Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Runaway grand jury closes up shop

Yesterday the grand jury investigating the Harris County District Attorney's Office announced that it was not issuing any indictments. The news was greeted with a big yawn by folks around the Criminal (In)justice Center.

The grand jury foreman, Trisha Pollard, said the grand jury didn't find any evidence of a crime but that they were troubled by the actions of the DA's office. They singled out Rachel Palmer for her refusal to answer questions pursuant to her rights under the Fifth Amendment.

Left unsaid is why special prosecutors didn't offer Ms. Palmer immunity in exchange for her testimony. They went so far as to file a motion to compel her testimony that was denied by the judge. They claimed that none of the questions they wanted to ask were incriminating; but when given a choice between having Ms. Palmer answer the questions under a grant of immunity or not asking the questions at all - they chose to keep their mouths shut.

What information did they seek from Ms. Palmer? And if it was so damn important to the investigation that they were more than willing to ignore the Bill of Rights, why didn't they offer her immunity?

Whatever. Now Pat Lykos will stand up and declare victory and the Mike Anderson forces will stare down at their toes. The fact is the investigation is a black eye on Ms. Lykos and her administration. And, no matter how you want to spin it, Ms. Lykos and her office did their best to stonewall the investigation. That also doesn't bode well for a person who has the ethical duty to see that justice is done.

Given the public's notoriously short attention span and the fact that we don't know when the primary will be held, there's a good possibility that most of the folks in Harris County are going to forget all about this little affair before they step into the voting booth.

I'm not so certain that anyone in the DA's Office broke the law in the BATmobile fiasco. Withholding exculpatory evidence is a Brady violation and, at best, could get you a new trial - unless the error was determined to be (wait for it) harmless. There is no monetary or criminal sanction for not turning information over to the defense that the defense doesn't know about.

As such, there was never the possibility of anyone being indicted for not giving up the goods. The only thing that would have bitten someone in the ass was lying under oath to the grand jury.

So, go on, there's nothing to see here.

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