Christopher Shun Scott, Renewing Hope for the Wrongfully Convicted

Man exonerated after being wrongfully convicted of murdering a man during a 1997 home invasion.

In the early morning hours of April 7, 1997, two armed men broke into a home on the 4600 block of Hopkins Street in Dallas, Texas.[1] In the home, one of the men confronted Alonzo Aguilar and demanded money at gunpoint while the other man sexually assaulted Aguilar’s wife, Celia Escobedo. Escobedo’s attacker also confronted Aguilar, a confrontation that ended when the attacker shot Aguilar to death. Escobedo identified Christopher Shun Scott and Claude Simmons as the perpetrators the following day while being interviewed at the Dallas police station. She identified Simmons in person after spotting him being questioned for a different crime and identified Scott from a photograph. Both Simmons and Scott were arrested, convicted of murder, and sentenced to life in prison in October of the same year. Never wavering from claims of innocence, the men fought their cases and, finally, in October of 2009, the court ruled that Escobedo’s testimony was faulty and ordered the men released.[2] On March 3, 2010, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals exonerated the men.[3]

The cases against Simmons and Scott were based on scanty evidence, and the evidence offered by the prosecution was problematic from the start. For one, the prosecution relied almost exclusively on Escobedo’s testimony identifying Simmons and Scott as the men who attacked her and her husband. When the defense attorneys attempted to introduce evidence that implicated two other men during the trial, the judge refused to allow the evidence to be presented.[4] Reportedly, Scott and his attorney only met once prior to the trial, the trial lasted only eight hours, and the jury deliberated only six minutes before deciding on a guilty verdict.[5] When Scott was sent to the Texas Department of Prisons Coffield Unit in East Texas, he had two sons, Christopher, age 6, and Dameon, age 5.[6]     

Scott’s luck began to change when another incarcerated man began bragging about getting away with Aguilar’s murder. Ironically, Alonzo Hardy did this one day in the prison barber shop within earshot of another man who happened to be Scott’s brother.[7] Hardy was serving a 30-year sentence for an unrelated aggravated robbery and had been incarcerated since 1999, two years after the Aguilar murder.[8] According to a 2018 article in The Crime Report, Scott claimed that his brother spoke with Hardy after overhearing the boasting, at which time Hardy produced a photograph of Christopher Scott, identifying Scott as the person falsely charged and convicted. Scott’s brother filed a report with the District Attorney’s office, but the District Attorney (DA) refused to take action, declaring that there was nothing proving Scott was innocent. This was in 2002, Scott stated, seven years before he was declared innocent. Things changed, he went on to say, in 2006 when the first African-American DA in Texas, Craig Watkins, assumed the DA role for Dallas County.[9] Watkins, working with his Conviction Integrity Unit and partnering with the Dallas Police Department’s Cold Case Unit, re-launched an investigation. They discovered that Hardy and an accomplice, Don Michael Anderson, were mentioned as suspects in the original investigation, but that the trial judge had not allowed the defense attorneys to present this evidence. Hardy had provided a detailed confession and passed a polygraph test.[10] Scott and Simmons also passed polygraphs. Anderson was arrested for the murder of Alfonso Aguilar and sexual assault of Celia Escobedo.[11] Anderson pleaded no contest, and Hardy, already in prison, pleaded guilty. Both men accepted a plea deal in exchange for lesser charges.[12] On October 23, 2009, Claude Simmons Jr. and Christopher Shun Scott walked out of the Dallas Frank Crowley Courthouse as free men. Simmons, 54, and Scott, 39, had each spent 12 years in prison for crimes they did not commit.[13]

Following his release, Scott has devoted his life to creating hope rather than encouraging despair. Having dropped out of high school in the 11th grade, he earned his GED in 2011.[14] Also in 2011, he used part of the compensation he received for his wrongful conviction to open a men’s clothing store, Christopher’s Men’s Wear, in Cedar Hill[15] and founded House of Renewed Hope,[16] a nonprofit organization designed to investigate the innocence claims of convicted prisoners. In addition to doing investigative work, the people at House of Renewed Hope advocate for criminal justice change, in part through educating others on injustices within the system.[17] As president and founder, Scott partnered with two other exonerees, Steven Phillips and Johnnie Lindsey. The three men, combined, served 65 years in prison: Scott for capital murder, Phillips for a series of sex crimes, and Lindsey for rape. Scott met Phillips when Phillips helped pay for Scott’s first post-release apartment.[18] Scott met Lindsey a short time later after an event where Scott spoke about his experiences.[19] Sadly, Lindsey lost his life to cancer in 2018. According to the House of Renewed Hope website, Lindsey’s “spirit lives on and he will forever be a member of the team.”[20]


Endnotes:

[1] Elvira Sakmari and Omar Villafranca, “Dallas County to Free Two Wrongly Convicted Men,” NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth, October 21, 2009, https://www.nbcdfw.com/news/local/Dallas-County-to-Free-Two-Wrongly-Convicted-Men-65180257.html .

