Harris County District Attorney Responds to Runaway Grand Jury Statement

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DISTRICT ATTORNEY HARRIS COUNTY, TEXAS Public Information Office (713) 755-3320 January 31, 2012 Houston, Texas

Response to the Statement Issued by the 185th Grand Jury Foreman
In 2008 I was elected to reform the Harris County District Attorney's office. With the team I brought in and the many extraordinary people in the office, we have accomplished that goal. We restored professionalism and ethics, and brought transparency to the office. A few years ago, the Department of Public Safety notified us that a contract employee, who was supervising breath-alcohol machines, was not testing them on a set schedule. This involved hundreds of cases. We immediately notified all the defendants and their lawyers who had active and disposed cases, and further informed all the courts. We demonstrated good faith and transparency then and now. What this politically motivated investigation has done is an outrage. It is an abuse of power and corruption of the criminal justice system. For months this office has been hounded, and there was a torrent of grand jury leaks to the news media and blogs. A DWI defense attorney who represents the "star witness" informed one of the County Commissioners that he was being subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury-such subpoenas are secret under the law. This same lawyer is actively supporting my opponent. And in fact, he inserted himself in the foreman's press conference today. The entanglements of certain participants are well known and documented, as are their relationships with the Old Regime and with my previous and current opponents. I will not let the honor and reputation of this office and of me personally be slandered and libeled. When allegations were first raised about Intoxilyzer test results, there were pending cases against accused DWI drivers. To proceed with these cases, I had to be assured that the test results were reliable--expert testimony is introduced in my name. We issued two Brady Notices and requested that the Department of Public Safety test the BAT-van Intoxilyzers under the conditions the technician described. The DPS found the reservations the technician had were without merit. Now these cases will be litigated in open court under rules of evidence. The foreman of the grand jury faults persons in the Harris County District Attorney’s Office for “unexpected resistance” to the grand jury’s investigation. This is a remarkable statement. When the District Attorney’s Office was barred from the grand jury room in October of 2011 with no explanation provided from the grand jurors or the court, this Office invoked its constitutional authority to

prosecute and its statutory authority to participate in the grand jury proceedings. To do otherwise would have been an abdication of our constitutional duties. It was only after this office sought admittance into the grand jury proceedings that any explanation was provided. Had the grand jury been forthcoming about the subject matter of the investigation at the outset, it would have been easier for all parties to address the issue in a timely and cooperative manner consistent with principles of grand jury secrecy. After the investigation was announced, this office did not impede the grand jury’s investigation. As an entity, this office was fully cooperative with the grand jury. Harris County leads the nation in DWI-related fatality accidents. HPD Chief Charles McClelland and I are committed to working together to change that. Despite repeated public insinuations to the contrary, there was no criminal conduct in the operation of the HPD BAT-vans, nor was there suppression of evidence. The Harris County District Attorney’s Office has long been eager to share what we know with the public. Now that the grand jury’s proceedings have ended, we will be responding—vigorously. In the days to come, our website—HarrisCountyDA.com—will feature a new section devoted to setting the record straight. The Harris County District Attorney’s Office is confident that anyone willing to review the full set of facts, in an unbiased and fair-minded manner, will conclude we have acted responsibly and with integrity in every respect. ###

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