Here's a case in point: Former Chambers County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Dearl Hardy was convicted in 2004 of pressuring one of his officers to perjure himself to make a false arrest against a man who'd successfully sued the department for racial profiling. But a Houston appeals court overturned the conviction because no witness was presented saying that the pressured deputy signed the arrest affidavit in the presence of a notary.
No one disputes that the affidavit WAS signed in front of a notary, it's just that no witnesses were presented at trial saying so.
Such "technicalities" for other defendants are routinely cast aside by Texas appeals courts as "harmless error," but when a police officer is the defendant, we see an overarching zeal for every i to be dotted. It's fine to say the judges are following the law, but how to explain the double standard? Reported today's Baytown Sun:
Hardy, who held the department’s number two slot during the first two years of Monroe Kreuzer’s tenure as sheriff that ended in 2005, was convicted of pressuring a deputy to file a false probable cause affidavit accusing Anahuac man Vernon Coates of drunk driving in September 2001. ...Sounds like a cut and dried case of retaliation, doesn't it? The District Attorney has asked the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to reconsider the case, since the decision was based on a 50-year old CCA case that a dissenting judge said was contradicted by facts in the case and other precedent:
Coates, a black man, had had several well-publicized encounters with Chambers County deputies that led to charges of racial profiling. Coates later filed a civil rights violations lawsuit against the county, for which he accepted a $120,000 settlement in December 2003.
Joslin testified that Hardy called him from home and told him he “wanted Joslin to charge Coates with a DWI or else.” Joslin testified he believed he would be fired if he did not charge Coates.
In a dissenting opinion, Justice Leslie Brock Yates cites a 1995 appeals court case, Martin V. State, which defined an oath as “a pledge to act in a truthful and faithful manner.”It's hard not to get the impression that judges in the majority were just looking for an excuse to clear the former officer, who has since launched an unlikely career as a Christian gospel singer. Hardy was assistant commander of the notorious Chambers County Narcotics Task Force, where according to the Texas Observer he pressured an undercover officer to make drug cases she didn't feel had been proven. The Observer also reported claims by a subordinate that Hardy pressured officers to stop and search vehicles without probable cause to boost the task force's asset forfeiture numbers. Thank heaven, at least, he's now out of law enforcement.
Yates writes that unlike in the Lowry case cited by the majority, in the Hardy case Joslin admitted he committed perjury because he felt threatened by Hardy. She also notes that other witnesses testified Joslin was visibly upset after the call from Hardy and “complained that he could not believe he ad to file a DWI against Coates.”
Yates cites two more recent appeals court cases, from 1995 and 2003 that suggest “a notarized affidavit may suffice for a legally administered oath.”
“These cases recognize the difficulty of demanding rigid adherence to searing formalities. Similarly, the existence of a technical defect in Joslin’s affidavit should not negate his testimony in which he admitted that he intended to and did commit perjury under (Hardy’) order,” she writes.
It's often said that Texas is a "tough on crime" state, but that statement deserves a caveat - we're tough unless the alleged crime was committed by a cop.