83ºF

Legal experts applaud Harris County District Attorney for seeking to overturn cases tied to former HPD officer

HOUSTON – Harris District Attorney Kim Ogg recommended Thursday 91 cases tied to former Houston Police Department officer Gerald Goines be dismissed.

“No conviction should stand based on false testimony,” Ogg said.

The testimony came from Goines, who solely swore, under oath, the existence of probable cause to magistrate judges. In turn, those judges signed warrants based on Goines’ testimony, Ogg said.

Legal experts and community leaders said Ogg’s recommendation is the right move.

“It’s an indication of integrity in the DA’s office,” said Geoffrey Corn, a law professor at South Texas College of Law.

“I think that (Ogg) has a responsibility to review all of these cases,” James Douglas, president of the NAACP Houston Branch and longtime law professor at Texas Southern University. “She is willing to get to the bottom line of what really happened in these cases. Once she knows that she has a rogue law enforcement official, who lies constantly."

Those alleged lies became the framework for cases against people and warrants signed by magistrate judges.

“If the magistrate who Goines asked to sign a warrant to permit the raid on Harding Street had known of his history of lies and deception, he would not have signed it, and Rhogena and Dennis would likely still be alive today, Ogg said in a statement.

Geoffrey Corn said there isn’t much a magistrate judge could have done.

“They had an affidavit sworn under the law by a police officer. They assessed it for probable cause and they found probable cause,” Corn said. “They can’t prevent officers from lying."

Douglas acknowledged the fact that different magistrate judges signed Goines’ warrants over the years. However “if they came to the same magistrate judge with the same factual information all the time, yes, there should have been red flags to say, hey all these people can’t be doing the same thing at the same time.”

In total, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office expects to drop charges associated with 164 cases. The office said most of the defendants are minorities — an “overwhelming majority” are African American.

Douglas said that affects the level of trust people have for the legal system— especially in communities of color.

“You have to remember we’ve always given almost carte blanche to law enforcement," Douglas said. “Whatever they say, we believe. The grand jury believes it. The jury believes it. The prosecution believes it. Everybody believes what police say.”

The NAACP Houston has called for the creation of a citizen review board with subpoena power to examine cases of police corruption. While the request has been denied, Douglas believes the Goines case speaks to the need for the board to be established.

“We need to create a system where we can really investigate charges that are brought by citizens of this county,” Douglas said.