Texas DA seeks to overturn 91 more cases tied to ex-cop
There are now over 150 cases tied to former Houston cop Gerald Goines that could be dismissed
St. John Barned-Smith
HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — Prosecutors have identified another 91 cases that they believe should be dismissed because of the role disgraced former Houston police officer Gerald Goines played in the convictions.
Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said Wednesday that her prosecutors have begun filing requests to judges to begin the process of getting each case dismissed.
Prosecutors made a similar request to judges in February, citing about 70 cases between 2008 and 2019 in which defendants were convicted solely on Goines’ casework.
Ogg said Wednesday’s court action came in part because of the accusations against Goines in the operation that claimed the lives of Dennis Tuttle and Rhogena Nicholas — namely that Goines lied on the search warrant used to raid their home.
“Rhogena Nicholas and Dennis Tuttle would be alive if a municipal judge had not signed a falsified warrant,” Ogg said. “If that magistrate had known Goines had lied on previous warrants, then I believe he would not have signed the warrant that led to their deaths.”
The entire list of cases under scrutiny has now grown to more than 160 — an “unprecedented” number to be overturned by one officer, courthouse veterans said, and reflective of more serious recent scrutiny of police officers.
“This is not a matter that should be shrugged off,” said Gene Wu, a state representative from Houston and a former prosecutor who has called on Chief Art Acevedo to provide more information about the narcotics division.. “It’s a serious indictment of the Houston Police Department’s special investigations units. It will take a serious amount of work to rebuild the public trust for these types of cases.”
All of the defendants are people of color, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors did not investigate the facts of each case but are asking judges to appoint each defendant a defense attorney who can work to get each case dismissed. Chief Public Defender Alex Bunin said that lawyers will now begin the long process of investigating each case, contacting individual defendants and filing writs on their behalf.
Judges would then recommend to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals whether they believed individual cases should be overturned. If the appellate court’s judges agree, the cases would return to Harris County, where prosecutors said they woulddismiss each case.
“For a single officer to cause this many convictions to be overturned,” Bunin said, “it’s unprecedented in Harris County.”
Goines is charged with murder in the Jan. 28, 2019, raid that ended in Tuttle and Nicholas’ deaths and with four officers getting shot. In addition to the state court murder charges, Goines is charged with civil rights violations in federal court. As investigators pursued their case against him, allegations of lying in past casework came to light. In February, judges overturned convictions of two brothers Goines said he bought drugs from in 2008 and recommended the state’s highest criminal appeals court find both men “actually innocent.”
Ogg then said defendants in nearly 70 cases dating from 2008 to 2019 in cases in which Goines played a substantial role would be entitled to a presumption that the former narcotics officer lied to secure their convictions.
In April, another judge overturned a third conviction — one in which Goines said he purchased $10 of crack cocaine from a homeless woman and paid her with money for beer.
With the new cases, prosecutors looked at all convictions during the period in which Goines signed the search warrant used in the case. They did not investigate the facts of each conviction, said Josh Reiss, post-conviction division chief at the district attorney’s office. Instead, the list reflects cases in which Goines signed affidavits used to obtain search warrants used in each defendant’s conviction.
Others said more defendants were likely victims of Goines’ alleged misconduct.
“I have no doubt there are more people out there who are sitting in prison based on false testimony or just sloppy police work,” said Jonathan Landers, a local defense attorney who represented one Goines defendant whose case was overturned earlier this year. “It’s a sad situation, quite frankly.”
Goines’ defense attorney, Nicole DeBorde, criticized the DA’s actions, which she said said were a self-serving effort to bolster prosecutors’ criminal case against her client.
“They have absolutely no new or independent evidence to suggest there is anything wrong with those cases,” she said. “They certainly do not treat any other cases the same way. I expect to see more and more of these as we approach election time.”