Saturday, July 19, 2014

A glimpse into grand jury misconduct

Lisa Falkenberg at the Houston Chronicle has posted a four-part series describing abusive interrogation by a grand jury so intense it may cause a capital murder conviction in a police officer's death to be overturned. Teaser: Anthony Graves plays a pivotal, on-the-ground role:
The episode provides a rare glimpse into the grand jury system: "Appellate attorneys were so outraged by a 146-page transcript of [Ericka Jean] Dockery's testimony before the 208th Harris County grand jury on April 21, 2003, that they entered it into the public record for judges to review." In the transcript, wrote Falkenberg, "grand jurors don't just inquire. They interrogate. They intimidate. They appear to abandon their duty to serve as a check on overzealous government prosecution and instead join the team." For example:
"If we find out that you're not telling the truth, we're coming after you," one grand juror tells Dockery.

"You won't be able to get a job flipping burgers," says another.

Dockery tells the group that if she believed [Alfred Dewayne] Brown actually killed people, she'd turn him in herself: "If he did it, he deserves to get whatever is coming to him. Truly," she says.
Ms. Dockery changed her story "after being told again and again to think about her children." The grand jury foreman told her he didn't believe her original story and, if she persisted in committing perjury, "you know the kids are going to be taken by Child Protective Services, and you're going to the penitentiary and you won't see your kids for a long time." Eventually she caved, told them what they wanted to hear about her boyfriend, then she was prosecuted for perjury for diverging from her original story. Her testimony was central to his conviction which sent him to death row. Ugly stuff. The trial judge recommended Alfred Brown receive a new trial but the Court of Criminal Appeals has sat on the case for more than a year without a ruling, Falkenberg reported.

Read the whole thing; it's very good and brief excerpts don't do it justice.

MORE: From Dan Solomon at Texas Monthly.


George said...

This is like something that a fascist state would condone, promote and try to keep in secrecy. The whole cover of how the prosecuting attorneys and their henchmen, the grand juries, operate needs to be exposed to every single citizen of this state.

How can a segment of our so called "justice" system totally destroy the lives of innocent people and continue to get away with it with impunity?

What is it going to take for the average citizen to realize that the system is not working for them but instead is being used to bolster one's reputation as a hard-nosed prosecutor, to add notches on their guns.

Just exactly who is called for grand jury duty? Who selects the people for grand juries, is it a random selection? Is it the elite of society or people who helped elect the DA? Why must everything be kept secret?

Lot of questions but the answers, as well as the real truth, may be hard to find.

DA's, grand juries, judges and any other elected official who abuse the power of their office should be held to a much higher standard than the people who elect them into office. These people should do serious time in the hot, dangerous prisons that they have helped fill.

Dr Hilarius said...

Even in the mid-70s grand juries were (rightfully) villainized on an episode of "The Rockford Files", quite an unusual position for a TV industry with a point of view somewhat to the right of Jack Webb.

Anonymous said...

Is the full transcript on line?

Anonymous said...

How is this grand jury "misconduct?" Are the grand jurors obligated to simply believe anything any witness says? Are they obligated to just sit there and not call "bullshit" on what they believe to be blatant perjury? As I understand Ms. Falkenberg's editorial (and yes, I used that word intentionally), the witness later wrote the presiding judge from jail and confessed that she had, in fact, lied in her grand jury testimony. Sounds to me like the grand jurors got it right. Now, let me guess, she's RECANTED? Seems to me that this is just another effort by the anti-death penalty bunch to spare another guilty capital murderer. Oh, by the way, what's the latest on good ol' Hank Skinner?

Anonymous said...

It is a crime to release any information from a grand jury hearing. WTF?

John K said...

Anonymous 12:42, what if grand jurors believe anyone the DA puts in front of them MUST be guilty or they wouldn't be there? Is it therefore their role to badger and threaten witnesses until the witnesses concede, in essence, that DA's don't bring innocent defendants before a grand jury? We'll take away your kids if you don't confirm our suspicions? Whoa! I hope for your sake, Anonymous, you never end up as a defendant in front of grand jurors/DAs/judges with the same mindset and sensibilities as yours.

Anonymous said...

02:29:00 It is not automatically a criminal offense to release grand jury testimony. Chapter 20 of the The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure contains provisions for disclosure, as does Rule of Evidence 615 (THE RULE SO OFTEN OVERLOOKED BY INEFFECTIVE DEFENSE COUNSEL, in my opinion).

Anonymous said...

