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Sunday, July 5, 2015

TEXAS - Grand jury extended 2 months to hear Twin Peaks biker cases.

Grand jury extended 2 months to hear Twin Peaks biker cases

Abel Reyna

Posted: Tuesday, June 30, 2015 7:45 pm


With 100 potential grand jurors waiting to report to the McLennan County
Courthouse next week to break in a new system for selecting grand juries, a
judge Tuesday extended the term of the current grand jury to consider the
Twin Peaks shootout case.
Judge Matt Johnson of Waco's 54th State District Court agreed to extend the
grand jury's term by 60 days through the end of August. The grand jury's
current term was set to expire Tuesday.

In an order signed Tuesday, Johnson said he was extending the term "for the
purpose of concluding the investigation into the incident at Twin Peaks,
allegations and circumstances surrounding such incident."

The terms of grand juries can be extended by up to 90 days, but can be done
only for the panel to consider one specific issue.
McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna did not return phone messages
Tuesday left at his office and on his cellphone.
Crawford Long, a lifelong prosecutor who retired from the McLennan County
District Attorney's Office in 2010 after a 30-year career, said there are
several reasons why prosecutors might seek to extend the term of a grand

"If you have a grand jury that you have already presented a substantial
amount of evidence to about something and you feel good about working with
that particular group of people, then there is really no reason to re-plow
the field starting over with a new one," Long said.

Because grand jury proceedings are confidential, it is unclear whether
prosecutors already have started presenting evidence to the grand jury from
the May 17 Twin Peaks shootout, which left nine bikers dead and 20 wounded.

District Clerk Jon Gimble said no date has been set for the current grand
jury to return to the courthouse.

Another attorney familiar with the grand jury process who asked not to be
identified said it also might have the appearance of impropriety if
prosecutors ask the same grand jury to determine whether Waco police
officers who shot and possibly killed some of the bikers acted properly, and
whether there is sufficient evidence to indict some or all of the bikers.

Those issues probably would be best determined by separate grand juries, the
lawyer said, and extending the existing grand jury term before empaneling a
new grand jury would allow that to happen.

For the first time in at least 75 years, McLennan County will change the
manner in which grand juries are selected because of a new law passed in the
final days of the most recent Texas legislative session.

The change ends the so-called key-man system and allows only randomly
selected panels to consider whether prosecutors have sufficient evidence for
an indictment.

The current system, used in McLennan County for longer than longtime
courthouse officials can remember, will end in McLennan County on July 8,
although the new law does not take effect until Sept. 1.

The grand jury selected that day will serve for three months and work
separately from the current grand jury.

Texas is the last state that allows grand juries to be selected through the
key-man method, a system its critics call "pick a pal."
Historically, McLennan County grand juries have been selected after a felony
criminal court judge appoints four or five commissioners. Those
commissioners then nominate four or five prospective grand jurors each, and
the first 12 who qualify and agree to serve make up the grand jury.

The new method will select grand jury members randomly from lists of
registered voters and licensed drivers, just as petit juries in civil and
criminal cases are selected.