Local NewsIndicted Austin Officer’s Lawyer Pushes Travis County District Attorney to Publish Witness List

A week after being ordered to provide a grand jury witness testimony list, the Travis County District Attorney's Office has yet to comply.
May 18, 2022
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“[O]ne business week is more than ample time for an office staffed by nearly one hundred attorneys to write some names on a piece of paper,” reads a Tuesday court filing from the attorneys of indicted Austin police officer Eric Heim.

Heim is one of 19 Austin police officers indicted for firing less-lethal bean bag munitions during the 2020 protests-turned-riots. The munitions turned out to be defective, causing some in the crowd various injuries uncharacteristic of normal bean bag rounds.

Attorneys Doug O’Connell and Ken Ervin, who represent Heim and seven other indicted officers, called the indictments “broad overreach” shortly after they were issued in February.

Travis County District Attorney José Garza sought the indictments, following through on commitments made during his 2020 campaign for office to turn up prosecutions on police.

But after the indictments, Garza has withheld the list of witnesses his office presented to the grand jury during their indictment consideration. Heim and his attorneys filed a motion to compel the release of that list in March, and two months later the court granted that request.

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That occurred on May 11. As of Tuesday, the district attorney’s office not released the witness list.

Because of that, Heim’s attorneys filed another appeal to the court to order Garza before the bench and prove “why he should not be held in contempt for his failure to obey the court’s [directive].”

“As of the filing of this motion,” explains the Tuesday appeal, “five business days have passed since the Court’s Order (including the date of the Order) and the District Attorney has still failed to comply.”

The Travis County District Attorney’s Office did not return an inquiry about the witness list’s release.

O’Connell and Ervin suggested that exculpatory evidence, facts of the situation that would exonerate the accused, may have been left out of the grand jury proceedings. Garza cannot be required to disclose the evidence he presented to the grand jury, but may release the witness testimony list.

Each is charged with aggravated assault and the entire process of these officer indictments may take between two and five years.

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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.

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