Thursday, January 24, 2008

Houston Grand Jury Went Bad

The controversy over the indictment and subsequent dismissal of charges against a Texas Supreme Court Justice and his wife in Houston (see earlier post here) took another bizarre turn when it was discovered that the grand jury was without authority to act for over two months.  According to the Houston Chronicle (here), Harris County DA Chuck Rosenthal's office filed improper paperwork to extend the grand jury's term past its expiration in early November 2007, so all of its work, including the now-dismissed indictment, was for naught because its term had expired.  A grand jury only sits for a designated period, and once its term ends it must be disbanded.  The extension was supposed to be to complete a large mortgage fraud case in which indictments were returned, but those and others are now gone.  An assistant DA took the blame, but the conspiracy theorists out there are certainly wondering if there was something more sinister afoot.  Needless to say, the grand jury problem is black eye for the Harris County DA's office.

Meanwhile, over in federal court in Houston, DA Rosenthal is facing a contempt hearing related to his attempt to delete e-mails that were to be produced in a civil rights suit against the sheriff's office.  The inadvertent disclosure of the messages, some of which were a bit on the salacious side involving Rosenthal's assistant, were the start of a series of events that led to Rosenthal dropping his bid for re-election.  The plaintiff's attorney in the civil rights cases plans to call a number of witnesses related to the e-mail issue at a hearing set to begin on January 31, so the cascade of negative publicity for the DA probably won't end any time soon.  Another Houston Chronicle story (here) discusses this portion of the saga. (ph)

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