The article from Jenny Vrentas of the The New York Times Regarding the grand-jury process that culminated in no indictments for Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson’s detailed extensive communications between attorney Rusty Hardin and assistant district attorney Johna Staliings.
Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, who runs the prosecutor’s office in Houston, was recently interviewed by Mike Melster regarding, among other things, the reported circumstances of the contact between Hardin and Stallings.
“Totally normal,” Ogg said. “We contact defense lawyers. They contact us. A communication is far different than collaborating or working together to achieve a result. That just didn’t happen. It’s not ethical. And it does not do what we do. And it didn’t happen in this case. “
Ogg also delicately chided Vrentas for his characterization of the communications between Hardin and Stallings.
“So I think there was a lot of artistic liberty taken by the writer in that case, who made a presumption – which we’re not allowed to do – that anytime somebody shares a text call, that they’re colluding, “Said Ogg. “We don’t work with the plaintiffs’ lawyers, for the reason I said. We do not want cross-contamination, if you will, of a bias or motive being alleged against us in terms of trying to put our fingers on the scale in our system to help the other side. So it’s different when you’re dealing with a criminal defense lawyer, they’re representing a person we can’t talk to without them, who we need to notify about where to be or what to do. “
That ‘s a little confusing, frankly. If Watson is not going to testify before the grand jury, why does the prosecutor need to tell Watson’s lawyer “about where to go or what to do.” There is no administrative communication until the suspect is formally charged.
Ogg also addressed the fact that Hardin was allowed to provide a “packet” for the grand jury.
“When they have a packet as talked about in this case, it is funny, that is just a local custom, allowing defense lawyers to put together a packet,” Ogg said. “You won’t find any support for the law, you won’t find any protocol for it because it is something that has just been crafted literally through our criminal defense bar and our prosecutors. And what we do is they put together what they want to see or hear, and we present it. And we present it because we want to know, too. What’s their side? What are they presenting? And remember, we can’t compel their client, or target, to testify. “
That ‘s also confusing. The prosecutor lets the defense lawyer put together whatever they want to put together, and then they submit it to the grand jury without even knowing what it is. No matter what it is? What if it contains an incorrect representation of the facts? What if, in this case, it was a video of Rusty Hardin declaring a horseback, as he has done publicly, that all of the women who were accused of Watson’s misconduct were lying? What if it was a video of Leah Graham proclaiming, as she has done in this case, that Tony Buzbee is a pied piper who has taken out a group of women for his meritless claims of advancing his motives following social-media and getting on TV? ?
Does Ogg really expect anyone to believe it is normal practice for a defense lawyer to engage in the cake-and-eat-it exercise of not presenting the suspect for grand jury testimony, but also tendering a one-sided, self-serving presentation of the suspect’s viewpoint?
Ogg also took issue with the notion, from the Times Article, that packets are used only by high-profile defenders who can finance such activities, calling it a “sensationalized” account of common practice.
“Numbers-wise, because many people are caught in the middle of the crime scene, defense attorneys strategically – or simply because they don’t do the work – will not submit packets to violent crimes or immediate crimes,” Ogg said. “High profile has nothing to do with it. Packets are common. Although in terms of numbers, many people are arrested for what I am calling immediate crime or something that happens where action is taken immediately, many times they are not submitted. In cases like this, or cases where a crime is reported later, lawyers do it a lot. “
So packets are common, except when they’re not. And the profile of the case does not matter, except when it does. And some lawyers “don’t do the work” to put a packer together. Obviously, many of those lawyers do not have clients who can pay hourly rates for the creation of the packet and / or fund at hundreds of dollars per hour of constant pestering by the prosecutor, which we’ve opted in this case. giving at Stallings a glimpse of what his professional life would have been like if Watson had been indicated.
Although Ogg said plenty, she was never forced to confront the real reason (in my opinion) as to why Stallings did not secure any indictments. Stallings did not believe she could parlay those indictments into proof-beyond-a-reasonable-doubt convictions. So she let Hardin make his case (without subjecting his client to questioning), and she hoped the grand jury would choose to defer to the civil justice system.
Yes, even though the entire grand jury proceedings remain cloaked in medieval secrecy, it is a safe bet that someone made the grand jury aware that these complainants had another path to potential justice, and that the grand jurors quite possibly decided simply to defer to the The other main branch of the justice system. Making the result of anything but an exoneration of Watson – no matter how hard Hardin would like to treat it that way.