In the midst of the first Twin Peaks biker trial in Waco, a judge has been appointed to hear a court of inquiry to determine if McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna or Waco police Detective Manuel Chavez lied during a hearing last year in the Twin Peaks shootout cases.
First Administrative Regional Judge Mary Murphy, of Dallas, on Friday appointed David Peeples, judge of the Fourth Administrative Region, to preside over the court of inquiry.
According to court of inquiry procedure, Peeples will now appoint a special prosecutor to handle the matter. No hearing date had been set Friday for the court of inquiry.
Based on an affidavit from Dallas attorney Clint Broden, 203rd State District Judge Teresa Hawthorne found Monday that there is probable cause to believe an offense was committed and to request a regional administrative judge to convene a court of inquiry.
Peeples, of San Antonio, previously served as a justice on the Fourth Court of Appeals in San Antonio and judge of the 285th and 224th state district courts in Bexar County.
The court of inquiry will focus on an Aug. 8, 2016, hearing in which Reyna testified to what Broden calls “extensive discussions” he had with Chavez before Chavez signed the identical, “fill-in-the-name” Twin Peaks arrest warrant affidavits for 177 motorcyclists following the May 17, 2015, shootout at the Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco.
Chavez testified he never spoke to Reyna that night.
Chavez has declined comment on the court of inquiry, while Reyna did not return a phone message Monday or Friday.
The Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas has hired Waco attorney J.R. Vicha, a former prosecutor in Reyna’s office, to represent Chavez in the court of inquiry. Vicha declined comment Friday.
“If it appears from the court of inquiry that Mr. Reyna or Mr. Chavez committed perjury, the judge presiding over the court of inquiry will issue a warrant for the arrest of the offender,” Broden said in a statement Monday. “The Texas Court of Inquiry procedure is not used often. However, its use is particularly appropriate where there is probable cause to believe a crime may have been committed by a public official that might otherwise not be investigated.”
The court may also find that no perjury took place.
Broden and other attorneys have attempted to have Reyna disqualified based on the conflicting testimony at the hearing involving the cases of Matthew Clendennen and Ray Nelson, two bikers accused of participating in the deadly shootout, which left nine dead and more than a dozen injured.
“In my almost 30 years of law practice, I have never had to even consider requesting a court of inquiry,” Broden wrote in the statement. “Nevertheless, perjury strikes at the core of our system of justice and, therefore, apparent contradictory statements under oath by public officials must be investigated.”
Broden said earlier this week he anticipates other courts of inquiry to be convened to review other aspects of how Reyna’s office handled the Twin Peaks cases, including information outlined in a recent motion to disqualify Reyna’s office from prosecuting the cases because prosecutors released videos from a biker’s cellphone through the discovery process that show him and his wife in a sexual encounter.
Broden has said he thinks the release of the videos constitutes a crime.