Supposedly, reported the Houston Chronicle (July 10), "It was McLennan County’s first randomly selected grand jury since legislators eliminated a 'pick-a-pal' system in which judge-appointed commissioners nominated prospective jurors." And it's just random that a veteran cop made the cut the first time out in the highest profile case in the county's history.
Ironically, the new law eliminating Texas pick-a-pal system was created in large part because of the Alfred Brown case in Houston, coverage of which earned Lisa Falkenberg a Pulitzer Prize. A police officer was foreman in that case and it later turned out the grand jury improperly bullied and intimidated Brown's girlfriend into withdrawing her testimony as an alibi witness.
So for the first post-pick-a-pal jury in the county's highest-profile ever case to have a cop foreman beggars belief. The Chronicle quoted state Sen. John Whitmire, who authored the grand jury reform legislation, blasting the decision:
“It’s exactly those types of circumstances that the new law was meant to do away with,” Whitmire told the San Antonio Express-News on Thursday. “You can’t get that objectivity, in the eyes of the public, if you don’t get that impartial grand jury. You’re starting with a built-in problem, and Waco needs a dose of transparency.”Even if it's purely random, Judge Strothers should have the sense to bypass Mr. Head and pick somebody else to ensure there's no appearance of impropriety. As things stand, this move reinforces the view that we're witnessing a rigged game in Waco.
MORE: Local lawyers weigh in. AND MORE: From Murray Newman. UPDATE: Via the Houston Chronicle, see a motion filed objecting of Det. Head's participation in the grand jury, which included this old Far Side cartoon characterizing the rigged proceedings: