Mineral Wells Index, Mineral Wells, TX


August 5, 2010

Dealer dealt life

Jury gives convicted crack seller the maximum sentence

PALO PINTO — After convicting him Wednesday of engaging in organized criminal activity, a Palo Pinto County jury Thursday morning sentenced Joe Luther Willis to life in prison.

Willis, 56, was found guilty of conspiring to distribute more than 400 grams of crack cocaine in Mineral Wells.

Willis, one of several people who openly sold crack on S.E. 8th Street during 2005 to 2007, according to testimony presented during the trial, faced 15 years to 99 years or life in prison for the first-degree felony offense.

The six-man, six-woman jury deliberated about 20 minutes after additional testimony was presented during the sentencing phase of the trial Thursday morning.

“Once we found him guilty, we wanted to send a message to Mr. Willis and the community that we are all citizens of Palo Pinto County and we want it to stop,” Larry Anderson, the jury foreman, said about their reasons for the sentence. “For lack of a better word, it was a slam dunk.”

In addition to life in prison, the jury also gave him the maximum fine – $250,000.  

The jury heard additional evidence Thursday morning from law enforcement and confidential informant John Joseph Polk, also known as “Heavy,” that Willis sold a loaded 9mm pistol to Polk, who he allegedly knew was a convicted felon, near the end of the investigation.

The pistol was reported stolen out of Stephenville, according to Special Agent Melanie Finney with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.  

“It is your opportunity to set the community standards,” Assistant District Attorney Kriste Burnett told the jury during closing remarks.  

Willis' court-appointed defense attorney, Cora Moore, asked the jury for a sentence at the lesser end of the spectrum because it wasn't violent and didn't involve children.

“There's only one sentence appropriate in this case and that's life in prison,” District Attorney Mike Burns told the jury. “Those who are out there still doing it look to you.”

Speaking for Willis after his sentence was pronounced, Moore told those in the courtroom he met Christ at a younger age and often ignored his conscience since then.  

Willis told her he was afflicted by the law enforcement officers and prosecution and is a new man in God's love.  

“This man has been turned around,” Moore said.  

Burns said he was pleased the jury, representative of citizens in the county, understood the gravity of the crime and supported the efforts of law enforcement who spent two years trying to eradicate the drug problem in the neighborhood.  

Moore, who will be retained for the next month as Willis' attorney, said she was unsure whether there would be an appeal.  

Of the five named in the indictment, Willis' case was the final case to be disposed.  

Ciarra Lashonda Clark pleaded guilty in 2009 and received 15 years in prison.  

Linda Marie Turner pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of engaging in organized criminal activity by conspiring to distribute between 200 and 400 grams of crack cocaine and received 10 years in prison.  

Anthony Lavelle Tate pleaded guilty to the lesser offense of engaging in organized criminal activity for conspiring to distribute between 4 and 200 grams of crack cocaine and received eight years deferred adjudication.

The case against Emily Gonzalez was dismissed for technical reasons, according to Burns.

Willis' was the third case for engaging in organized criminal activity to go to a jury trial since the current district attorney's office began prosecuting many drug distribution cases with the more serious charge, and netted the longest sentence yet.

In recent months, many have agreed to plead guilty and take high sentences, such as 35 years, Burns said.  

Only seven of the 80 total defendants indicted for engaging in organized criminal activity cases in recent years are currently requesting a jury trial, according to Burns.

Index staff writer Christin Coyne can be reached at (940) 325-4465, ext. 3428, or ccoyne@mineralwellsindex.com.


Text Only
News Toppers

Local News
Local Sports
Braxton pitch Kenn.JPG

Sophomore Braxton Allen was masterful on the mound in his second complete-game win over the Wildcats. He pitched six shutout innings, striking out 11 and allowing two unearned runs on three hits and two walks.

  • How sweet it is

    The Mineral Wells Rams have climbed another mountain. After besting Kennedale for the first time in over a decade on their home field in the last week of March, the Rams (16-10, 7-2) swept their season series with the vaunted Wildcats, earning a 6-2 win in front of a home crowd, Friday night, to once again put themselves alone atop the District 6-3A standings with one game left to play. 

    April 20, 2014 2 Photos

  • Allie Kenn.JPG Kennedale edges out Lady Rams, 3-0, on senior night

    The Lady Rams wanted this one. Bad. But despite a brilliant defensive effort that kept the game locked at 1-0 until the final frame, the Mineral Wells Lady Rams found themselves so close, yet so far away from a district championship, falling to the second-ranked team in the state, the Kennedale Wildcats, for the second time this year, 3-0, Friday night.

    April 20, 2014 4 Photos

  • Kennedale edges out Lady Rams, 3-0, on senior night

    Despite a brilliant defensive effort that kept the game locked at 1-0 until the final frame, the Mineral Wells Lady Rams found themselves so close, yet so far away, falling to the second-ranked team in the state, the Kennedale Wildcats, for the second time this year, 3-0, Friday night.

    April 18, 2014

  • How sweet it is

    The Mineral Wells Rams have climbed another mountain.

    April 18, 2014

Online Only
  • Why do wolves howl?

    Of all the myths that dog the wolf, none is more widely accepted than the idea that wolves howl at the moon. Images of wolves with their heads upturned, singing at the night sky, are as unquestioned as a goldfish's three-second memory or a dog's color-blindness (both also myths).

    April 18, 2014

  • Smartphone kill switches are coming

    Smartphones need kill switches. It's a relatively easy solution to the pricey (and irritating) problem of smartphone theft. But who would have thought that the big carriers would team up with Apple, Google, Microsoft, Nokia, Samsung and lots of other manufacturers to voluntarily begin adding the technology by July 2015? The cooperative spirit! It makes so much sense!

    April 18, 2014

  • Biggest student loan profits come from grad students

    This week, the Congressional Budget Office projected that the federal government would earn roughly $127 billion from student lending during the next 10 years.

    April 18, 2014

  • Screen shot 2014-04-18 at 4.44.15 PM.png Paint, doodle and sketch: 3 apps for art lovers

    In the absence of a palette of watercolors and a sketchpad, these three apps can fill in as your art supplies of choice.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • WED BIBLE Lynn-Nikki-Phyllis.jpg Mineral Wells Wednesday Bible Study Club

    Lynn Waddy and Phyllis Lister hosted the April 9th meeting of the Wednesday Bible Study Club. The meeting was opened with prayer by Lynn. Nikki Murphy brought the lesson from Acts, Chapter 8.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Rev. Holt.jpg Holy Week Schedule

    With Palm Sunday already over and Easter coming this Sunday, Mineral Wells Ministerial Alliance is taking advantage of Holy Week, the week between the two holidays, and spreading the good news as much as possible.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Hallelujahs to Hisses

    I graduated from Baylor University in 1983.

    April 11, 2014

Must Read
Featured Ads

Should vaping in public, such as in stores and restaurants, be treated the same as smoking, whether regulated privately by the business or by local governments?

Yes, vaping in public should be restricted like tobacco smoking.
No, vaping shaping should be allowed anywhere.
Not sure/undecided.
Don't care.
     View Results

Click a photo to visit our SmugMug page

Front page
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter
Weather Underground Radar
AP Video
Raw: More Than 100,000 Gather for Easter Sunday Raw: Greeks Celebrate Easter With "Rocket War" Police Question Captain, Crew on Ferry Disaster Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite Ceremony Marks 19th Anniversary of OKC Bombing Raw: Four French Journalists Freed From Syria Raw: Massive 7.2 Earthquake Rocks Mexico Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Seasonal Content
Texas Amber Alerts
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide