from the start-talking dept
The Houston Police Department’s botched drug raid that resulted in the killing of the home’s two occupants continues to cause problems for the PD and the city of Houston. The raid was predicated on a phone call from an unbalanced, vengeful neighbor with a history of calling in bogus crime reports. Probable cause was bolstered (if that’s even the word) by dirty cop Gerald Goines, who fabricated a confidential informant and provided evidence for drug trafficking allegations by pulling heroin from the console of his cop car.
The end result was the execution of Dennis Tuttle and Rhogena Nicholas — a couple who had been together for 21 years and whose house contained nothing more than personal use amounts of marijuana and cocaine. There was no evidence of the heroin dealing alleged by Goines’ nonexistent informant.
Goines is now facing murder charges and a handful of other felony charges. The PD’s drug task force has been disbanded. And Rhogena Nicholas’ mother — who was at one point falsely named as the person behind the anonymous tip Goines supposedly received — is suing the city for its failure to properly oversee the police department. (via Courthouse News)
The city has so far refused to cooperate with the lawsuit. Nicholas wants to depose city officials about the raid but the city has chosen to continue its stonewalling and obfuscation. The city (and the PD) have done everything they can to avoid giving Nicholas anything to work with, starting immediately after it became clear the raid wasn’t justified and had been led by an incredibly dirty cop. Here’s the Texas appeals court’s description [PDF] of the city’s post-raid recalcitrance:
After the Harding Street Incident, the City did not contact Petitioners and did not respond to Petitioners’ request to publicly correct or retract what Petitioners contended were factually incorrect statements. For example, Rhogena’s neighbor provided a cell phone video that suggested a different account of what happened at the Harding Street home than that set forth by the City. The City has resisted efforts by Petitioners to secure the 911 records related to the Harding Street Incident. Moreover, HPD has refused to disclose what physical materials may have been removed from the scene.
Weird. I always thought this was something guilty people did — you know, “nothing to hide, nothing to fear,” etc. I understand there’s no reason to hand plaintiffs ammo to use against you, but the city was unwilling to do anything to correct the record even before it was sued.
The order also points to the independent forensic examination of the crime scene which made it clear Houston PD investigators were either horrifyingly inept or trying to cover something up.
Petitioners retained an independent forensic investigator to conduct an independent investigation at the Harding Street home. After analyzing the scene, the investigator concluded that HPD failed to conduct a full ballistic recovery and left significant forensic materials untouched and unrecovered, preventing a full reconstruction of the incident.
The plaintiffs also pointed out a legitimate investigation includes confidential informants that actually exist and controlled drug buys that actually occurred. None of that happened here and Nicholas alleges the city and PD officials continued to refer to the residence as a “drug house” even when it presumably had been made aware of Goines’ fakery.
And there was oh so much lying by Gerald Goines.
Petitioners further plead that local news media revealed that in the last 109 cases filed by Gerald Goines based on a sworn affidavit in support of a search warrant: “In every one of those cases in which he claimed confidential informants observed guns inside, no weapons were ever recovered, according to evidence logs Goines filed with the court.” On this basis, Petitioners request the depositions of the two HPD managers responsible for oversight of Gerald Goines in the HPD Narcotics Division.
The city and the PD argued the court had no jurisdiction to tell it to comply with these pre-trial discovery requests. The appeals court says the government is wrong.
[T]he statutory probate court has subject matter jurisdiction over the anticipated action under the Estates Code. Hence, the trial court did not err in denying the City’s plea to the jurisdiction regarding the Rule 202 proceeding. […] The City’s issue is overruled.
The city and PD will have to face questions from the relatives of people officers killed during a completely unjustified drug raid. Good. They have a lot to answer for. And the more they talk, the more obvious it will be no one in power really cares how the Drug War is carried out, just as long as it never stops.