Give Now

2012 Archives

Peggy Railey’s death a turning point for one of Dallas’ most notorious crimes


The following is from the December 31, 2011, edition of The Dallas Morning News. SMU Law Professor Jeffrey Bellin provided expertise for this story.

January 3, 2012

Dallas Morning News Staff Writers

Only days before the death of Peggy Railey, former detective Stan McNear happened to drive past the nursing home of the woman whose case he never closed.

He wondered if she could still be in there, helpless in bed the way he’d last seen her so many years ago.

McNear had made that visit in 1993. He needed Railey’s fingerprints to help prosecutors put the prime suspect in her attempted murder on trial.

“I was just hoping that maybe someday she might come around enough that she could tell us what really happened that night,” McNear recalled.

But that hope died with Railey on Monday, nearly a quarter-century after the crime.

It marked a turning point for McNear and so many others connected to one of Dallas’ most notorious criminal cases — the brothers torn apart forever, the preacher who fell, the lover still trying to explain, the children orphaned though their parents still lived, the woman who lingered, giving no hint of knowing, 100 miles away.

The trial of Railey’s husband, then-prominent Dallas pastor Walker Railey, was for Dallas what the O.J. Simpson trial was for Los Angeles or the Casey Anthony trial was for Orlando, Fla. Public opinion pronounced him guilty, but a jury did not. . .

If any justice remains to be dealt, it will not be by the state of Texas. Walker Railey, acquitted of trying to kill Peggy Railey, will not be tried for killing her now that she has died.

A murder trial would violate the U.S. Constitution’s ban on trying a person twice for the same offense, said Russell Wilson, chief of the convictions integrity unit of the Dallas County district attorney’s office.

Law professors queried by The News agreed. . .

SMU assistant law professor Jeffrey Bellin agreed because the state already failed to prove the foundation of the case: that Walker Railey attacked his wife.

“If the state could now convict Mr. Railey for murder based on this same conduct, Mr. Railey would have been, in the words of both the federal and Texas constitutions, ‘twice put in jeopardy’ for ‘the same offense,’” Bellin said.

Read the full story. (A subscription to The Dallas Morning News may be required.)

# # #