Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Tough on some crime: Former task force officer's conviction tossed on technicality

Why is it that cops in Texas seem to be the only ones anymore who get criminal cases thrown out because of technicalities?

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. ...

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.
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:
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.”

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 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.

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.


Anonymous said...

Scott, we must visit soon on your incessent use of the fallacy.

Just shy of lies is no way to run a blog.

This story was a bit too boring to begin with. I'll wait for your next "anti-Tulia-like task force/legalize dope" diatribe.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

The comments are available, Dearl - please use them any time you want to educate me on my use of the fallacy.

Anonymous said...


No doubt it's Dearl that said you lied but he said it and Dearl personfies an attitude that's prevalent in law enforcement.

I know because I was in it. Let me briefly explain.

Cops are by themselves or with someone or others when something happens they have to explain. Their explanation is evidence so you would think they'd explain it the way it happened which means they should explain it within hours or even a day when it happened. The tempation is there all the time and it's a personal sense of duty that keeps you honest or a supervisor that makes you tightly follow rules.

In my experience, guys like Dearl have learned that they can put a date on a report as the date they prepared it but they FINISHED the report when they made sure that anything that didn't look like evidence does now. That Henson is the culture so Dearl is defending what he wrote not what happened.

In my experience, I've been present when things go good and things go bad. That was the norm and afterwards (sometimes days) when I read the reports, there was none of the bad or if there was it's more good than bad. The date the report was prepared is typed and it's always the same day yet I don't see the report until two weeks later.

You may think this is trite but I've found it's strikes at the very heart of the problem. Video cameras and tape recorders have caught and captured what the report should have stated so I've explained the culture, let Dearl provide the proof.

Anonymous said...

I know Mr. Hardy personally and he was an excellent officer and an asset to every agency he worked for over his law enforcement career. Its an injustice that this case even went to trial. It just shows what can happen to an innocent person if the D.A.'s office is out to get someone for political reason. This whole thing is all POLITICS!

Anonymous said...

Just to keep the record straight, the Court of Criminal Appeals reversed and remanded to the court of appeals in Houston. They then affirmed Hardy's conviction. He was remanded to the custody of the new sheriff to serve his sentence. Whiner that he is, Hardy filed a writ complaining that he was serving day for day, unlike other inmates. The trial judge denied his request for relief.

I am proud to have prosecuted him and to seek justice. Dirty cops are not the norm, but they deserve no favor.

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Anonymous said...

Yall are all dumb if you believe Dearl Hardy was guilty. He even passed a polygraph that he never got a call from that man and that man testified under oath that he didnt call Dearl Hardy. Hhmm where is that in the articles? Oh i guess stupid reporters just try to get part of the stories to make it more interesting. He suffered in jail for 6 months for something he would never even dream of doing. His wife and two daughters suffered because all they got to do was talk to him through a tiny window and werent allowed to hug him.They had to go through missing his birthday,missing him at thanksgiving and christmas, and he missed his youngest daughters first day of high school. How would yall feel if your dad was in jail and you knew without a doubt that he was innocent and the only reason he didnt give up his badge instead, was because he wanted to teach his kids that no matter what the devil throws at you in life,never give in for something you didnt do and always stay strong. He is one of the few most honest people in this entire world. He would do anything for anybody and he sure as heck isn't racist. That is all lies and whoever believes in those creeps lies are creeps as well. Mayde yall should hear the real side of the story first. There isnt another person on this earth who I trust more than Dearl and to say "guys like Dearl" and "Dearl is defending what he wrote" is stupid because when that guy was written up, Dearl was at home sleeping and had no idea what was going on. It is stupid to judge him if you have no idea what happened. A man who has served his country his entire life was betrayed. Now he serves his life for Jesus Christ who will never betray him and He knows that those people in Chambers County lied about Dearl Hardy. Vengeance is mine saith the lord.