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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Grand Juries

Before you can try a felony case in Texas, you have to take your evidence before a Grand Jury. Only prosecutors are allowed to present evidence when trying to get an indictment, and they're presenting it to the regular people that make up the G.J.; the prosecutor decides what witnesses to call, and what evidence to present. In the indictment process, the prosecutor is NOT required to include any evidence that would be favorable to the potential defendant. The accused is not allowed to testify in front of the G.J. unless the prosecutor allows it, and he is NOT allowed to have his lawyer present if he does. After weighing the evidence, the Grand Jury decides whether or not there is a good reason to take the case to trial.
"The indictment is termed a "true bill" against a prisoner; a decision not to indict is termed a "no bill."

So the D.A. gets to say whatever the hell they want, and call whatever witnesses they want. This might have been the police officer who swore up and down that Coy was 'grooming' his daughter for assault, then later admitted this was nothing but her opinion, worth no more than mine or yours. It could have been Susan Szczygielski, who decided that it just wasn't possible that an assault DIDN'T happen, and therefore didn't follow up on the possibility that the complainant had a nightmare because of the sex scenes in the movies they had watched that night. It could have been the mother who sued for cash after the criminal trial.

Confronted with all this information, most of it probably bullshit, most people would say to themselves "Yeah, it sounds like it might be possible. We'll send the case to trial and if he's innocent, it'll come out in the end." But once that indictment comes down, look out. In Rosenthal's Harris County, the fact that you'd been indicted was proof enough that you were guilty.

For some reason, the year after Pat Lykos took office, cases deemed to be not worth a trial skyrocketed.

However, a KHOU-TV investigation has discovered the number of no-bills issued in Harris County has spiked upwards by more than 40 percent between 2008 and 2009, when first-term District Attorney Pat Lykos took office.

…For instance, the number of no-bills for aggravated sexual assaults of children under 14 jumped by 26 percent, moving from 39 no-bills in 2008 to 49 no-bills in 2009.

Over the same time period, the total cases presented to a grand jury for that crime remained roughly flat as well.

So the Grand Juries were presented with the same number of cases each year, but were 26% less likely to find them believable than under Rosenthal.

Was it a massive change of the culture at the DA’s office? Were the citizens that made up these Grand Juries beginning to realize the corruption they had been permitting? What changed, and how can we fucking live with ourselves without at least a small review of WHY?


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