Monica, Rhor, AP, January 22, 2008
The legal scuffle between a grand jury and a Texas Supreme Court justice took another bizarre turn Tuesday when a judge ruled that improperly filed paperwork invalidated any indictments issued by the panel.
The judge’s decision nullified indictments issued by the grand jury against [Justice David] Medina and his wife, as well as 30 others on unrelated mortgage fraud.
At an afternoon press conference, eight members of the grand jury, which normally works in secrecy, called the district attorney’s handling of the case arrogant and incompetent and said it left some members discouraged about the process.
The 12-member jury indicted Medina on Thursday on charges of tampering with evidence, and his wife, Francisca, on an arson charge in connection with a June 28 fire at their home in the Houston suburb of Spring.
But the next day, the Harris County District Attorney’s office, which first brought the case to the grand jury, dropped the charges, angering members of the panel who said the move was politically motivated.
But assistant district attorney Vic Wisner said Friday that authorities were still investigating the fire and the Medina’s role in it.
Grand jury foreman Robert Ryan, however, said he was stunned by the judge’s decision, and said the paperwork extending the panel’s term was a “boiler-plate” order routinely issued by the district attorney’s office.
“Because of what the district attorney’s office did, all the criminals we indicted have walked away,” said Ryan, who said the grand jury’s term was extended so they could continue to investigate the Medina case, as well as the mortgage fraud cases.
The case stems from a fire that destroyed the Medinas’ home, and damaged two other houses, causing nearly $1 million in damages.
The fire marshal’s office has said the fire at the Medinas’ home in Spring, north of Houston, was not electrical or accidental. A dog detected an accelerant at the scene.
Investigators became suspicious after discovering a mortgage company sued in June 2006 to foreclose on the $300,000 home. The lawsuit, filed after the family missed payments for five months, was settled in December 2006.