The Runaway Grand Jury

In case you haven't been following the story, Texas Supreme Court Justice David Medina's house in suburban Houston burned down in late June. Medina's house had been in foreclosure in late 2006, so prosecutors were understandably suspicious. Yesterday, a grand jury indicted Justice Medina. Immediately thereafter, highly embattled DA Chuck Rosenthal stated that he would move to dismiss the indictment.

Today, the indictment was dismissed by a judge, per the AP wire:

"There was not enough evidence at this time to go forward," Harris County assistant district attorney Vic Wisner said. "It shouldn't be construed as in any way absolving anybody of any crime or any indication that they will not ultimately be brought to account for these offenses."

State District Judge Brian Rains dismissed all the charges on motions from the prosecutor's office at a brief hearing.

Wisner said the investigation was continuing.

"Our office, my colleagues, my supervisors, as well as the investigators in the Harris County Arson Bureau all feel that the case is best handled at this point in time in an investigatory stage rather than a prosecution stage," Wisner said. "Nothing more, nothing less."

Like Tom Kirkendall, I'm confused by why the DA took the case to a grand jury. Tom K:

If the DA's office knew going into the grand jury that they did not have sufficient evidence to make a case against Justice Medina, then why on earth did they bring the case before the grand jury at this time? Inquiring minds want to know.

I'm tempted not to speculate, but this is a blog, so why hold back? A possible explanation seems to be that the DA's office wanted to indict someone who wasn't Justice Medina, probably to pressure a bigger fish, and the grand jury jumped the gun. [Two grand jurors suggested politics as a reason for the indictment's dismissal, which appears likely to earn them a contempt of court citation.] The DA's office seems to signal that they intend to go after Medina, but that they don't have enough evidence yet:

[Assistant District Attorney Vic] Wisner said the office would continue to investigate David Medina and his wife Fran in connection with the fire that destroyed their home last summer.

"We're six months into a 10 year statute of limitations," Wisner said. "It's like being three minutes into the Super Bowl."

People's assumptions that politics may have played a role in the indictment's dismissal is an unfortunate drawback of having an elected DA. But presumably Rosenthal -- while he's showed surprisingly poor judgment in emails -- hasn't completely lost his marbles. Prosecutorial discretion is one of the most important principles of our government, so it seems a little early to criticize Rosenthal for this...there's plenty to criticize him about for other stuff anyway. Making sure a case meets the "reasonable doubt" burden is one of the most important jobs of a prosecutor.

One might also note that, according to his lawyer, Medina had allowed his homeowners insurance policy to lapse, which seems an odd thing for someone committing an arson.

So Texas politics is always entertaining. And I haven't even mentioned the salacious rumors angle to the story, which I've now heard from several people in the last day.

Posted by Evan @ 01/18/08 02:23 PM

 
 

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Comments

** But presumably Rosenthal -- while he's showed surprisingly poor judgment in emails -- hasn't completely lost his marbles. Prosecutorial discretion is one of the most important principles of our government, so it seems a little early to criticize Rosenthal for this... **

Nah, it's never too early if, say, you're trying to rehabilitate Jay Aiyer (aka the guy who illegally tampered with campaign finance docs)...

:)

Posted by kevin @ 01/18/08 09:51 PM


power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Gov perry, what did the bilderberg promise you ?

Posted by jd @ 01/20/08 09:53 AM


Rumors? You mean like the one that says David couldn't have been involved because he was, um, "banging his gavel" somewhere else at the time?

Posted by County Seat @ 01/20/08 12:32 PM


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