The old Williamson County Jail is visible through the window in my law office. The old jail is the location at the heart of the Netflix documentary series, “The Confession Killer.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mWPbC9Fp-yk
I’ve been practicing law in Georgetown, the county seat of Williamson County, since 2002. The series revealed a twisted chapter of history in Williamson County criminal justice. We need to understand the Henry Lee Lucas case so that we don’t repeat the mistakes that were made.
So what happened? (Spoiler Alert) In a nutshell:
Henry Lee Lucas was a killer. The Williamson County Sheriff, Jim Boutwell, considered him a suspect in several murders in Williamson County. In 1983, the Sheriff had Henry Lee Lucas brought to the old Williamson County Jail to be interviewed. The Sheriff and Texas Rangers, formed a task force once they got Lucas to cooperate with them. They eventually “cleared” over 200 homicide cases through confessions they obtained from Lucas.
It’s possible that Henry Lee Lucas was living more comfortably in the Williamson County Jail than he had been outside of jail. He was often unhandcuffed, given coffee and cigarettes and he was the center of attention for the Sheriff, Texas Rangers and a local clergy woman.
Sheriff Jim Boutwell and the Texas Rangers got positive media coverage. Lucas was in jail but he was treated like a VIP. It’s easy to imagine that he felt like he was part of a family. Clemmie Schroeder, the clergy woman, provided spiritual comfort and a maternal presence. Lucas was rewarded with good food and milkshakes for his cooperation.
Too Good to be True
It was all too good to be true. Lucas did not commit many of the murders he confessed to committing. He was convicted of a murder in Williamson County, for killing a woman known as “Orange Socks.” He confessed to her murder. At trial, his lawyers presented evidence that Lucas was living and working in Florida at the time. None the less, he was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death.
The “Orange Socks” murder and many other confessions Lucas gave, were simply bogus. They were obtained through a flawed system where law enforcement fed Lucas details of murder victims and allowed him to fabricate false confessions. To Lucas and to law enforcement, it must have seemed like a convenient arrangement. Lucas earned notoriety and was living pretty well in the old jail in Georgetown. He was able to delay his transfer to the prison system.
Police Used Lucas to Close Unsolved Homicides
Police used Lucas to “solve” crimes that must have given some satisfaction to victim’s families. The end result of obtaining false confessions was that the actual murderer remained at large and the victim’s families were misled. The false confessions obtained by Boutwell and the Rangers were a terrible deception carried out in the name of justice. It’s hard to believe but it all happened in that old jail outside the window of my law office.