[2] Maurice Possley, “Christopher Shun Scott,” The National Registry of Exonerations, last modified November 26, 2016, https://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/Pages/casedetail.aspx?caseid=3620

[3] Scott v. State, Nos. AP-76,304 (Tex. Crim. App. March 3, 2010): 2, http://www.search.txcourts.gov/SearchMedia.aspx?MediaVersionID=6ba015a2-c043-4ae3-9da5-f516d5696b35&coa=coscca&DT=OPINION&MediaID=50b56be2-fb0e-4357-be77-b45170ad3bc6

[4] Possley, “Christopher Shun Scott.”

[5] Matt Young, “Christopher Scott Spent 13 Years in a Texas Prison for a Crime He Didn’t Commit,” News.com.au, February 19, 2017, https://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/real-life/true-stories/christopher-scott-spent-13-years-in-a-texas-prison-for-a-crime-he-didnt-commits/news-story/0f17e0265bf5ad4b440cad25a28ed25f. Possley, “Christopher Shun Scott.”

[6] Rotary Club of Marble Falls Daybreak, “Christopher Shun Scott: Wrongful Conviction Becomes Actual Innocence Through Exoneration,” September 2, 2014, https://marblefallsdaybreak.org/speakers/f041d9cd-fa53-46d0-be2c-2cc361bc25c7

[7] Young, “Christopher Scott Spent 13 Years in a Texas Prison for a Crime he Didn’t Commit.”

[8] Sakmari and Villafranca, “Dallas County to Free Two Wrongly Convicted Men.” NBC-DFW.com October 21, 2009. www.nbcdfw.com/news/local/Dallas-County-to-Free-Two-Wrongly-Convicted-Men-65180257.html

[9] Julia Pagnamenta, “Detectives with a Mission: Texas Exonerees Help the Wrongly Convicted,” The Crime Report, April 30, 2018, https://thecrimereport.org/2018/04/30/detectives-with-a-mission-texas-exonerees-help-the-wrongly-convicted

[10] Robert Wilonsky, “Dallas DA, DPD Reopen 1997 Murder Case, and Discover They Convicted the Wrong Men,” Dallas Observer, October 21, 2009, https://www.dallasobserver.com/news/dallas-da-dpd-reopen-1997-murder-case-and-discover-they-convicted-the-wrong-men-7125384

[11] Possley, “Christopher Shun Scott.”

[12] Jason Trahan, “Plea Deals Reached in Cases Linked to ’97 Robbery-Slaying,” The Dallas Morning News, March, 2012, https://www.dallasnews.com/news/crime/2012/03/07/plea-deals-reached-in-cases-linked-to-97-robbery-slaying

[13] Kimberly Thorpe, “Today, Two More Wrongfully Imprisoned Men Took Their First Steps as Free Men,” Dallas Observer, October 23, 2009, https://www.dallasobserver.com/news/today-two-more-wrongly-imprisoned-men-took-their-first-steps-as-free-men-7114426

[14] Rotary Club of Marble Falls Daybreak, “Christopher Shun Scott: Wrongful Conviction Becomes Actual Innocence Through Exoneration.”

[15] Leslie Minora, “Life After Exoneration: Building a Business, and Helping Others,” The New York Times, November 16, 2013, https://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/17/us/life-after-exoneration-building-a-business-and-helping-others.html

[16] Jeff Truesdell, “A Detective Agency for the Wrongfully Convicted: Exonerees Fight for the Innocent Behind Bars,” People, April 26, 2018, https://people.com/crime/texas-enonerees-fight-wrongfully-convicted-prisoners

[17] House of Renewed Hope, “About Us,” retrieved May 5, 2019, from http://www.houseofrenewedhope.org/about-us.html

[18] Jennifer Emily, “Dallas Exonerees’ Mission to Free Wrongfully Convicted for a ‘Second Chance at Life’ Focus of New Film,” The Dallas Morning News, April 2017, https://www.dallasnews.com/news/social-justice-1/2017/04/05/second-chance-life-new-film-documents-dallas-exonoreesmission-free-wrongly-convicted

[19] Truesdell, “A Detective Agency for the Wrongfully Convicted: Exonerees Fight for the Innocent Behind Bars.”

