Six DA’s and the Grand Juries They Persuade

Ever heard the following sayings, “Even a paper clip can be indicted”? How about “A DA can indict a ham sandwich”?These are popular sayings when it comes to District Attorneys and the grand juries to which they have unfettered access. Those chief prosecutors, may however, be among the few who subscribe to the validity of such statements.
Rarely in history of American jurisprudence has so much critical attention been paid to the grand jury system. Not to be confused with the more familiar, petit jury. You know, the one so many Americans try their best to avoid serving on.
Just what is the the Grand Jury; and where did it come from? Or perhaps more fittingly, where is it headed?
District Attorneys from six Texas counties, Brazos, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Jefferson, and Waller, were surveyed for this article; only one, Cory Crenshaw of Jefferson County declined to respond to our questions. Crenshaw stated by email, “…while we appreciate your reaching out to this office, we respectfully decline to participate in the interview process…”
Fortunately, the other five agreed to be interviewed, and their thoughts will be shared with the reader. But first, a little about the history of the grand jury.
Attorney John Brewer shared the following information about grand juries, with members of the Texas District and County Attorneys Association.
“A grand jury (in Texas) is a group of twelve people who meet qualification as set out in the Texas code of Criminal Procedures. They must be citizens of the county in which the grand jury sits, able to read and write, not under indictment, etc…” But Brewer adds, (the code) suggests the court consider additional factors when starting the selection process; that those chosen should ‘represent a broad cross-section of the population of the county, considering the factors of race, sex, and age.’
With regular (petit) juries, prosecutors and defense attorneys are allowed to eliminate individuals from a larger pool of potential jurors. a practice which has traditionally led to the exclusion of “certain” individuals mostly minorities. That practice combined with “jury dodgers” has traditionally resulted in a disproportionately low number of minorities serving on juries.
But with Grand juries, no such opportunity to strike, with or without cause, exist for the prosecutor or a defense attorney. In fact, it appears that specific legislation is designed to guard against such “discriminating” practice. Says Brewer, “It is a rare occasion that the law mandates that we take into account things like race, gender, and age when selecting a group of citizens to serve in the criminal justice system. Obviously the idea is to have a grand jury made up of people from a variety of backgrounds representing the entire county in which it sits.”
Who knew that such an Affirmative Action policy could go so unchallenged in the state of Texas, be so universally accepted, and yet now so widely distrusted.
Few, if any District Attorneys see any need to change the grand jury process. For sure no DA anywhere would ever admit to their misconduct before such a jury. But what what about the ‘affirmative’ legislative mandate for selecting grand jurors by race, gender, and age, to reflect the communities in which they sit? And what is to be made of the centuries old grand jury system, which is cloaked in almost total secrecy?
John Healy who serves as Fort Bend County’s District Attorney, is not so sure that changing the grand jury system to be more transparent would be beneficial. “The movement seems to be in this country that everyone needs to know everything and I don’t think that needs to be the case.” He further cautions, “I don’t like it (the idea of reforms). It may have a chilling effect on the candor of witnesses.”  Healy believes that the majority of Texans are satisfied with the system and think it good. He adds, “I certainly don’t think a District Attorney could indict anyone, or anything, they wanted to.” Healy went on to say, “the three to four percent who don’t get indicted are quite happy that were weren’t.”
Healy, not surprisingly is not alone in his support for maintaining, without changes, the current grand jury system.
The Brazos, Waller, Galveston and Harris County District Attorneys were implicit in their support for the system as it exist; all maintaining that their offices follow the law and provide both incriminating and exculpatory evidence to the grand jurors.

Brazos County prosecutor Jarvis Parsons says he believes defendants are given the opportunity to present evidence before the grand jury. “The attorney’s representing defendants in our courts have a good relationship with our attorneys. They are pretty much aware of the cases being presented (to the grand jury). They know to contact our office.”
While Parsons may believe his office’s relationship with local practicing defense attorneys is kosher, the reality of DA and defense attorney relationships may be more akin to a marriage going, or gone bad. You know, the relationship where one partner thinks all is good, while the other partner maintains public respect, but with an ever increasing distrust. Such was the case at a recent town hall meeting in Missouri City, Texas, which in part focused on grand juries, which was hosted by Texas State Representative Ron Reynolds.
In an ironic seating arrangement, three defense attorneys sat together on a panel; while between the attorneys and the lone District Attorney on the panel, sat three law enforcement officials.
Criminal defense attorney, Vivian King, was clear about her feelings on the process. “When you add distrust with (grand jury) secrecy, you get a bad result. It’s up to the integrity of the prosecutor,” says King.
Seated next to King was defense attorney, Teana Watson, who spoke of the juror selection process. “When the judges, who select the commissioners, who select the jurors, all belong to the same country club, you’re going to get jurors just like them.” Watson added, “I think because of the current climate, because of the distrust, we need to change the grand jury system. We need grand jury reform in Texas and in America.”
One major problem with the secrecy of the grand jury process is determining just who is, and who isn’t, benefitting by the privacy which shrouds the legal hearing, particularly as it relates to race.

