“Four months after a bloody biker shootout, the criminal justice system in Waco looks more than a little out of whack,” dallasnews.com‘s editorial board opines with unconscionable English understatement. “It’s one of the biggest criminal prosecutions in state history, yet authorities will say almost nothing about the May 17 confrontation involving motorcycle enthusiasts and police.” The News’ rant takes a decidedly low-key tone: “The wheels of justice need some oiling in Waco.” Even so, the recap of the Waco police, prosecution, coroner and judiciary’s post-homicide Machiavellian machinations is plenty damn damning . . .
After police and McLennan County DA Abel Reyna initially described those taken into custody as criminals, The Associated Press reviewed public safety databases and found no convictions for more than two-thirds of those arrested.
Yet the mass arrest morphed into many left stranded in jail for months on inexplicable $1 million bonds. Only after those sums were finally reduced were almost all of the accused released.
Just as troubling, Reyna wrote what defense lawyers describe as cookie-cutter arrest affidavits for the accused, documents that a justice of the peace approved without making any individual determination of probable cause.
Then came a gag order in late June — approved by a judge who is also the DA’s former law partner. No wonder people are asking questions about what kind of behind-the-scenes cooperation is going on among judges, prosecutors and law enforcement in Central Texas.
We expressed concern in July after word came that longtime Waco police detective James Head would serve as foreman of the grand jury that likely will hear the shootout case. Can the bikers get a fair hearing under those circumstances?
The Dallas Morning News is calling for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to nullify the gag order surrounding the case. (Lawyer F. Clinton Broden has filed a motion for nullification on Monday). There’s a lot the public needs to know . . .
Among the information that authorities refuse to release are the results of ballistics test that would identify whose bullets struck the dead and injured. The Waco police chief says officers fired 12 shots after bikers allegedly shot at them. Each time authorities avoid providing that information, the impression grows that many of the victims were killed by law enforcement.
Also illuminating would be the law enforcement dash-cam videos, along with other recordings including those from a camera hidden to document goings-on of the biker event.
The more we hear about this case, the more it confirms our initial suspicions that the police opened fire on the bikers from a stand-off distance. And are trying to conceal that fact. We’d like to be proven wrong. One way or another, I don’t think that’s going to happen.