Thursday, February 07, 2013

Club assigned to rewrite Texas Code of Criminal Procedure so secret its own members don't know its purpose

Imagine you were a member of a Secret Club so clandestine that even you were unaware of your own involvement, much less the Club's purpose. That's apparently the situation with the House Select Committee on Criminal Procedure Reform, an entity whose creation was first highlighted in this Grits post. The chair of the five-member committee charged with re-writing the Code of Criminal Procedure, Debbie Riddle, is a horse breeder, not a lawyer. Moreover, Maurice Chammah at the Texas Tribune reported, remarkably, that none of the five members of the select committee knew they would be appointed before the announcement, nor did they know anything beyond the committee charge about why it was created. Neither the prosecutors' association nor the defense bar were contacted about the committee's creation and in the upper chamber senators could barely restrain themselves from mocking it:
senators usually involved in criminal justice reform did not know about the House committee until the announcement came out. “I don't think anyone on the Senate side knew about it at all,” said state Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Southside Place, a former judge and prosecutor. “I think it would require all the stakeholders' input. I'm sure the Senate would like to weigh in.”

“That's strictly House internal politics,” said state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, who chairs the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. “This ain’t in my top 200 things to worry about.”
Obviously without-buy in from the Senate, nobody's rewriting the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. And it's very strange that prosecutors and the defense bar weren't contacted before it was announced. Texas Lawyer couldn't find out any more about the committee's purpose than the Trib. The group's work, in any event, won't begin until the interim, but any way you look at it, the House Select Committee on Criminal Procedure Reform is an awfully strange duck.


dfisher said...

I was told last summer there would be an attempt to rewrite CCP 49.25, the medical examiner statute, because it was determined the medical examiner offices of the state were in violation of the constitution. Oddly enough, all the members appointed to the House Committee are in districts where the medical examiners legality has been challenged.

On a related note, El Paso Co is trying to hire a Mexican National as a deputy medical examiner even though that is a judicial position and is forbidden by both the TX and U.S. Constitutions.

El Paso CO. fired their former medical examiner for falsifying his credentials(Paul Shrode).

Monday a Carlsbad District Judge declared a mistrial when the current Lubbock Co. ME, Natarajan tried to testify in Shrode's place concerning the autopsy performed back in 2004.

Natarajan refused to credential himself as the former Lubbock CO ME when the autopsy was performed because the ME's office in Lubbock was illegal at the time of the autopsy and shut down in 2009.

Search "Carlsbad: Mistrial declared in Curtis Jones Case"

Gritsforbreakfast said...

That could be it, I suppose, but I wonder why they wouldn't do that fix in a single bill instead of rewriting the whole thing?

dfisher said...

I suspect they will quietly rewrite just CCP 49.25 this session and slip it into a senate bill no one is paying attention to just before the sessions ends.

I hope to make sure this doesn't happen.