Conflicts of interest are common in the practice of law and when a conflict arises, the best course of action is simply move on in order to avoid even the slightest hint of impropriety, which is what happened with District Attorney Abel Reyna recusing his office from the upcoming trial of Matthew Clendennen. But what does that exactly mean in the short and long term?
D.A. Reyna apparently is or was being investigated by the federal government for public corruption regarding selective prosecution. It seems Reyna was not prosecuting political allies and/or those he knew on a personal level. In addition, as mentioned in yesterday’s blog, another attorney seems willing and able to testify that cocaine was delivered to Reyna in the weeks leading to the shootings at the Twin Peaks in Waco, Texas.
In the days of cocaine cowboys, one of the largest public corruption schemes in Miami was “Operation Courtbroom,” where judges were issuing low bond amounts to drug dealers in exchange for bribes. When the judges were arrested/convicted, every case they handled was appealed by defense attorneys. That is common and expected. Thus, the possibility exists that every case prosecuted by D.A. Reyna’s office, not just those regarding the bikers, will end up being appealed.
Edward L. Wilkinson of the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office addressed these issues in “In Disqualification of Counsel in Criminal Cases on the Grounds of Conflict of Interest.”
D.A. Reyna’s Office withdrew which is voluntarily as compared to a disqualification which is based on law. However, for all intent and purposes from a legal standpoint, a withdraw has the same effect as a disqualification.
Once Reyna and his office is disqualified since this has to be approved by the Judge first, and it will be, the court will appoint another attorney to stand in the place of the McLennan County District Attorney’s Office.
The key is that the new attorney(s) are now in the actual role of the D.A., which means they are not subject to control or direction of Abel Reyna. That means that the newly appointed D.A. may disagree with the charges against the pending defendants and either reduce the charges or dismiss them all together. I’m sure under normal circumstances, a D.A. does not want to attach their names to a losing cause. Legal experts agree that the charges as they currently stand on the defendants from murder to organized criminal activity would be a high burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.
Regardless of what the defendants are charged with in the future, we are guaranteed to see every defendant seek recusal of the McLennan County D.A.’s Office and this will of course result in further delays. Failure to withdraw from all these cases will most definitely be part of the issues raised on appeal.
Maybe now the defendants will receive the fair trials they deserve since that is all everybody wanted from the beginning. Time will tell.