We learned this week that a McLennan County Judge has made a Waco Police Detective the foreman of a Waco Grand Jury (Breitbart Article); a Grand Jury that could hear secret presentations from prosecutors on the Twin Peaks Biker Cases and then get to vote, in secret, on whether those cases should be indicted or not. The public won’t know what is said behind closed doors because Grand Jury presentations and votes are, by Texas law, secret. We only know whether a case is True Billed (Indicted) or No Billed (Not Indicted). Now, we may eventually get to see the evidence that was presented, but we won’t get to see or hear how it was presented or what particular spin the prosecutor puts on the evidence during those closed door Grand Jury presentations.
Furthermore, and why this is such a mess, we won’t get to see what type of thoughts and influence a Waco police detective will have as he is leading the Grand Jury during these secret presentations and discussions. Maybe it works out great and everyone is happy in the end and justice is done, but on the front end, it looks really bad because now we have secret Grand Jury meetings with presentations by prosecutors to a group of jurors led by a police detective. That is not a checks and balances situation. This does not give the appearance of justice. From my own personal experience, in every case I have ever tried before a jury, as a prosecutor or as a criminal defense attorney, police officers don’t make the panel. They get struck every single time. Why? Because police officers are always witnesses for the prosecution. The same prosecution who is trying to convict a person of a crime. This makes sense, so why is it ok for a Grand Jury?
To make matters worse and one of the primary reasons why the Grand Jury system is antiquated and needs to be updated to be more transparent is that under the law in the State of Texas, a criminal defense attorney does NOT have the right to be present during those Grand Jury presentations. Some counties allow it, like Tarrant County, but they don’t have to. Meaning, a Grand Jury really only gets one side of it (prosecution) on almost all cases and the defense isn’t even afforded an opportunity to be present to hear what’s going on, let alone cross-examine witnesses or make arguments on their client’s behalf. Does any of this even remotely sound like justice?????
Attorney Bryan Hoeller is a criminal defense attorney who handles state, federal, and DWI defense in Fort Worth, Tarrant County, Texas. He is a former felony prosecutor in Tarrant County and Dallas County, who has tried over 100 criminal cases, from DWI to Capital Murder.