The criminal cases in Waco that flowered after the Twin Peaks Massacre last May 17 have become a grotesque parody of justice – whatever the meaning of “justice” might now be. Justice has obviously become much more complicated than what all those dead, white men who wrote the Constitution meant when they made the noise “justice.”
The prosecutors of the 106 criminal cases, or 186 or however many criminal cases there are, keep trying to redefine the most basic elements of American law. For example, during the last month the two most visible defense lawyers in the case, Clint Broden (who represents a Scimitar named Matthew Clendennen) and Paul Looney (who represent a Cossack named Cody Ledbetter) have been citing the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution, which reads:
“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.:
Clendennen wants his trial moved out of Waco because for the last ten months public officials have been bragging that they saved the city from being raped by Clendennen and other biker scum. The Waco news media have repeated this accusation so often that Clendennen fears the jury that may eventually try him could never be “impartial.” Whatever “impartial” means.
The Law As An Ass
Ledbetter has been politely demanding a “speedy” trial. Last week, Looney filed a motion on his behalf with the Tenth District of Texas Court of Appeals. The motion, if granted would compel a Waco judge named Ralph Strother to schedule a trial for Ledgetter. The prosecution in Waco has lobbied against speedy trials because the prosecutors fear they don’t yet have enough evidence to secure convictions. And various important courts have ruled that the Sixth Amendment is not as cut and dried as it might seem to people who only speak plain English.
In a case called Barker v. Wingo, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that there is no clear line between speedy and slow. That court identified four “factors” judges should consider when deciding whether a trial is “speedy.” They include: “Length of delay, the reason for the delay, the defendant’s assertion of his right, and prejudice to the defendant.” The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals claims to agree that the importance of these four factors should be measured on a “sliding scale.” The two most interesting of these are that a defendant must assert “his right to a speedy trial; and whether the defendant suffered prejudice” as result of a judicial delay.
Looney seems adept at the obstacle course of Waco law. His thinks Ledbetter is innocent. He doesn’t think the local prosecutor, a sophistical buffoon named Abel Reyna, can prove Ledbetter guilty of anything. He wants Ledbtter to have his damn trial now. Looney promises not to seek a plea deal and his lawyering is particularly interesting when he describes the “prejudice” Ledbetter has suffered as a result of his delayed day in court.
At a hearing on January 8, Looney told Judge Strother that Ledbetter has “suffered serious and longstanding harm, a lot of emotional issues by virtue of this incident where he watched his father die,” and that he “is being denied the opportunity that other crime victims have to receive state crime victims’ funds. Because he’s being accused of a crime, he’s now not eligible to receive the benefits he would otherwise be entitled to. And a fair reading of the discovery and my own investigation yields that he is a crime victim and not a criminal, and he needs to be put in the proper posture so that he can quit being denied the opportunity to have the benefits that the law entitles him to.”
At that hearing Assistant District Attorney Michael Jarrett, a screw up who shot out his own window a couple of years ago, called Ledbetter’s claim that he was a crime victim “a slap in the face of justice” and argued, basically, that because Ledbetter was out of jail he had no right to a speedy trial.
Looney, quoting the Barker decision, cites Ledbetter’s “anxiety and concern” as elements of prejudice in Strother’s refusal to schedule a trial. He argues that “Additional related factors are the lack of employment, credit, and rental opportunities suffered by one who stands charged with a serious felony. Such a person is under a penumbra of suspicion and is so burdened – sometimes oppressively so – in his routine daily life.”
Forcing the prosecution to actually try the defendants it accused ten months ago and indicted four months ago might expedite the ends of justice.
Like the justice of forcing Waco, McLennan County and Texas to reimburse the defendants for the suffering this half baked case has caused and continues to cause.