A Waco man is deciding if he will sue the county because he was wrongfully detained for 83 days after the district attorney’s office declined his case for prosecution but failed to notify the McLennan County Jail.
Damion Wayne Evans, 33, stayed in the county jail with no other charges pending against him for almost three months after the district attorney’s office declined to prosecute him on a tampering with physical evidence charge.
District Attorney Abel Reyna said Evans’ improperly extended incarceration was the fault of his office. His staff did not fax a case disposition report to the sheriff’s office so it would know to release Evans.
Damion Evans was jailed for 83 days after the McLennan County district attorney’s office decided they would not prosecute his case.
“I will accept responsibility for the error in my office, and my apologies go to Mr. Evans,” Reyna said. “Though it doesn’t change what happened to him, the only thing I can do is work hard to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
According to court records, Evans was arrested Oct. 12, 2011, after Waco police pulled him over and saw him chewing on something. The officers assumed he was eating drugs or items containing drugs, according to records filed in the case. But they did not take him to a hospital to empty the contents of his stomach.
A case disposition report dated Jan. 17 said prosecutors did not accept the case because without the object the suspect allegedly swallowed, they were “unable to prove what it was or that it was illegal.”
The decision to refuse the case was made Oct. 25, two weeks after Evans’ arrest. Once that decision was made, the disposition report should have been sent to the jail and Evans should have been released, Reyna said.
But the error was not discovered until Jan. 17, after Evans’ attorney, David Bass, filed a motion asking Judge Ralph Strother to set a bail Evans could afford because he had been in jail more than 90 days and had not been indicted.
Strother granted the motion, and it was not until after the hearing that officials discovered that Evans’ case had been refused Oct. 25.
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Man jailed 83 days extra after McLennan DA fails to notify of dropped charges
Rookie McLennan County DA Abel Reyna is a man who, during his brief tenure as District Attorney in Waco, has shown himself unafraid to pick fights. First he wanted to buck the Legislature over complying with the state's updated DNA testing statute, delaying testing of potentially exonerating (or incriminating) evidence in the 30-year old Lake Waco murders case. Then he announced what amounts to his own, personal mandatory minimum on DWI deals, including big increases from prior practice in fine and fee amounts. But the longer the young DA remains in office, he'll discover that there isn't as much time to go out picking fights in a job where more than your fair of them come your way of their own accord. Most recently, reported the Waco Tribune Herald ("Waco man wrongly jailed for 83 days may sue county," Feb. 1, behind paywall).
What does "accept responsibility" mean in a world where prosecutors have "absolute immunity" for harm caused by their errors? Do you think Mr.Reyna will be forced to "accept responsibility" in the same way you or I would? The DA refuses the case but fails to notify the defendant, his counsel, the jail, or anybody who might be in a position to get him released.
The wag who notified me of this via email added that this is "another way to keep the McLennan County Jail full." That's a joke, but regular readers know maximizing the number of jail inmates is no small motivation for McLennan County officials at the moment.