Welcome to Texas

With the exception of a very small few, this won't even raise an eyebrow. Checks and balances left the criminal justice system decades ago. BTW that should not be all that alarming, we have a president who does not regard the laws and constitution of the united states so why the hell should the judiciary?

Anonymous said...

4:27 -

Considering that the grand jury testimony was in 2003 and president Obama wasn't elected until 2008, there may be a much more fundamental problem here - poor education in Texas.

Anonymous said...

5:49 You sound as if you have indulged in the same mental copulation of the brain as the rest of the "Obama cult."

Really??? Maybe the point being made is that there is a blatant disregard for the constitution as well as checks and balances in the executive branch, and citizens could care less. Yet it is fascinating when the same "cult" seems to think they are enlightening everybody when they discover lower levels of government acting with the same lack of regard for constitutional rights. I dunno, maybe the notion that values trickle down is just stupid ass. But again your point about when "Obama" was elected reminds us not to sweat the small shit.

Anonymous said...

No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!

TriggerMortis said...

I would have thought someone would already have pointed this out, but almost all GJ's empaneled in Harris county have ties to law enforcement.

Here's a good article about it also from the Houston Chronicle published about the same time as the case in question. It's considered a must-read if you want to learn how GJ's operate in Harris county.

Anonymous said...

Folks, it's great to see people actually reading the piece and asking relevant questions vs trying to treat GFB as another Chronicle comment section as a personal attack and retreat tool by tools.

Just because someone asks a question and someone seems to be assisting with an answer, its a good idea to remember its not anyone's duty to provide accurate answers. A 12 yr old in a 40 yr old's clothing could be simply yankin chain. So if an answer to a question is not backed up with a source or not provided by a trusted source, you could be duped.

Take time to read the transcripts vs. scanning them and you too just might see for yourself how this event was and is criminal and demands for the Attorney General's office to investigate and file appropriate charges. Perjury should be treated as crime from the very moment of filing of a police report (alleged crime victims included). A certain Campaign will be an excuse as to why not.

Thomas R. Griffith said...

To allow Grand Juries to be Hand-Picked by the D.A's. office sets up a friend of the court atmosphere from the jump, paying them and feeding them only makes that bond stronger. When they are on a first name basis in a professional setting, that alone should show the court (Judge, Court Reporter, Bailiff & fellow members) big-ass red flags worthy of being reprimanded and corrected. To ignore and allow is being in on it. When the G.J. proceedings are allowed to be held in secrete like a frat-house holding a kangaroo court in the basement, you will get frat like behavior including tag team bullying ending with a congratulatory dusting off and pats on the back for good team work.

The courts have a long running history of allowing both: Trial Court Juries & G.Js. to vote for a Foreman (Gang Leader) and then a preliminary Guilty or Not Guilty show of hands. This allows for a gang mentality of Us vs Them, allowing the majority to hone in and openly intimidate and bully the rare hold outs into conforming with the rest of the gang when they are convinced they are ready to Rule & go home. A room full of Judge Judys' is ripe for corruption when given the power to fuck with people's heads with old school Good cop - Bad cop scripts.

With that - I'm calling Bullshit on the entire Jury System and cutting no friggin slack for those shown to be named or, gang related to any criminal conspiracy regarding a false arrest being allowed to morph into a wrongful conviction based on a shoddy investigation by law enforcement, where jurors are issued Prosecution & Police hats in addition to any post jury service perks.

Thomas R. Griffith said...

Public servants being allowed to play Spanish Inquisitional roles while attempting to discern a fellow citizen's role in an alleged crime (devoid of having a lawyer present), is a goddamn crime and wrong. The Real CDLs should be voicing their concerns via: complaints, protests & authoring bills aimed at dismantling this crap or, forever be considered to be in on it. Since they are obviously in on it (Okay, maybe a couple can prove they are not in on it?), they are part of the problem and very well could be the solution.

But that my friends, would call for an entire profession to jump themselves out of Pleafense gangs and use those new found balls for defending the wrongfully accused all the damn way to verdict. And, fighting for the rightfully accused to be properly convicted after receiving a fair and vettable legal representation. Any CDL shown to forego getting the G.J's. antics like this one into the record, is a Faker & Shaker with a TapOut record worthy of inquiring about. Documenting / Recording of both: Trial Court Jurys & G.Js. - introduction, training and activities should have been a Timothy Cole Act recommendation along with recording any interview or, interrogation of anyone detained or, arrested on crimes that call for jail / prison time. When loopholes are allowed / condoned, they will be enjoyed and utilized. Thanks.

