Fallout from the shootout between bikers and police at the Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco continues to reverberate. While the defendants all sat in jail on $1 million bonds, many lost their jobs while they sat in jail until the bond situation was sorted out.
Now, the grand jury is being selected, and a McLennan County criminal district court judge named a police detective from Waco to be foreman over the grand jury. The Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association (TCDLA) called this “shocking” and considers it highly inappropriate for a police officer to preside over the grand jury. The TCDLA is the largest state association for criminal defense lawyers in the country and holds a significant amount of clout.
Detective James Head told the Waco Tribune-Herald that his being chosen to serve as grand jury foreman is “kind of unusual.” Judge Ralph Strother argues that he is fulfilling the dictates of Texas law that states that the first 12 people who are qualified are selected for the grand jury.
Texas state senators who sit on legislative committees that decide criminal justice issues and criminal law experts do not agree with this assessment. According to Chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee John Whitmire of Houston, “The whole point is the appearance of perception and fairness,” and that this does not appear to be fair. He also said that he was surprised that the US Department of Justice has not gotten involved.
The vice chair of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee Joan Huffman agrees that the new law does not require that the first 12 qualifying grand jurors be chosen. They both say that the appearance of impropriety is key.
It remains to be seen whether Detective Head will continue to preside over the grand jury for the Twin Peaks biker cases.