Elton Mathis, who is the current Waller County prosecutor says his office does not maintain statistics on indictments and No-bills of defendants by race. However, the chief prosecutor advised that, “since each indictment lists the DOB, sex, and race of a defendant, someone could review those (data) and compile the statistics.” Of course that compilation would not answer the more elusive question of who, by race, among others demographic variables, was No-billed. It should be also noted that none of the other five offices responding to our survey, maintain such data.

Jack Roady, who serves as the Galveston County Prosecutor says, “we don’t maintain (those) statistics and have no plans to do so. The race of the defendant, or potential defendant, plays no factor in the way a case is presented to the grand jury.”

Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson speaking through staff attorney Julian Ramirez, also conveyed that her office, “does not keep such statistics (by race) and has no intention, at the present time, of compiling such information.”  Ramirez also said that it is the policy of their office to not mention the race of a defendant in their grand jury presentation. However, he did not say whether evidence presented to those jurors would in fact, make that distinction.
None of the District Attorneys offered an opinion on the controversial “No-bills” in Ferguson and NewYork, a surprising silence in the midst of defense attorney’s cries for more changes in the grand jury system. With so much attention now focused on grand juries, and the convening of new legislatures in Texas and around the country, DA’s, like it or not, and criminal defense attorneys may be forced into a sort of “judicial marriage counseling” in what is more commonly called, legislative reform.

Should this “counseling” be so ordered by the Texas legislature, perhaps the gentlemen District Attorney from Jefferson county, a county heavily populated by African-Americans, will be so kind as to participate. It just might be a good thing for future Jefferson County community relations.

October 16, 2023, HOUSTON, TX – Congressional Candidate Amanda Edwards has raised over $1 million in less than 4 months, a substantial sum that helps bolster the frontrunner status of the former At-Large Houston City Council Member in her bid for U.S. Congress. Edwards raised over $433,000 in Q3 of 2023. This strong Q3 report expands on a successful Q2 where Edwards announced just 11 days after declaring her candidacy that she had raised over $600,000. With over $829,000 in cash-on-hand at the end of the September 30th financial reporting period, Edwards proves again that she is the clear frontrunner in the race. “I am beyond grateful for the strong outpouring of support that will help me to win this race and serve the incredible people of the 18th Congressional District,” said Edwards. “We are at a critical juncture in our nation’s trajectory, and we need to send servant leaders to Congress who can deliver the results the community deserves. The strong support from our supporters will help us to cultivate an 18th Congressional District where everyone in it can thrive.” Edwards said. “Amanda understands the challenges that the hard-working folks of the 18th Congressional District face because she has never lost sight of who she is or where she comes from; she was born and raised right here in the 18th Congressional District of Houston,” said Kathryn McNiel, spokesperson for Edwards’ campaign. Edwards has been endorsed by Higher Heights PAC, Collective PAC, Krimson PAC, and the Brady PAC. She has also been supported by Beto O’Rourke, among many others. About Amanda: Amanda is a native Houstonian, attorney and former At-Large Houston City Council Member. Amanda is a graduate of Eisenhower High School in Aldine ISD. Edwards earned a B.A. from Emory University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. Edwards practiced law at Vinson & Elkins LLP and Bracewell LLP before entering public service. Edwards is a life-long member of St. Monica Catholic Church in Acres Homes. For more information, please visit

As September 13th rolls around, we extend our warmest birthday wishes to the creative powerhouse, Tyler Perry, a man whose indomitable spirit and groundbreaking work have left an indelible mark on the world of entertainment. With his multifaceted talents as an actor, playwright, screenwriter, producer, and director, Tyler Perry has not only entertained but also inspired audiences worldwide, particularly within the African-American community, where his influence and role have been nothing short of powerful. Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1969, Tyler Perry’s journey to stardom was a path riddled with adversity. Raised in a turbulent household, he found refuge in writing, using it as a therapeutic outlet. This period of introspection gave rise to one of his most iconic creations, Madea, a vivacious, no-nonsense grandmother who would later become a beloved figure in Perry’s works, offering a unique blend of humor and profound life lessons. Despite facing numerous challenges, including rejection and financial struggles, Perry’s determination and unwavering belief in his abilities propelled him forward. In 1992, he staged his first play, “I Know I’ve Been Changed,” which, although met with limited success, was a pivotal moment in his career. Unfazed by initial setbacks, Perry continued to hone his craft, and by 1998, he had successfully produced a string of stage plays that showcased his storytelling prowess.

Calling all teenage student-athletes! If you have dreams of playing college soccer and wish to represent an HBCU, the HBCU ID Camp is your golden opportunity. From 8 am to 5 pm on November 11-12, Houston Sports Park will transform into a hub for aspiring male and female soccer players. Coaches from HBCUs across the nation will be present to evaluate, scout, and offer valuable feedback. Moreover, they might even spot the next soccer prodigy to join their collegiate soccer programs. This camp is not just about honing your soccer skills but also a chance to connect with the HBCU soccer community. You’ll learn the ins and outs of what it takes to excel on the field and in the classroom, which is crucial for a college athlete. The HBCU ID Camp is an excellent platform to network with coaches, learn from experienced athletes, and take the first steps toward your college soccer journey. To secure your spot at this incredible event, don’t forget to register [here](insert registration link). Space is limited to 120 participants, so make sure to reserve your place before it’s too late. It’s time to turn your dreams of playing college soccer into a reality.

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