A state district judge accused the Dallas County District Attorney’s office of frequently failing to release evidence to defense attorneys in accordance with state law during Friday’s hearing.
District Attorney John Criso and the head of his appeals division, former Judge Jennifer Balido, agreed that the serious problem with obtaining all evidence from police authorities has been a long-standing one and said they are defending a state law that should solve this problem in 2021. . But prosecutors disagreed with Judge Amber. Givens’ notion of a “common” problem.
Givens listed five cases since 2017 that she said were affected when lawyers discovered late in the trial that local police departments had not handed over all of their evidence. She said she had “so many trials” scheduled this week but was unable to continue “probably 99% of them due to opening issues.”
“It wouldn’t be a wake-up call if it wasn’t so widespread,” Givens said. She said she wanted to make sure the problem wasn’t just in her court before going to higher prosecutors, so she went to other judges and cited two cases where she said evidence wasn’t turned over in a timely manner. from the court of State District Judge Stephanie Huff.
Friday’s hearing comes after Givens last month instructed prosecutors to regularly fill out forms saying they met with police and certify that all evidence was obtained in their cases, according to a motion filed by the district attorney’s office.
The motion argued that Givens’ mandate went beyond what the law requires of prosecutors. State law requires prosecutors to turn over to defense attorneys all evidence against a suspect, even if the prosecution does not intend to use it.
According to the motion, Creso instructed his prosecutors not to fill out the Givens forms.
At Friday’s hearing, Givens said she had no intention of demanding the form from prosecutors and decided that their request was moot. She then accused the office of failing to secure all of the police evidence.
“The uniform was not meant to punish anyone. This was to ensure that we don’t have people accused of wrongdoing sitting in jail because the police department didn’t provide all the evidence or, for that matter, the state didn’t do a full investigation,” Givens said. “And that’s why we don’t have victims waiting because they deserve their day too.”
Givens said that in the 2022 capital murder case against Devior Davis Jefferson, police collected mobile phone information in April, but prosecutors didn’t request it until November. His trial is set for the end of the month.
In another case, lawyers were in the middle of a trial for the murder of Michael Queen in August when a detective, during an interrogation of defense lawyers, testified that about 60 videos had not been released to prosecutors or defense lawyers, Givens said. The guest judge who replaced Givens adjourned the trial for several weeks. In late September, a jury found Queen guilty of murder.
Givens said a 2018 capital murder case against Cassius Williams, the son of former Dallas Cowboys lineman Eric Williams, was eventually dropped in December 2019 after Mesquite police repeatedly released undisclosed evidence.
Balido agreed. In this case, Balido asked the police for evidence that they did not provide in a timely manner “for whatever reason,” Givens said.
Creso said he dealt with the aftermath of the affair and “it was difficult for everyone involved.”
As evidence that the issue is being addressed, Creso pointed to the Richard Miles Act, a 2021 law named after a Dallas man wrongfully convicted of murder, which requires police authorities to verify that they turned over all evidence at the time they file cases with prosecutors. If the police later discover additional evidence, they must disclose it immediately, as required by law.
Most of the cases listed by Givens were filed with the district attorney’s office before the law was passed.
“In the last legislative session, we were the ones who drafted the Richard Miles Act and asked for sponsorship,” Crusoe said.
Creso said there is a problem in the state when lawyers and judges discover, sometimes on the eve of a trial, that the police have not turned everything over. Miles spent 15 years in prison after Dallas police failed to turn over evidence to prosecutors that identified other suspects. He was rehabilitated in 2012.
Since the law was passed, Dallas County police have been 93-95% in compliance with the law, Creso said.
“Your concern is our concern,” Creso told Givens. “We understand. We’re on board.
Creso said his office would meet with Givens to see what else they could do.
“I look forward to being able to stand trial and have no detection issues, and I look forward to meeting you,” Givens said.
Givens has been criticized by defense lawyers in recent years, but the criticism has not swayed voters. Last year, she overwhelmingly won her re-election bid, taking 53% of the vote against two Democratic primary challengers and avoiding a runoff. There was no Republican nominee in the November vote, and this month she began her third four-year term as a judge.
A 2021 complaint by defense attorneys to the State Commission on Judicial Conduct that Givens allegedly ordered an employee to conduct an off-screen virtual trial in her place was the subject of an investigation by the Texas Department of Public Safety. The agency said this week that the investigation is ongoing. Givens denies wrongdoing.
Creso stepped down from his position in the face of any potential prosecution as a result of the investigation, and the Kaufman County District Attorney’s Office was appointed in case the state agency turned over the case.
More than a dozen lawyers filed motions to dismiss Givens in more than 100 cases last year. They said they could not get a fair trial before Givens due to their involvement in the complaint.