As I noted here, SB834 by Estes would have protected and even increased the possibility of runaway grand juries, such as the one in Judge Susan Brown’s 185th District Court. Fortunately, the Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee killed it by leaving it pending in committee. The only chance it has now of being revived is by attaching it as an amendment to another bill but several reps are carefully watching for this and will make certain that it doesn’t happen.
Several of those against the bill deserve special mention. The Denton Record-Chronicle’s editorial board came out against it. Also, Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe with the Denton Record-Chronicle kept a watchful eye on it throughout the session and made certain that people knew what was happening with it. Local Republican activist Don Hooper traveled to Austin to testify against it. Many of us sent notes to our state representatives about the dark side of this bill.
I doubt that anyone’s testimony had greater effect than that of former Harris County First Assistant District Attorney Jim Leitner. He simply destroyed the bill’s carrier in the House, Rep. Stefani Carter (R-102). It was apparent that Rep. Carter’s very limited experience as a misdemeanor prosecutor in the Dallas area didn’t prepare her well for arguing with someone of Mr. Leitner’s stature. He had to educate her on the difference between federal and state grand juries, the role judges have in picking commissioners for their grand juries, and even why it would be impossible to gather statistics if confidentiality was in place. Makes you wonder why Speaker Straus appointed her Vice-Chair of this committee.
Here is Mr. Leitner’s testimony before the committee: