Most of the cases hinging on testimony from Gerald Goines involved delivery of a controlled substance or other drug-related charges
St. John Barned-Smith
HOUSTON — Prosecutors have identified 69 additional people possibly convicted on false evidence from former Houston Police narcotics officer Gerald Goines, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg announced Wednesday.
As a result of an ongoing probe of Goines’ work, prosecutors filed motions Wednesday requesting judges appoint lawyers for the 69 so they can begin the process of seeking to have their cases overturned.
The defendants identified all pleaded guilty and never went to trial, and the charges against them were solely based on Goines’ casework, prosecutors said.
“Most of the cases involve delivery of a controlled substance and nearly all resulted in the loss of liberty, ranging from a few months in the Harris County Jail to four years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice,” according to a release from the district attorney.
Lawyers for each defendant would review whether the evidence presented by Goines was material in convicting their client – and if so, decide whether to request a new trial. Prosecutors have already signaled they would seek to have such cases dismissed.
Goines, the officer at the center of the scandal, now stands charged with murder in the Jan. 28, 2019 deaths of Dennis Tuttle and Rhogena Nicholas. He is accused of lying about the drug buy and other casework at the center of the fatal raid on the couple’s house in south Houston. The Harris County District Attorney’s Office, the Houston Police Department, and the FBI all launched probes into the incident, and in addition to the state court murder charges Goines is charged with civil rights violations in federal court.
His former partner, Steven Bryant, is charged in state and federal court with tampering with a government record.
Earlier this month, two brothers — Otis and Steven Mallet — charged in 2008 saw their convictions overturned.
After the brothers’ convictions were overturned, Ogg said defendants convicted between 2008 to 2019 in which Goines played a substantial role would be entitled to a presumption that the former narcotics officer provided false evidence to secure their convictions.
“We need to clear people convicted solely on the word of a police officer whom we can no longer trust,” Ogg said.
In the aftermath of the scandal, prosecutors dismissed dozens of active cases that Goines and Bryant had worked on and announced a review of 14,000 past cases the two men and their former squadmates had worked on.
Prosecutors ultimately identified 441 cases Goines worked between 2008 and 2019, which led to 263 convictions against 234 defendants. The 69 identified Wednesday rested solely on Goines’ casework. The news does not mean each defendant will automatically see the conviction overturned or otherwise receive relief, courthouse veterans said. Rather, they or their attorneys will have to see post-conviction relief.
Veteran defense attorneys said the number of cases the DA was calling into question was unprecedented in recent memory.
“It’s very big. I cannot remember a DA moving for relief – or at least questioning the quality of a conviction in that many cases over one pattern of activity by an officer,” said Alex Bunin, Harris County’s Chief Public Defender. “Usually there’s some cases a DA will say, ‘yeah there might have resulted in some wrongful convictions,’ but this is on a much bigger scale.”
Bunin and other courthouse veterans said the cases also raise broader questions about supervision within HPD’s narcotics division.
“I would suspect he could not have done this without anyone knowing and with at least their acquiescence — if not assistance,” Bunin said.
Another local defense attorney, Pat McCann, said he believed the 69 latest cases represent a fraction of defendants whose cases ought to be overturned.
“There’s probably more,” he said. He said Goines’ tenure in the narcotics division — and his years training people who are now mid-level supervisors, left open the possibility that other officers could have emulated Goines’ misconduct. “We in the defense bar have been watching narcotics officers … follow an ‘anything goes’ mentality in the drug wars for the last couple decades.”
In the aftermath of the raid, Chief Art Acevedo promised a review of the Narcotics Division. More than a year later, he has not released the findings of that review.
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