For more than a decade, I have represented Central Texans charged with crimes. I have stood by some clients arrested by the Waco Police Department whom juries found guilty. I have stood by other clients arrested by Waco PD whom juries found not guilty.
On June 21, I told Trib reporter Tommy Witherspoon that my client — I’m going to stop mentioning her name — never concealed a gun inside her vagina. You see, that was the story told by Waco PD and then repeated by everyone. And I mean everyone, globally, thanks to the power of the Internet.
I probably spoke out of turn by going on to claim that such a thing was not possible. I imagine it could be possible in some cases, but my client stands by her claim that it did not occur here. Client and officer disagreed at the time about the exact placement of the gun. They still disagree. However, the gun’s placement has nothing to do with why I write.
I write to address the response by Waco Police Sgt. Patrick Swanton, who took issue with my statement. Unfortunately, Sgt. Swanton didn’t simply stick to the issue as I did. Instead, he opted for an ad hominem attack. He called me “unprofessional” and “inexperienced,” neither of which is true. And why? Because I had the nerve to challenge a “fact” reported by Waco PD. He is trying to shame me and, by extension, the rest of us into not questioning the police. And that is dangerous. Really dangerous.
Our justice system depends on juries asking questions. All kinds of questions, including those about law enforcement. They must question the police. In every case. That’s their job. In fact, juries are required by law to assume that defendants who have been arrested by Waco PD and are standing trial are innocent. Swanton’s comments seek to subvert that process: “Question the Waco PD and we won’t just argue the fact in question, we will publicly attack your character.” Further, the sergeant twists my comments to justify his attack. He claims I called his officer a liar. This is simply not true. I said the gun was not concealed inside the vagina. It is possible that an officer is mistaken. I have had multiple trials where officers were indeed mistaken. Conversely, I have had multiple trials where clients were mistaken. But I never said anyone lied. I never threatened the department with defamation. I attacked no one. I simply offered a different version of what happened and, for that, he seeks to crucify me.
We have more than 150 Twin Peaks trials coming up where the credibility of police will be front and center. Law and evidence demand that jurors ask lots of questions. There are powers-that-be who would love for jurors not to question police. They would like you to believe that if a police officer says it, then it must be true. They don’t want you to ask why the Waco PD sat back and funneled motorcycles to Twin Peaks instead of intervening and breaking up the meeting. They don’t want you to ask why police officers felt the need to train fully automatic weapons on terrified Twin Peaks waitresses as they walked from the walk-in freezer out the front door. And they sure don’t want you asking why police told the world there were 1,000 weapons in the restaurant when 320 (many of which were locked away in vehicles) were found.
Incidentally, by my count, that’s a difference of 680 weapons. That’s a lot. How did that happen? I’m not sure, but I hope our juries, our press and all of our citizens keep asking questions like these — and insist on answers, not name-calling.