Ex-Texas doctor’s murder-for-hire conviction stands

The 7th Court of Appeals decision reversing Dr. Thomas Dixon's murder-for-hire conviction has been overturned by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. (KCBD photo)
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) A 7th Court of Appeals decision reversing Dr. Thomas Dixon's murder-for-hire conviction has been overturned by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

Dixon is accused of hiring David Shepard to kill former Covenant Chief Pathologist Dr. Joseph Sonnier at Sonnier's Lubbock home in July of 2012.

Shepard is currently serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

In 2015, a judge declared a mistrial because of a hung-jury in Dixon's murder trial after nearly a month of testimony.

The second trial, resulted in a guilty verdict.

Attorneys for Dixon appealed the conviction on 50 issues in three categories including insufficient evidence to convict, cell site information obtain without a warrant and the exclusion of the public from the courtroom on three occasions.

The 7th Court of Appeals overturned the conviction in December 2018 and the state appealed to the Court of Criminal Appeals, the highest court of appeal for criminal matters in Texas.

In its decision for reversal the Court of Criminal Appeals ruled:

"The (7th) Court of Appeals reversed Appellant's conviction for two reasons: (1) because cell phone location information was improperly admitted, and (2) because the trial court deprived him of a public trial. Neither of these reasons appears to stand up to close scrutiny. In this murder-for hire prosecution, Appellant's whereabouts on a date other than the date of the murder were not particularly important to the case, so any error in admitting the evidence was harmless. As for the public trial complaints, two were not preserved and the other has no merit. Consequently, we reverse the judgment of the court of appeals."

Lubbock County District Attorney, Sunshine Stanek, told KCBD, "We are very pleased with the court's decision."

Stanek went on to say, "I am especially grateful for the hard work of our appellate division, specifically Lauren Murphee."

Dixon's defense attorney, Frank Sellers, told KCBD, "The Court of Appeals in Amarillo still has over 50 other issues to address. The trial was infected with legal errors."

Sellers also told KCBD that he has confidence that Dixon will get a new trial; it is just a matter of when.