*Welcome to Texas - the land-of-the-loopholes & state-of-confusion. Where Criminal Activity committed by those charged with any form of law enforcement is allowed to be constantly considered the same thing as Misconduct by those charged with Reporting & Enforcing it. Doh! No body forced you to read it, that's on you. To read, learn and do nothing is always on you. Now, who you gonna contact? That's what I thought, no one, you are too busy blogginaboutit. And the G.Js. know it.

Anonymous said...

The Grand Jury is a joke. In theory, sure, it makes sense. But, having served on two Grand Juries during my adult life; and watching how a prosecutor operates while facilitating the entire procedure is a joke. There was one case where the Grand Jury didn't want to Indict, and the prosecutor just stated aloud that it was no big deal because the State would simply bring the case before the next Grand Jury to seek Indictment.

George said...

@ Thomas R. Griffith, well put. There are very few who are willing to pull their heads out of the sand, or maybe their rear ends, and look for the truth in the world around them. They seem content to accept the lies that are being fed to them. Content to think that the elected and appointed officials that are supposed to be doing their jobs are going to do it with integrity and real justice.

I've grown a bit cynical in my older years I suppose but also a lot wiser. It seems that I'm shouting in the wind but hey guys and gals -- grow some balls and let 'em hang low. Stop accepting the crap that has been going on for much too long, stand up and let your voice be heard.

Change can occur but it takes effort and a lot of it, don't be a wimp and say that nothing can be done. That's a cop-out and all of you know it. It is our DUTY as citizens to correct this sort of thing otherwise we don't deserve the rights that we have.

Anonymous said...

These links are behind pay walls, boo.

Anonymous said...

A blatant disregard for the constitution. Another Spanish Inquisition.

Anonymous said...

Part 4:

Anonymous said...

Anthony Graves might have been the only person in the world who could get Ericka Dockery to open the door - the door to her Houston home, the door to a painful past she no doubt wanted to put behind her.

For years, Dockery had eluded appellate attorneys for death row inmate Alfred Dewayne Brown who wanted to question her about why she went from bolstering her ex-boyfriend's alibi to testifying against him at his 2005 cop-killing trial.

When the legal team did find her, she wouldn't talk. So, an investigator reached out to Graves, who had only one year earlier been freed after 18 years behind bars following a wrongful 1994 conviction for the murder of a Somerville grandmother, her daughter and four children.

Graves agreed to help when he learned that the capital murder case bore a similarity to his own: Graves' strongest alibi witnesses, Yolanda Mathis, a friend with whom he'd stayed up talking the night of the murders, refused to testify after being threatened with a capital murder charge by authorities as well.

not behind paywall

Anonymous said...

Smith county is the worlds worse of cronyism of GJ.

Anonymous said...

I found this Chron link regarding GJ by Mrs. Jayme Fraser dated 07/27/2014.

It's a shame it doesn't say - Taxpayers and voters comprised of humans from all races, genders and economic / financial backgrounds residing in all 254 counties are pressing for transparency and accountability in addition to demanding that all activities be digitally recorded and documented by a court reporter.

Instead, we are simply informed of the fact that Civil Rights Advocates are pressing for change in response to an African American or black person being fucked over by a G.J.

Newsflash! They have been doing the same exact thing for decades, where in the hell have you been Civil Rights Advocates? To come out and play the damn race card only plays into the rogue D.As. and bad cops hands. When advocating on behalf of only one person shown to have been denied one's Civil Rights and ignoring the rest, you assist the bad folks in their endeavors to separate the black victims of the rigged system from the white victims of the rigged system and so on. One race can't be allowed to own Civil Rights and be held responsible for protesting if & when that specific race is denied justice. Civil relates to all of us, always has and always will. If the protesters are all one shade of the color wheel, it paints a pitcher depicting only one shade was victimized and or, cared enough to protest for change.

So, since we all know that this isn't the first time we have heard about runaway GJs with secrete handshakes and power tripping mofos playing ADA, how many people got a heads up or email from a so called Civil Rights Advocate?

If we the people are going to stand up and say we are not going to allow the justice system to be used by criminals to enforce the laws of the land, we must do it as one and that begins by vetting prior to voting and never, ever straight ticket. If we stand by and allow one group to stand for a few, we deserve what we get. You can be a Civil Rights Advocate on your day off and make a difference. Just do something or, it's never gonna change.

Anonymous said...

The grand jury system is a farce, just like the idea of "innocent until proven guilty."

It's a modern-day Star Chamber.