A District Court judge in Galveston, Texas took an unusual step after discovering the prosectuor knowingly withheld exculpatory evidence.She entered a directed verdict of acquittal. (the authority to do that is debatable - but given the circumstances you wouldn't expect them to challenge it)

The exculpatory evidence was the 911 call made by the victim. When talking with the dispatcher she said the assailants wore ski masks and she didn't get a good luck at them. At trial she remarkbly identified the defendant. Apparently the police and prosecutor pressured her into making the identification; at least that's the allegation in a 3 million dollar lawsuit that has been filed.

You have to wonder how the case got this far. Even the most rookie cop should question an identification when the victim originally said they didn't see the assailant. Did they just turn the othe way, and chalk it up to a mistake or mis-interpretation? Or did they think they had the right person and wanted to make sure they got a conviction - the ends justifies the means argument.

This apparently was not an isolated incident - which is probably why the judge took the extreme action she did. It appears that the prosecutor had withheld evidence before, and had done the same thing in the county he previously worked at. If that's the case, you also have to wonder why he still had a job.

This goes to show that you cannot accept everything the state says, and must challenge everything. You also must obtain all the available evidence. We routinely request 911 calls for this very reason; the first time you hear it shouldn't be in trial.

Kudos to the judge for doing the right thing. Let's now see if the prosecutor gets what he deserves.

Walter Reaves
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Criminal Defense Attorney Walter Reaves has been practicing law for over 35 years.
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