner.”

369th State District Judge Bascom W. Bentley III is presiding over this week’s trial.


Paul Stone may be contacted via e-mail at pstone@palestineherald.com

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