Higher-powered appeal for propriety in drunk driving arrest at Baylor

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Waco – It’s about what you would expect from a law firm named Bickerstaff, Heath, Delgado, Acosta, LLP.

Bickerstaff!

It is a venerable name well-known in legal circles throughout the state. Just saying.

Nevertheless, Vanessa A. Gonzalez, who handles legal affairs for Baylor University and the Baylor University Police Department, has made a decision that the recent arrest of Assistant District Attorney Kristen Parker, 27, who routinely prosecutes cases of drunk driving, is a matter of great sensitivity.

Not only would release of information regarding the alleged offense and arrest “interfere with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime…,” but “(1) the information contains highly intimate or embarrassing facts the publication of which would be highly objectionable to a reasonable person, and (2) the information is not of legitimate concern to the public…”

That’s what they call the common law privacy exception.

Now, be it remembered that most of the students and faculty at the university hail from cities and towns where the local paper charges a premium lineage rate for advertising on the page where indictments and arrests for drunk driving are chronicled – if not in glaring red letters, then in the same shade of black and white as the statutes applied in the criminal charges.

At any rate, when R.S. Gates, public information activist, made his request for public information, he came prepared to challenge all appeals to the Open Records Division of the Office of the Attorney General of the State of Texas.

Going into the home stretch of Autumn, it could turn out to be a long, slow pitcher’s duel, since at some point the information will become public – one way or the other, even if the District Attorney finds it necessary to recuse himself.

In fact, Counselor Gonzalez even cited the venerable case of Houston Chronicle Publishing Company v. City of Houston, 531 S.W. 2d 177, 187 (Tex. App. – Houston [14th Dist.) 1975.

That case involved complaints by the press lords of Texas Avenue involving allegations that the Houston Police at the intercontinental airport withheld information about big shots and sometimes even bigger wigs getting popped for pouring themselves behind the wheel and trying to drive their gas guzzlers home after imbibing enough to turn any scheduled airline passenger flight into a red eye special.

What is known as “police blotter” information became available to the public, as a result – at least for that day.

What is of some curious note may be that when it comes to police, prosecutors or anyone else involved with the dispensation of justice, the sensitivity of information involving allegations of drunk driving approaches that of national security – while We The People are subjected to the kind of public scrutiny accorded axe murderers, armed robbers, sex offenders, and traitors.

Probation officers routinely insist they must know the full legal names, addresses, and phone numbers of AA sponsors,  and  then demand that the papers signed by meeting chairmen contain precisely what was discussed concerning spiritual recovery through reliance and guidance from a Higher Power at the meetings.

So it goes.

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