Articles Posted in Pretrial

Everyone knows the line “you have got the right to remain silent” – its part of the “Miranda Warnings” that officers say to suspects after they’ve been arrested. When an average citizen says that you shouldn’t talk to the police, he’s thinking of that kind of situation — where a guy is handcuffed and leaning against a patrol car with red and blue lights flashing in the background.

It’s easy to keep your mouth shut under those circumstances . . . but that’s normally not when a suspect talks.

Most people accused of crimes, especially serious felonies, aren’t under arrest when they first encounter law enforcement. They will get a phone call from an investigator, or a laid back invitation from an officer trying to “figure out what’s going on” or who “just wants to hear your side of the story.” These law enforcement professionals will sound friendly, relaxed, and helpful. They will assure the suspect that there are no charges pending, that no one’s under arrest, and that all they want to do is talk.

contract-1426885-1280x960
By: Tracy Pullan

Today I am here to dispel some of those myths about the effectiveness of “dropping charges” on an alleged abuser in Montgomery County, Texas. I remember my days as a new prosecutor over 10 years ago. I, and two others, were in charge of all the misdemeanor intake for Montgomery County. That job required countless hours of reading offense reports submitted by police officers followed by either accepting or rejecting charges. It was an excellent way to become familiar with elements of criminal offenses and spotting potential issues within a case. Many times that would entail calling an officer or victim to get some further information prior to accepting charges.

Many times an assault family violence charge would come across my desk where the victim/complainant wanted to drop charges. At the time, I would review the case, look at photos for injuries, talk to the complainant – and 9 times out of 10 – I would honor the request of the complainant and reject the charge. This meant the arrested individual did not have to come to court or hire an attorney to defend his or her interest.

Once upon a time in a not-so-distant past a prosecutor named Ken Anderson decided that he wanted to send a man named Michael Morton to prison for killing his (Mr. Morton’s) wife. The only problem was that Mr. Morton didn’t actually commit the murder.

But Mr. Anderson couldn’t be troubled with such stubborn facts, so he deliberately withheld exculpatory evidence during the trial. Mr. Morton was found guilty and served 25 years in prison. The withheld evidence included a blood-soaked bandana found at the crime scene that belonged to Mark Allan Norwood, the man ultimately convicted of the murder of Mr. Morton’s wife and another woman.

This awful series of events eventually led to the disbarment of Mr. Anderson (who had subsequently been elected to a district court bench), a finding of contempt (with a sentence of just ten days in jail, which seems a bit soft-handed in light of the 25 years served by Mr. Morton), and an agreed audit of every Williamson County case handled by Mr. Anderson (read about that little-know fact here).

Continue reading

Contact Information