After the May 17 Waco shootings, the authorities there have seemingly gone out of their way to abuse and molest anyone and everyone within shouting distance of the melee.
They charged dozens with capital crimes, attempted to conceal evidence, and trampled the rights of the accused. While totally indefensible, their actions may be somewhat understandable in the immediate aftermath of a multiple homicide situation. Those actions are continuing, however, in the cold sober light of day with time for consideration and deliberation. It’s almost as if they are doing everything they can to set the city up for bankruptcy from the civil suits that are sure to mount.
The Bill of Rights deliniates many rights and protections provided to the people and against the government. The federal government. It wasn’t until after the passage of the 14th Amendment, and into the 1920’s that the U.S. Supreme Court initiated “incorporation”, or applying the protections guaranteed under the Bill of Rights to state and local governments. Instead of a blanket incorporation of all provisions against the states, the court has followed an a la carte system where some provisions are incorporated and others are not.
The Fifth Amendment requires in federal criminal law that “[n]o person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury…” In the 1884 case of Hurtado v. California, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states were not required to use grand juries to indict defendants for serious crimes. They have never overturned that rule subsequent to the 14th Amendment’s passage, however, and thus that particular provision of the Fifth Amendment was not incorporated against the states.
So, states are not required to use grand juries to indict by the federal constitution, but some do anyway. Grand juries were started 800 years ago and brought into American jurisprudence to protect individuals from government action. When the Founders included their usage be mandated in the Fifth Amendment, it was so that people would not have to suffer the crushing burdens of a felony criminal trial without a check by the citizenry that it was warranted.
That was then – currently in Waco, the compounded assaults against due process of law and evisceration of protection from unjust prosecution continue apace unabated:
“A Waco police detective was selected Wednesday to preside over a new McLennan County grand jury that could be the panel that considers the Twin Peaks shootings.
James Head, a 34-year police veteran who has spent 26 years with Waco PD, was among the first 14 on the panel qualified to serve on the grand jury and, beyond that, 19th State District Judge Ralph Strother selected Head to serve as the foreman.
After the 12 members of the grand jury, plus two alternates, were chosen, Head, wearing his police badge and service pistol, entered the grand jury chambers with the others to begin considering about 100 criminal cases presented by the McLennan County District Attorney’s Office.”
Judge Strother went on to say that “If there is nothing that challenges his impartiality, he is qualified. We have lawmen who get on jury panels all the time. Who is better qualified in criminal law than somebody who practices it all the time?” Ralph Strother boldly announces his breathtaking ignorance of impartiality and contempt for the rights of the accused with his actions and statements.
Can you imagine a member of the Hells Angels being impaneled on a grand jury investigating other members of the same group? The idea that a member of a police force can impartially examine the testimony of his brother officers does not pass the laugh test. It’s time for the citizenry of Waco and the leadership of the county and state criminal justice organizations to demand these defendants be treated as we all have a right to be – without prejudice and by impartial judges and juries.