Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Dotting i's on grand jury reform

The passage of Texas grand jury reform over the weekend was shockingly uneventful, with predicted fireworks never materializing and gutting amendments never proposed. It turned out, the votes were there in the House to pass the bill without bracketing it to large counties or giving judges a choice to use the old system. So, hurrah! But the saga's not quite over.

With the Texas House having passed SB 135 eliminating the pick a pal grand jury system and the Senate amending HB 2150 to do the same thing, a clause encouraging diversity in grand juries is now the sticking point in the feud between Sen. John Whitmire and Rep. Harold Dutton. The senator wants to reinstate the clause and the representative deleted at the behest of the governor on the House floor. The Houston Chronicle's Mike Ware summed things up thusly:
So, with just a week left in the legislative session, the House has passed its version of a Senate bill that does not include the diversity rule. And the Senate has passed a House bill that now includes the rule.

How does that play out?

The House and the Senate will have to confer on both bills, and decide which to support in a final version. Look for some political pushing and shoving on both sides to get that final wording in coming days since Whitmire and Dutton are not seeing eye to eye on much in the waning days of the legislative session.

Whitmire said Monday he has no intention of bending, and wants the diversity provision in the bill. Dutton seems just adamant.
There's actually a simple way out of this without facing another nasty floor fight in the House over this bill. As it turns out, Chairman Dutton is not author of HB 2150, to which grand jury reform was amended after he scuttled his own legislation; Carol Alvarado is. If Sen. Whitmire concurs on SB 135 and she takes HB 2150 to conference, it would be possible to strip out all the extant provisions except Alvarado's original bill and Whitmire's diversity clause. That way, they end up with a complete bill - done as two bills - and in a procedural posture that can actually pass in the short time remaining.

That's my hope. IMO this debate should be over now, and discussion focused only on dotting i's and crossing t's.

UPDATE (5.27): Word now has it that the governor has expressed concern with the diversity clause Whitmire wants, so both bills will go back for concurrence - one with, one without the diversity piece - and presumably the choice will be left up to Gov. Abbott which one becomes law.

NUTHER UPDATE: A deal has been struck between Whitmire and the Governor and HB 2150 will now go to conference committee. It will likely be the version of the bill that's finally passed and signed into law.


TriggerMortis said...

Diverse grand juries have always been a requirement. If that requirement was ignored before, why would anyone believe that it now would be honored? IMO district attorneys are just as corrupt if not more so than judges, so this requirement will be overlooked same as it has been by commissioners. It's not like the DA will be criminally charged for not empaneling diverse grand juries.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.


Anonymous said...

The 12th Circuit Court of Appeals has held that racial discrimination in jury selection is okay. They upheld exclusion of minorities from juries in Smith County just because the prosecutor said he didn't like the way the person looked at him.

Anonymous said...

Anyone & Everyone with experience creating and promoting Petitions is asked to consider authoring multiple masterpiece(s) aimed at Governor Abbott & Co. that prays for his common sense to kick in by actually Doing the right thing. Yes, while some may wish for everyone to agree that something is better than nothing, I call Bullshit! anytime reforming the Fixed System is watered down. (Those that still think it's broken should check out Webster's definitions.) (Those that still think or parrot that the leading cause of wrongful convictions is solely the crime victim's fault, hasn't had the opportunity to be fucked over in a Team Effort.

*Veto any & all bills that allow for or encourage the well documented (Historical & Systematic) Rigging of the Fixed CJS of Texas by both political gangs. We have had enough of the bought & paid for bullshit politicians, it's time to officially un-rig the system without any word games that allow the corruption to continue in any form.

*Indicting humans for alleged crimes should be considered serious business and when bills exclude or ignore language requiring both the prosecutor and the suspect turned defendant's legal counsel to be present, the joke is still on the public at large due to being responsible for funding the post wrongful conviction bribes ($80K, plus, plus) designed for the few that qualify.

*Bills devoid of language addressing the digital documentation of events that lead to both rightful & wrongful Indictments should be vetoed as well.

*Bills devoid of language addressing the one-sided presentation of alleged facts to GJs' by prosecutors' and their ADAs' should be vetoed as well.

In a goddamn nutshell, Indicting simply because you are told or simply because everyone else is doing it, is and has always been wrong. Refusing to Indict on those points is just as wrong. Any attempts to Fake Reforms with weak-tea will be met with calls of - Bullshit! by the victims of the system and those that fund the multi-million dollar after parties.

It's not about you, it's not about me, it's about all of us and what we allow.

Anonymous said...

Now to pass a "Bill" that would prevent public employees from sitting on the "Jury of Peers", a conflict of interest.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:48,

Why is a janitor at city hall or city mechanic a conflict of interest? Really.