HOUSTON – Hundreds of cases connected to the officer at the center of an investigation of a raid-turned-shootout will be reviewed, officials announced Wednesday.
Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said she has ordered the review of 1,400 cases connected to Houston Police Officer Gerald Goines. He is accused of lying to obtain a search warrant that led to the Jan. 28 Harding Street raid that killed 59-year-old Dennis Tuttle and 58-year-old Rhogena Nicholas.
Ogg said 27 of the cases that will be reviewed are active and lawyers involved in those cases have been notified.
"Our duty is to see that justice is done in every case," Ogg said in a written statement. "Although the criminal investigation of Officer Goines is ongoing, we have an immediate ethical obligation to notify defendants and their lawyers in Goines' other cases to give them an opportunity to independently review any potential defenses."
Nicole DeBoarde, Goines' attorney, said her client welcomes the investigation.
"It’s exactly the thing we want them to do," DeBoarde said in a written statement. "We welcome inquiry into his work, background and his character. It’s the right thing for the district attorney to do."
Goines, who Ogg said has been relieved of duty, remains hospitalized after being critically injured during the shootout.
Four other officers were also injured.
A look at Goines' personnel file
Also Wednesday, Channel 2 Investigates obtained the 288-page city of Houston personnel file for Goines.
His 34-year career is marked with numerous commendations and above average performance reviews, particularly once he started working as a narcotics officer, an assignment he had received by August 1993.
Goines' file also provides detail about some of the written reprimands he received over the years.
In 1987, Goines was reprimanded for intimidating a member of the public while on the job.
"We need to go to the gym and straighten this out man to man," Goines said, according to the written reprimand.
In 2002, Goines was in trouble for keeping crack cocaine he’d purchased in a drug buy. The evidence was found unlogged in the toolbox of his city vehicle.
That particular problem persisted, because drugs were also found in Goines' city vehicle after the botched raid in January.
Lisa Andrews has worked as a defense attorney for more than 20 years and said she’s not surprised by the allegations that have come to light. Her client’s case is one of the 27 that are under review by the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.
"I think practitioners who do this every day who deal with drug cases on both sides of the aisle know that there are case where we believe, sometimes we can prove, sometimes we can’t that there are fabrications in search warrants, so it doesn’t really surprise me,” Andrews said.
She said her client is currently facing life behind bars for one drug charge, possession of a controlled substance with the intent to deliver.
“I believe my client and I don’t believe the officers were telling the truth on this case,” Andrews said. “I have a case that’s set for trial right now and one of the reasons why it’s set for trial is because I have long believed that there were fabrications in the search warrant, there are a lot of things that don’t make sense in the case.”
The attorney said she did not want to elaborate on specifics because they are set for trial in mid-April, but said she can prove her client was not at the scene where Officer Goines and other members conducted the arrest.
“My client was never at the scene and the officers on Squad 15, which is the same squad as officer Goines, claimed they did surveillance and saw my client at a location. I can prove definitively that he was never at that location on that day, with documentation, work records, things like that. I know they are not telling the truth about what they saw on surveillance and the subsequent arrest,” Andrews said.
Donale Evans, another defense is also representing someone whose case will be under review by the DA. His client doesn’t have a trial date yet and remains behind bars because of his bond.
“I believe my client is innocent. I believe his constitutional rights were breached,” Evans said.
He too, did not want to go into details of his case, but said he started to notice red flags with his client’s case.
“I don’t want to go into too many details but my client was arrested in regards to a confidential informant’s testimony about something going on at a particular house and Mr. Goines said he did business with the person on numerous occasion and because of that reason they were able to go into a house and they arrested my client despite him not being there,” Evans said.
He said he believes there is a problem with the way the law protects confidential informants.
“The reason why that’s a problem is, in most cases we do not find out who the confidential informant is, only if the confidential informant is an essential part of the case and the case cannot be made without that person, do we ever find out. By that time the defendant has already been in jail, charged and arrested and by that time, we still might not have opportunity to find out, only if the judge rules in our favor, only do we find out if the confidential informant was essential or in this case if they ever resisted,” Evans said.
Andrews similarly stated that she too believes there’s a lot riding on what a confidential informant says.
“Because their identity is protected for the most part and in almost circumstances, the judge is never going to let you know what the identity of the confidential informant is and without that identity, there’s no way to really know if what they’re saying in those warrants is true or not. Did a confidential informant really make a buy from that house, within 24 hours, like the warrant says? Well, when you don’t know who it is, you have no idea if that’s true or not,” she said.
Evans said he believes the situation involving Goines and the alleged fabrications of a confidential informant would not have come to light if it weren't for the botched raid.
“Just like in this case, but for the tragic accident that happened with the two individuals that lost their life, we would have never known this person [the confidential informant] did not exist unless [Tuttle's attorney] filed a motion and a judge ruled in their attorney’s favor that this person (exists)," explained Evans if the couple survived the raid. “Those people have essentially invested and lost so much for what could be a lie. In this case, they lost the ultimate price -- their lives.”
Andrews and Evans said they hope their client's cases are dismissed and said the recent situation is sad for the entire justice system.
"It’s pretty disheartening -- it’s very disheartening. The law gives officers a very wide latitude. They give them tremendous power and tremendous authority over people and their lives. And for the most part, officers do a great job every day of protecting the public, but there are some officers that take that power and authority and they abuse it,” Andrews said. “And when they make up confidential informants, when they lie in sworn affidavits about information in order to get a search warrant to go into someone’s home and search and look at their most personal things, they are doing a big disservice to the public. Because it makes people not trust the legal system and the justice system, and when people begin to not trust the institution of our society, then it causes a lot of chaos and distrust.”
Said Evans, “I think it’s a sad situation, like, I deal with attorneys every day. I also deal with officers every day, so this is going to put a stain on everyone in this case -- the city of Houston, the officers, the criminal justice system. It’s just going to put a stain on everything."
Editor's note: Prosecutors originally said 28 of the cases were active, but later corrected the number. The story reflects that correction.