Houston News & Search
Photo: Cody Duty | Houston Chronicle
When James Tinsley IV was arrested in January 2015, prosecutors said he was on surveillance video gunning down three people at a northside car dealership and trying to set the building on fire.
On Monday, his attorneys will argue that he is not the man on the damning video.
“I intend to prove otherwise,” said attorney Casey Keirnan. “He is innocent. This case is very circumstantial and my client has always maintained his innocence.”
THE CRIME: 2 dead in north Houston car lot shooting
Tinsley, 23, faces the possibility of life in prison without parole as his trial opens Monday. Jurors were selected last week for a week-long trial in state District Judge Brad Hart’s court.
Keirnan is representing Tinsley with attorneys Jerald Graber and Joe Vinas on a case that was originally scheduled as a death penalty trial.
Details of the crime shocked Houston after three men were found dead at their family-owned Immaculate Auto Sales in the 200 block of Little York near Airline on Jan. 8, 2015.
Two brothers, Jesse and Tony Contreras, were dead at the scene with shots to the head.
Tony Contreras’ son, 22-year-old Casey Contreras, also was shot in the head. He was alive when a mechanic discovered the victims in a pool of blood in the office but he died the next day.
After Tinsley was arrested, prosecutors said surveillance video shows him walking into the dealership with a backpack, taking a gun out of the pack and shooting the three men.
They said Tinsley was then seen taking out a gas can and trying to set the office on fire.
Prosecutors said they believe Tinsley was upset that a car he had bought at the dealership had been repossessed.
Assistant Harris County District Attorneys Lisa Calligan and Colleen Barnett, who are prosecuting Tinsley, declined to comment on the eve of trial, a common practice at the office.
Tinsley is charged with capital murder, but the case was downgraded from a death penalty under new District Attorney Kim Ogg after the defense submitted a packet of mitigation evidence.
Defense lawyers with clients facing the death penalty have long been encouraged to submit mitigation packets if they believe the case should not be prosecuted as a death case.
Keirnan declined to say why Tinsley’s case was downgraded, but said the district attorney’s office takes all mitigating issues, like mental health, seriously.
The 23-year-old has remained in the Harris County jail without bail since his arrest.
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