Court receives threats as capital murder trial jury selection goes on

Joseph Colone

On trial accused of murdering a woman and her teenage daughter because one of his victims had fingered him in a then-pending gameroom robbery case, Joseph Colone sits in Judge Raquel West’s Jefferson County 252nd District Court shackled to the floor under the constant watch of Jefferson County sheriff’s deputies. Starting Monday, March 20, Colone was brought to court to begin the long and arduous process of selecting a jury to hear the defendant’s capital murder case. According to court staff, each juror will be interviewed individually for inclusion on the possible death penalty sentence case, and jury selection is expected to take weeks.

While the prosecution and defense are probing potential jurors, other courthouse staffers are being vigilant in monitoring the courtroom as threats of retribution have made their way to the halls of justice. And although enhanced security is not unusual in courtrooms where capital murder trials are in session, Jefferson County District Attorney Bob Wortham confirmed additional precaution is being utilized during the Colone trial because there were threats made against the court, judge and staff before jury selection commenced. According to Wortham, a sheriff’s deputy is in the courtroom at all times solely to keep an eye on the defendant.

In addition to the defendant and security, only courthouse personnel, attorneys and prosecutors are allowed in the courtroom as the group attempts to cull the jury pool from 120 to 12 with alternates. First assistant district attorney Pat Knauth and criminal chief prosecutor Ashley Molfino are presenting the capital murder death sentence case on behalf of the state. Colone is being represented by Gerald Bourque from the Woodlands.

Once the trial is underway, jurors will hear evidence presented by the state that contends Colone is guilty of the 2010 shooting deaths of Mary Goodman Hernandez, 41, and her daughter Briana Goodman, 16. Colone was out on bond at the time of the murders, charged with robbing the C&S Arcade on Fourth Street in Beaumont. The indictment listed Goodman as a witness.

After the grisly discovery, a new indictment was issued for Colone and the manhunt began. He was eventually arrested in Houston, as was girlfriend Ebony Joy Andrews, who was later also indicted for capital murder. Andrews is accused of driving Colone from the Goodman home, and was held in jail until Judge West allowed for her release with a monitoring device attached.

At the time he was charged in the murders, Colone had been out of a federal penitentiary for less than a year, where he served 87 months for robbing an armored car in Port Arthur.

A prior judge assigned to the 252nd District Court had allowed for a change of venue in hearing Colone’s case, but the capital murder allegations will stand in Jefferson County, according to a 2013 ruling by Judge West. The judge said that she would revisit the change of venue request if jury selection turned problematic.

In addition to the double murder charge he is facing, Colone is alleged to have subsequently possessed prohibitive substances in the county’s correctional facility – a third-degree felony. According to the indictment handed up in the possession case, on or about May 14, 2015, while in the custody of the Jefferson County Jail, Colone was found to have “razors, a mirror shard, a screwdriver, a needle and metal fencing.” Also in 2015, Colone was again alleged to be in possession of contraband when a search of his maximum security cell turned up a handcuff key. At an October 2015 hearing in West’s court, that proceeding was also heavily fortified by security, with more than a dozen deputies circling the courtroom. Sources familiar with jail operations said then that Colone is considered both an assault and escape risk who has acted up in court before.