Trust, the basis by which our jurisprudence is allowed to function is in jeopardy in our community. The legal system by which our community functions is only allowed to exist by the fact that we, as a community must believe that the process is sacrosanct and protected from any perception of wrong doing from all involved. We as a community must trust in the system in order to subject our selves to the authority of those who would judge our actions and when necessary deprive us of our liberty and rights in order to protect the rest in our community. Trust is earned, not given, but unfortunately it appears by actions undertaken recently that those who should know better have no clear understanding of the fact that trust is judged by the actions and not the empty words of promises.
In a case that the El Paso Tribune (264) originally brought to light in December, the system seems to have failed the community in a case that may ultimately put the city’s legal system in serious jeopardy. The issue is one of integrity, the integrity of a system that should be above reproach in order for us, as a community to trust in the fairness of its process. The case involves two sisters, two police officers and a District Attorney’s office that continues to confound the barest meaning of fairness. As is usually the case with powermongers, stuck in their own misguided sense of omnipotence the posturing and rhetoric designed to mask the reality of the issue is starting to emanate further threatening the integrity of the process. The process is in serious jeopardy because the actions of the District Attorney must seriously be questioned even before we can delve into the veracity of all concerned. What we do know seriously shakes the community’s belief in the integrity of the system as actions speak loudly enough to force us to question the motives of those involved. So what do we know?
We know that a young lady was detained by El Paso Police Officers at a desert party. We know that the young lady has accused two police officers of sexually abusing her. We know that the Police Department Internal Investigations Department has stated that they found no wrong doing by the accused officers. We know that the District Attorney’s office first reviewed the case of the officer’s and singularly determined that no wrong doing occurred by their failure to present the case to grand jury. We know that the young lady was subsequently charged with filing a false police report by alleging that the officer’s sexually abused her. So far, seems like a straight forward case, which is until we delve further.
So far, the police have investigated themselves and found no wrong doing. Ok, maybe officers are capable of policing themselves, we must assume their integrity is above reproach whether we like it or not. The District Attorney’s office has determined that the young lady lied and therefore has charged her with lying. Simple, until we factor in the fact that an employee of the District Attorney’s office is the father of one of the accused police officers. Perception is everything in trust. One would think that at least a token attempt would be made by the District Attorney’s office to at least protect the integrity of the system by presenting the case to a Grand Jury, before single handedly determining that the young lady lied, if for nothing else to protect the perception of integrity. The fact is that the District Attorney determined the young lady was lying and proceeded to prosecute her.
Unfortunately the case becomes even more bizarre. As if this were not enough suffering for the family of the young lady, the sister of the accuser was recently killed by a hit and run driver on South Desert Road, near Transmountain Road on the Westside, a case that at this time seems to have stagnated at the police department. But, unfortunately for this family, this case seems to still be taking further twists and turns that defy logic and puts to question the ability of our court systems to function fairly and effectively.
Under the state’s Disciplinary Rules of Conduct (Rule 3.09), a “prosecutor in a criminal case shall refrain from prosecuting or threatening to prosecute a charge that the prosecutor knows is not supported by probably cause.” As was reported by the El Paso Tribune, the prosecutor is now prosecuting two cases in complete opposition to each other. On one hand, the District Attorney has decided to present the case of the two officers to a Grand Jury, even after it has determined, by the filing of charges against the accuser that it feels by its actions that the charges are not prosecutable. While at the same time, the District Attorney is in the process of prosecuting the accuser for lying. On one hand the District Attorney is proceeding with a case it, itself has determined is not prosecutable in an apparent violation of Rule 3.09. This, even after the District Attorney had been asked to excuse himself because of the apparent conflict of interest by the fact that one of his employees is directly related to one of the accused officers. An apparent violation of ethical rules, a perception of impropriety and now a court hearing cancelled at the last minute.
Yesterday morning, in the 120th District Court, a hearing had been scheduled at 10:00 am to address some of the issues brought forth. The hearing was cancelled and it appears that it has not been rescheduled. Attempts to contact Judge Aguilar and his office were unsuccessful. The Attorney for the young lady, a defendant against charges of lying to the police while alleging sexual abuse, stated to the El Paso Tribune that he had received notice the afternoon before by Judge Aguilar that the hearing had been cancelled. When asked when it was rescheduled for, the attorney stated he did not know.
A family in turmoil, one daughter dead at the hands of a hit and run driver, another daughter facing criminal charges for accusing two officers of sexual abuse, a father of one of the accused working in the office that coincidently determines whether a son is to be prosecuted or not while that same office determines that the accuser is a liar is something out of some mystery magazine, yet for those involved, a terrifying experience that is exacerbated by the actions of a prosecutor who appears to be oblivious to the public’s perception. Trials are designed to get to the truth, canceling one at the last minute with no apparent reason, especially in a case already replete with questions further magnifies the apparent failures of the system while adding fuel to the conspiracies circulating in the community. If for nothing else, this case needs to addressed, openly and under the spotlight of the community in order to guarantee the integrity of the process. Decency and the underlining trust of the system demands this; otherwise we must seriously question the integrity of the whole system before subjecting ourselves further to its authority.