BOOK OF WACO – BY CHAPTER, VERSE, NUMBERS AND ACTS
Hogs roll by Newman’s Bakery at Belleville, under Saturnine clouds
“…This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.” – T.S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men”
Belleville – Leaden rain clouds faked a threat to douse sun-drenched blades of coastal salt grass as a lazy Saturday world rolled by the front porch of Newman’s Bakery.
Harleys in heat, customized pickups, volunteer fire trucks sporting Glass Packs, and flatulent diesels roared their way up the hill to make the obligatory two-lane blacktop circuit of the Courthouse Square while trial lawyer Paul Looney held his weekly free legal clinic.
Situated on a trident fork on the way to everywhere at the corner of State Highways 36, 159 and FM 529, three of Austin County’s principal thoroughfares, Newman’s is a weekend Mecca for folks luxuriating in the extravagant feeling of not being in a hurry in this picture perfect world so near and yet so far from the nerve shattering hustle of the Domed City.
Looney is in the big middle of a phenomenal winning streak in criminal jury trials.
But he doesn’t take all the credit for his successful trial practice.
The phenomenon of jury nullification has reared its unpredictable head – at least once – in his unbroken string of dozens of victories.
“We had a case we just couldn’t handle any way but to give it to a jury,” he recalled, “because the plea offer was so unacceptable.”
After hours of deliberation, the jury sent the Judge a note, asking if they convicted the defendant, could they be assured he would assess the minimum legal penalty in his sentence.
“The Judge sent them a message. He told them they were the finders of fact, that he was the one to pass sentence, and their job was either to acquit or convict…
“So, in about 15 minutes, they sent a verdict of acquittal.”
With nearly 450,000 miles on his Victory Motorcycle, Looney is a specialist in letting the jurors decide – or at least, giving the State a good, long look at the prospects of the notoriously unpredictable actions of twelve veniremen, good and true.
To see the world from two wheels, a lot of truth goes by – in a hurry.
But the Twin Peaks cases have given this old hammer an anvil to remember.
Looney calls it the Book Of Waco.
“It’s nowhere to be found in my $350,000 law library.”
Prosecutors just do as they please in McLennan County’s two criminal district court venues. “They have done it that way for years – because the judges let them get away with it.”
Twenty-two shaky cases could walk out the door if 54th Criminal District Judge Matt Johnson grants a motion to quash a “superseding indictment” for rioting a Grand Jury returned against 1%’er biker Marcus Pilkington, who was one of 177 arrested and held on a $1 million bond following a gunfighting “melee” at Twin Peaks Restaurant on May 17, 2015.
Hundreds of motorcycle enthusiasts had gathered for a political meeting of the Confederation of Clubs when shots rang out and 14 police rifles spoke in unison from an “established perimeter” where SWAT officers lay in wait.
When the gun smoke cleared, 9 lay dead, 20 wounded. They only tested three of the rifles. Eleven others are as yet unclassified, untested, their lands and grooves unknown to official parchment.
Meanwhile, hundreds of people – friends, relatives, wives, husbands, sons, daughters, awaited news of what was to be, to be.
This is a “cruel punishment,” according to Looney, that of a military organization, the kind “governments inflict on people.”
“I don’t know if it was a political meeting or just a bunch of guys who got together to settle who has the biggest stick; it was a military operation from start to finish,” Looney concluded.
There was a perimeter, sentries, fields of fire, L-shaped crossfire zones – the works. Bang. Bang. Shoot. Shoot.
Pilkington was one of the wounded whose gunshot injury festered without adequate medical care while awaiting a bond reduction as he languished in the Jack Harwell Detention Center, a County lockup privately operated by LaSalle Corrections by a warden who once ran Mississippi’s notorious state cotton plantation, Parchman Farm.
“There are three or four people who are in serious trouble,” said Looney. “They may well have murdered someone…”
Three policemen whose rifles tallied four homicides were exonerated by no true bill of indictment of the Grand Jury.
It’s a murky matter, one best left to the finders of fact on a jury. The evidence discovered – so far – includes two terrabytes of archived information. When visiting Judge Doug Shaver of Harris County asked what does that mean, the prosecution told him “about two million documents.”
A funny thing happened on the way to the police investigation of what – just what the hell – happened a few minutes after high noon on that fateful, rainy Sunday afternoon at Waco.
The prosecution hijacked the case with a non-specific, blanket, fill-in-the-blanks complaint of engaging in organized criminal activity, a first degree state felony that could carry a penalty of up to 99 years behind bars because some people were murdered under capital circumstances and others allegedly suffered aggravated assault.
“The prosecutors,” three criminal defense lawyers from Houston appointed by Regional Administrative Judge Billy Ray Stubblefield, “aren’t really up to speed on the case.”
As he spoke, Looney was awaiting word as to whether he would be hired to represent another defendant who faces a jury in August. His defense counsel suffers the same set of circumstances, a massive discovery that has appeared over a period of more than three years – in dribs and drabs.
Why special prosecutors, a visiting judge?
The elected Criminal District Attorney recused himself rather than take the witness stand as a “necessary witness” who drafted the criminal complaint. By doing so, he allegedly became a police officer, not a prosecuting attorney.
“The law is the law…Amend the Code of Criminal Procedure, or just – follow – the – law!”
It be that way.
Abel Reyna, who failed in his bid for re-election to a third term by a margin of 60 percent naysayers to 40 percent in support of his administration, is the subject of an ongoing federal probe in which numerous members of his staff turned informants for an FBI agent.
Faced with an appearance as a witness, he recused himself after a jury rejected his prosecution of Dallas Bandidos President Jake Carrizal in a mistrial – eleven votes for acquittal, one for conviction.
And so it goes.
Word around the campfire, former Assistant District Attorney Amanda Dillon, fired ignominiously by Reyna for disloyalty – she is one of the FBI’s informants – may be rehired to head up the remaining cases.
That San Bernard, she part river and all bayou, don’t you see.
“Catch the blue train, all the way to Kokomo. You can find me, somewhere down the crazy river…”
So mote it be.
LA TREN BLEU EN BLEU EN BLEU – PEOPLE HAVE ASKED!