[20] House of Renewed Hope, “About Us.”

Bibliography

Emily, Jennifer. “Dallas Exonerees’ Mission to Free Wrongfully Convicted for a ‘Second Chance at Life’ Focus of New Film.” The Dallas Morning News, April, 2017. https://www.dallasnews.com/news/social-justice-1/2017/04/05/second-chance-life-new-film-documents-dallas-exonoreesmission-free-wrongly-convicted.

 

House of Renewed Hope. “About Us.” Retrieved May 5, 2019, from http://www.houseofrenewedhope.org/about-us.html.

 

Minora, Leslie. “Life After Exoneration: Building a Business, and Helping Others.” The New York Times, November 16, 2013. https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/2013/11/17/us/life-after-exoneration-building-a-business-and-helping-others.html.

Pagnamenta, Julia. “Detectives with a Mission: Texas Exonerees Help the Wrongly Convicted.” The Crime Report, April 30, 2018. https://thecrimereport.org/2018/04/30/detectives-with-a-mission-texas-exonerees-help-the-wrongly-convicted.

 

Possley, Maurice. “Christopher Shun Scott.” The National Registry of Exonerations. Last modified November 26, 2016. https://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/Pages/casedetail.aspx?caseid=3620.

 

Rotary Club of Marble Falls Daybreak. “Christopher Shun Scott: Wrongful Conviction Becomes Actual Innocence Through Exoneration,” September 2, 2014. https://marblefallsdaybreak.org/speakers/f041d9cd-fa53-46d0-be2c-2cc361bc25c7.

 

Sakmari, Elvira, and Omar Villafranca. “Dallas County to Free Two Wrongly Convicted Men.” NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth, October 21, 2009. https://www.nbcdfw.com/news/local/Dallas-County-to-Free-Two-Wrongly-Convicted-Men-65180257.html.

 

Scott v. State, Nos. AP-76,304 (Tex. Crim. App. March 3, 2010): 1-2. http://www.search.txcourts.gov/SearchMedia.aspx?MediaVersionID=6ba015a2-c043-4ae3-9da5-f516d5696b35&coa=coscca&DT=OPINION&MediaID=50b56be2-fb0e-4357-be77-b45170ad3bc6.

 

Thorpe, Kimberly. “Today, Two More Wrongfully Imprisoned Men Took Their First Steps as Free Men.” Dallas Observer, October 23, 2009. https://www.dallasobserver.com/news/today-two-more-wrongly-imprisoned-men-took-their-first-steps-as-free-men-7114426.

 

Trahan, Jason. “Plea Deals Reached in Cases Linked to ’97 Robbery-Slaying.” Dallas News, March, 2012. https://www.dallasnews.com/news/crime/2012/03/07/plea-deals-reached-in-cases-linked-to-97-robbery-slaying.

 

Truesdell, Jeff. “A Detective Agency for the Wrongfully Convicted: Exonerees Fight for the Innocent Behind Bars.” People, April 26, 2018. https://people.com/crime/texas-enonerees-fight-wrongfully-convicted-prisoners.

 

Wilonsky, Robert. “Dallas DA, DPD Reopen 1997 Murder Case, and Discover They Convicted the Wrong Men.” Dallas Observer, October 21, 2009. https://www.dallasobserver.com/news/dallas-da-dpd-reopen-1997-murder-case-and-discover-they-convicted-the-wrong-men-7125384.

 

Young, Matt. “Christopher Scott Spent 13 Years in a Texas Prison for a Crime He Didn’t Commit.” News.com.au, February 19, 2017. https://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/real-life/true-stories/christopher-scott-spent-13-years-in-a-texas-prison-for-a-crime-he-didnt-commits/news-story/0f17e0265bf5ad4b440cad25a28ed25f.

 

Images

Location of April 7th 1997 murder and sexual assault.

Location of April 7th 1997 murder and sexual assault.

Block where the April 7, 1997, murder of Alonzo Aguilar and sexual assault of Celia Escobedo took place. | Creator: Suzanne Tuckey. View File Details Page

Christopher Shun Scott

Christopher Shun Scott

View File Details Page

Christopher Shun Scott.

Christopher Shun Scott.

Photograph of Christopher Shun Scott. | Creator: Christopher Shun Scott. View File Details Page

Street Address:

4600 block of Hopkins Street,
Dallas,
Texas [map]

Cite this Page:

Suzanne Tuckey, PhD, “Christopher Shun Scott, Renewing Hope for the Wrongfully Convicted,” Human Rights Dallas Maps, accessed December 1, 2020, http://humanrightsdallasmaps.com/items/show/24.

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