Grand Jury Fallout

A University of Houston law professor thinks this week's dismissal of a Harris County grand jury, and nullification of all its indictments, is hurting public confidence in the local criminal justice system. Houston Public Radio's Jim Bell reports.

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The grand jury was dismissed when a defense attorney found the DA's office hadn't filed the proper paperwork to extend the jury's term back in November. This means all indictments this grand jury returned since November 2nd are nullified and will have to be presented to another grand jury. University of Houston law professor Sandra Guerra-Thompson specializes in criminal justice procedures, and she thinks this and all the other highly publicized problems in the DA's office are eroding public confidence in the criminal justice system.

"I think it's impossible that it would not be harming public confidence. It would appear to be sort of a major correction, and, you know, I think we're just likely to see some kind of institutional shake-up, and we can only hope that in the end we'll have a stronger prosecutorial system in place."ξ

This controversy started when the judge dismissed arson related indictments against Texas Supreme Court Justice David Medina and his wife, and Medina's attorney moved for the grand jury's dismissal because it was not legally impaneled. Guerra-Thompson says it's probable that the attorney's success in nullifying Medina's indictments has given other attorneys everywhere a new tactic in fighting indictments and appealing convictions. Jim Bell, Houston Public Radio News.

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