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Criminal Justice

Both Sides Fire Parting Salvos as Runaway Grand Jury Probe of Texas DA’s Office Fizzles

Posted Feb 2, 2012 1:32 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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After months of speculation, a runaway Texas grand jury that decided on its own to launch an investigation of the local district attorney's office has issued a brief report blasting prosecutors but no indictments.

It criticized the Harris County District Attorney's office for allegedly investigating grand jurors and "unexpected resistance," reports the Houston Chronicle.

The article and prior newspaper coverage indicate that at least one focus of the probe was the conduct of Harris County prosecutors and the Houston police department concerning possible problems with police department alcohol breath-testing vehicles and whether prosecutors properly informed defendants in drunken-driving cases of possible evidentiary issues.

District Attorney Pat Lykos berated the grand jury for conducting a politically motivated investigation which she called an outrage and denied any investigation of grand jurors.

"It's an abuse of power and a corruption of the criminal justice system," the DA said of the runaway grand jury probe. "For months our office has been hounded, and there have been a torrent of grand jury leaks."

Jim Mount, a special prosecutor in the case, called the claim of a politically motivated probe "fairly silly," and said the grand jury would have returned an indictment if that was true.

Rachel Palmer, a prosecutor in Lykos' office who supervised drunken-driving cases, came under fire from the grand jury after taking the Fifth to invoke her constitutional rights concerning self-incrimination.

A written statement released by her lawyer called the grand jury probe a "dangerous political game" and said she had done nothing wrong.

"In hindsight, we clearly made the right decision by not allowing Ms. Palmer to testify before this grand jury," the statement asserts. "As the grand jury foreman's partisan, inappropriate statement shows, their real interest was politics, not justice or the truth."

Earlier coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Houston Grand Jurors Boot Prosecutors; Judge and Appeals Court Nix Gov’t Re-Entry Plea"

ABAJournal.com: "Judge Disqualifies DA’s Office, Names 2 Lawyers Temporary Prosecutors in Runaway Grand Jury Case"

ABAJournal.com: "Booted From Grand Jury Probe, Texas DA Must Now Testify in Misdemeanor DUI Case"

ABAJournal.com: "Judge’s Recusal Postpones Contempt Hearing for 2 Texas Prosecutors in Runaway Grand Jury Case"

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