Guilty verdicts, indictments rare in official oppression cases

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by Jeremy Rogalski/Investigative Reporter

khou.com

Posted on May 16, 2012 at 7:18 PM

Updated Wednesday, May 16 at 7:24 PM

HOUSTON—When the accused is a cop, Harris County history tells us more often than not:

“Juries side with law enforcement,” said KHOU 11 News Legal Expert Gerald Treece.

Some headline-grabbing examples: a white Bellaire Police officer who shot a young black man in the driveway of his family’s home. The verdict rendered? Not guilty.

Or consider a pair of Pasadena cops who stood trial for beating a drunk man to death. A jury acquitted them too.

Why? Treece offered some insight.

“In a case against police, the police start with a two touchdown lead before the game begins,” he said.

Treece said it’s due in part, to the law itself, which gives cops a lot of leeway when it comes to the use of force.

“They’re armed with legal presumptions of reasonableness when they do things,” Treece said.

Then there are the cases that don’t even make it to trial, like the beating death case of a 72-year-old man in the Harris County jail. A jury declined to file charges.

And the I-Team found that’s a pattern.

According to the Harris County District Clerk’s office, 107 cases of official oppression went to a grand jury between 2007 and 2012. Of those, 83 were no-billed. That is 77 percent not indicted.

Treece said another factor that comes into play is human nature itself.

“Because we want to believe the police officers, we’re trained in civics classes that the policeman is your friend and the policeman tells the truth,” he said.

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