Chemical reactions, crossing boundaries and distilling in patterns worth – how much, and to whom – until the mad vapors solidify, crystallize
WACO – The absurdity of organized violence contrasted with the princely little minuet of the law is an extreme contrast, when you stop and allow yourself to be amazed by the clockwork nature of it.
There is a certain degree of absurdity in the fact that the people who manufacture and market aspirin – Bayer – also held a 19th Century patent on the improved base alkaloid, heroin, or that a Japanese chemist looking for something else entirely happened to accidentally discover a potion that will make people forget when they last took nourishment or had a decent night’s sleep – just in time for the last ditch, all or nothing struggles of World War Two.
Even President Kennedy and some of the members of his staff who ruled from “Camelot” had his go-round with a “vitamin” preparation all the “beautiful people” in New York and Hollywood would have a society doctor make a house call with which to inject them. The result – sparkle, drive, go, man, go – to the limits!
It was meth laced with B-12 and other Dr. Feel-Good jive. Who could resist?
Like the fellow said, Bushido extremist kamikaze pilots full of methamphetamine probably never gave it a thought they would even get a scratch when they did nose dives with their little flying bombs into the hulls of battle ships and aircraft carriers.
There’s a lot of money in all this meshugas, however. Two-arrested-1.8-million-in-drugs-seized-during-local-traffic-stop by Criminal District Attorney Abel Reyna in this hotbed of law and order on the banks of the Brazos. In a joint operation, the Waco Police Department Drug Enforcement Unit and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency directed DPS troopers to seize $1.8 million worth of heroin and methamphetamine en route from the Rio Grande Valley. Because a veteran Waco narc named David Starr “indicated to prosecutors” he was “apprehensive” to word an affidavit and his report in a certain way, “but was ordered to do so;” when Reyna discovered the “discrepancy,” he reported it to defense attorneys – and the Texas Rangers.
A confidential informant was involved. Surprise, surprise! Eight pounds of heroin and seven pounds of meth – $1.8 million smackeroo’s. It’s the new currency, over here.
“Our intake division and grand jury prosecutors relied on this information in making the decision to present this matter to the Grand Jury. More importantly, the Grand Jury relied on this information in returning the indictments.” Reyna-Press-Release-and-Letter
It’s complicated, but when the cops lie – or, just as bad, cover up exculpatory evidence that would be material to either a finding of guilt or the degree of punishment – prosecutors must admit it, either of their own volition, or at the behest of a Brady order resulting from a defense motion.
And who was Brady? He was an armed robber who in 1958 admitted his participation in a deadly Maryland stickup, but alleged the actual homicide was committed by his fall partner, a man named Boblit. Boblit had given police an earlier statement to that effect, but prosecutors neglected to allow jurors to know of it as a material fact.
When that omission came to light, Brady’s case was remanded by the state court of appeals for re-trial because the defense argued that a trial held under the pretense that certain facts have not been withheld is an outright denial of a federal constitutional right, the Fourteenth Amendment right to due process of law. In a landmark 1963 decision, the Warren Court upheld the Brady holding because in Maryland, jurors are deemed both finders of fact and judges of the law by the state constitution, according to an opinion authored by Justice William O. Douglas.
The Texas Legislature put sharp teeth in all that. It’s called the Michael Morton Law.
After a Williamson County man named Michael Morton spent a big chunk of his life in the pen for the murder of his wife, a deed he did not do, a prosecutor named Ken Anderson who later became a District Judge and had not acknowledged an investigator’s finding that Morton’s little boy saw the actual killer beat the woman to death, a jury sent him to the joint to do some of Morton’s time.
Judge Ken Anderson went to the pen for his mistaken belief that it didn’t matter what the little man had to say about how his mother died when a “monster” with red hands covered with her blood “broke the bed” and covered her remains with an open suitcase. A jury in ultra-conservative Georgetown found Michael Morton guilty and sentenced him to life imprisonment when the eyewitness exculpatory testimony would have exonerated him for the act. No member of the public ever knew that Mrs. Anderson’s body had been covered with a suitcase, nor did they know of the broken bed frame and headboard resulting from the savage beating.
The cops kept all that secret so false confessors would be foiled.
Jurors never heard that a piece of two by four with her DNA and a bloody bandana found on a nearby construction scene were matched to the killer by similar means.
Why? Members of the Texas defense bar think it’s because prosecutors in Texas have no uniform policy when it comes to discovery of evidence. DA’s in the Lone Star State range from an open file policy to a steel-trap mindset in which armadas are launched and crusades mounted to get the barest of facts about offenses.The truth is, there is no constitutional right to discovery of the evidence to be used against an accused offender; there is only the obligation of prosecutors to divulge exculpatory evidence.
Or is there?
An open file policy doesn’t really work that way, anyhow. According to a North Carolina Brady training program, “The files we are shown often do not contain some police reports, witness statements, and other crucial documents. Materials that contradict the State’s case or support a defense are frequently missing. Evidence that corroborates the defendant’s story is mysteriously absent. Items that would impeach the police are nowhere to be found.”
In criminal litigation, surprise witnesses and evidence abound amongst prosecutors.
That was then; this is now, and all this has made a distinct impression on the legal mind of the local DA.
McLennan County Criminal District Attorney Abel Reyna has often told the Courts and the media that he is extremely hesitant to put on cases that could result in “my picture on the front page of the paper” accompanying a story that says he’s going to the pen for withholding exculpatory evidence.
In an opening salvo, Reyna dismissed indictments for organized criminal activity against seven defendants accused of participating in an auto theft scheme in which one party to the offense sold a car to a LaSalle Avenue car dealer, then stole the vehicle back to re-sell it elsewhere – for a substantial quantity of meth.
He and his chief prosecutor demanded to know the name of the confidential informant involved. Police refused. He dropped all seven indictments. Criminal District Judge Ralph T. Strother, himself a veteran of 19 years prosecuting criminal cases in Waco courts, said he’d never seen anything like it.
One wonders about the steady exodus of prosecutors from Reyna’s staff.
His office and the Texas Rangers are still busy conducting a meticulous review of criminal cases prosecuted by his office, or indicted by the Grand Jury, according to numerous public statements by Reyna. He claimed the concurrence of Waco Chief of Police Brent Strohman, who last week announced his retirement after a decades-long career in which, according to his bio, he saw a 42 percent reduction in crime as a result of his administration.
His staff has never really gotten the message, it appears. Reached for a Public Information Act Request, an Assistant City Attorney named Judith Benton replied that official Waco has no idea what all the fuss is about when it comes to an investigation or the suspension of narcotics officers.
“There are no documents responsive to your request: ‘I am making application for and requesting access to public information related to the suspension of Clare Crook and David Starr. I am looking for suspension letters and the paperwork related to the criminal case that started it. If there is correspondence from the DA that has been determined to be public information, I need that also.’”
So mote it be.