Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Court-of-inquiry a unique Texas proceeding for seeking justice

From Tim Cole's posthumous exoneration to a failed effort in the Todd Willingham case and now in the aftermath of Michael Morton's exoneration, defense attorneys have sought to use courts of inquiry, not always successfully, to ferret out injustice and police and prosecutor misconduct when official channels have been barred. The military has a much-different process with the same name, but according to the Texas Tribune, the type of "court of inquiry" sought in the Michael Morton case is unique to Texas, and the proceedings have been upheld as constitutional by the federal 5th Circuit. The Trib has a "Texplainer" column on these rare proceedings, which have "primarily been used in attempts to resolve issues related to wrongful convictions."


the antiquary said...

Maybe this is the genealogy:

"We must look to the Frankish inquisitio, the prerogative rights of the Frankish kings. Not to the ordinary procedure of the Frankish courts; that, like the procedure of our own ancient communal courts, knows but such antique modes of proof as the ordeal and the oath with oath-helpers. But the Frankish king has in some measure placed himself outside the formalism of the old folk-law; his court can administer an equity which tempers the rigour of the law and makes short cuts to the truth. In particular, imitating, it may be, the procedure of the Roman fiscus, he assumes to himself the privilege of ascertaining and maintaining his own rights by means of an inquest. He orders that a group of men, the best and most trustworthy men of a district, be sworn to declare what lands, what rights, he has or ought to have in their district. He uses this procedure for many different purposes. He uses it in his litigation:—he will rely on the verdict of the neighbours instead of on battle or the ordeal. He uses it in order that he may learn how he is served by his subordinates:—the neighbours are required to say all that they know about the misconduct of the royal officers. He uses it in order that he may detect those grave crimes which threaten his peace:—the neighbours must say whether they suspect any of murders or robberies. The procedure which he employs in support of his own rights he can and does grant as a favour to others. In particular, he will concede to a church that its lands shall, like his demesne lands, be protected by inquest, and that the bishop, if his title be attacked, may put himself upon the verdict of his neighbours instead of abiding the risk of a judicial combat. All this we see in the Frankish empire of the ninth century; we see it in the Neustria which the Normans are invading. Then the deep darkness settles down. When it lifts we see in the new states that have formed themselves no central power capable of wielding the old prerogatives. For a long time to come the sworn inquest of neighbours will not be an utterly unknown thing in France; it will only be finally overwhelmed by the spread of the romano-canonical procedure. Even in Germany it will appear from time to time. Yet on the whole we may say that, but for the conquest of England, it would have perished and long ago have become a matter for the antiquary."

Pollock and Maitland, The History of English Law before the time of Edward I, Vol. I, p. 120.

Anonymous said...

Judging from the latest press, Travis and Wilco countys are pretty dangerous places for the innocent!

The Trib article is good, the key issue for Anderson being is this an "ongoing" crime? At some point the State Bar and the legal justice system must take action against these rogue prosecutors. The problem is well documented, time for action.

If the state won't take action the people need to form a posse to position a hot poker in the proper person's posterior! Ha HA!

Alex S. said...

If there are no repercussions from the unjust trial, the intellectually dishonest fight to suppress the DNA testing, and the Orwell-speak after an innocent man spent 25 years in prison, then our justice system is impotent. Who watches the watchers? Why isn't anything being done about the blatant misconduct by the Williamson County DA's office? The innocence project exposes a web of deceit and injustice, an innocent man goes free, but what is taking place to prevent this from happening again? Otherwise, it's just a hollow victory. Something has got to be done. Let's hope this Court of Inquiry has the cojones to punish the guilty and to send a message to other prosecutors who commit misconduct that they will not just be chastised, but that they will be held accountable--suspended, imprisoned, forced to pay restitution, attend a Defendant's Rights class, SOMETHING! Where is JUSTICE when you need it?

Anonymous said...

The main objection I have for Judge Anderson using the expired statute of limitations defense is it effectively rewards law enforcement for being better at hiding evidence.

Anonymous said...

Looking briefly at the grievances at the State Bar... They do process a huge number, something like 28 % are found legit and advance. The process is time consuming and things get a little muddled after that, alot like the appeals process. I can not find any numbers for grievances against prosecutors. The form and the system really are not set up for that. One thing is clear, there is plenty of prosecutor misconduct. Defense Attorneys freely admit to it but do nothing. Technically not reporting ethics violations is a violation itself. Do defense attorney fear reprecussions or are they just spineless? Misconduct happens with all kinds of cases. As the previous poster states, successful misconduct breeds more misconduct. Why does it take a murder case and "black belt" innocence project lawyers to expose it?