At approximately 10:15 am on Thursday, February 12, 2004, Judge Roman of the 346th District Court signed on order requesting the convening of a second Court of Inquiry to investigate allegations against the District Attorney’s office and the El Paso Police Department. In less than 15-days, District Attorney Jaime Esparza finds himself the subject of yet another Court of Inquiry. Cause number 2004ODO0814 brought forth by Romelia Enriquez, pro-se, without an attorney, asked that Judge Roman convene a second Court of Inquiry under Texas law. The supporting affidavit, submitted by Ms. Enriquez alleges similar wrongdoing by an acting police officer, similar to the allegations levied against two other officers in the first Court of Inquiry, yet involving a different officer altogether. In keeping with the general perception that those who step forward in our community to report wrongdoing are usually targeted for retaliation, Ms. Enriquez was forced to file her own affidavit requesting a Court of Inquiry as no attorney was willing to step forward on her behalf. With the exception of attorneys Stuart Leeds and Theresa Caballero who prepared the first Court of Inquiry, the other attorneys of the city seem to be too busy or too afraid to step forward and take on the establishment in order to demand justice, thus forcing citizens to take matters into their own hands. Although it easy to blame those who step forward to demand investigations as just rabble-rousers or parties out to milk the system for money or just someone with an agenda, this latest filing should not focus on the individual but rather on the process itself as it is easier to discredit the accuser than to deal with the problem at hand, as that is the modus-operandi of those in power.
Unfortunately, for those eager to defend the power mongers, the truth eventually reaches the surface and is exposed for all to see. In this case, the first Court of Inquiry has already given rise to new allegations and the courage of one more person to step forward and take on the system. Ms. Enriquez’ affidavit further exposes the underbelly of our legal system and adds another voice to the silent ones that continue to suffer at the hands of a system unwillingly to adequately police itself. The alleged victim again alleges sexual assault by a police officer; her ex-husband and a District Attorney seemingly unwilling to prosecute to the fullest extend of the law.
According to the affidavit filed before the court, the alleged victim alleges that her ex-husband sexually assaulted her on September 17, 2003. The affidavit further declares that the affiant reported the alleged assault to the Police Department. In a letter, dated December 18, 2003 from Jaime Esparza’s office addressed to the alleged victim, Esparza’s office states that “it found no probable cause to indict” and that “proceedings would normally cease”. The letter, attached to the affidavit as evidence further states that the decision was reached only after the Grand Jury “carefully reviewed all the information presented to them”. This raises the first issue presented by the affiant, the issue of whether all the evidence was properly presented to the Grand Jury. According to the affidavit, the detective that was assigned to the case was never called to testify before the grand jury investigating the case, this according to testimony given by the detective before another judge on another case. From a purely outsider point of view, it should stand to reason that the detective investigating the allegations would have some relevant testimony to present to the Grand Jury, regardless of the investigation’s conclusions. It is puzzling that the detective was not called to testify.
The affidavit also insinuates that other witnesses exists that are willing to testify, yet according to the affidavit, they were not called to testify before the Grand Jury. The other witnesses, according to the affidavit are the alleged victim’s sister, the sister of the officer alleged to have committed the assault and the assistant principal of the alleged victim child’s school. At this point, it is difficult to discern exactly what these witnesses are able to provide but the fact that the affiant included them, leads any reasonable person to conclude that their testimony may support the allegations brought forth by the alleged victim. This is important in that one of the witnesses seems to be the sister of the alleged assaulter.
The affidavit further states that the alleged victim provided the El Paso Police Department evidence in the form of under garments and photographs purported to show bruising on the alleged victim. The affidavit further states that the officer alleged to have committed the assault was never questioned by the detective that was assigned to investigate the case.
The affiant, Ms. Enriquez further points out in her written testimony that the letter she received from Jaime Esparza states that although there is insufficient evidence to prosecute her alleged attacker, that as “a crime victim you may qualify for financial assistance from the Texas Crime Victim’s Compensation Program.” This raises the question of whether it is standard practice for the District Attorney to not find enough probable cause to indict an alleged attacker but at the same time acknowledge that the alleged victim is “a crime victim”, after all. This defies all logic as how can someone be a victim, yet there not be enough probable cause to indict the alleged attacker. Maybe the legal system, in their technical assessment of a case may find logic in this but for a layperson the apparent contradictions defies all logic. Or maybe, the letter is just a pro-forma letter sent to all who file a complaint. Either way, the logic just does not make sense.
Unfortunately, for the alleged victim, the city’s legal system seems to want to add insult to injury as the alleged victim, affiant in the affidavit seeking the Court of Inquiry was herself charged and “thrown in jail”, within weeks after receiving the letter from the District Attorney’s office stating that there was not enough probable cause to prosecute her alleged assaulter. The alleged victim’s alleged crime? Breaking some of her ex-husband’s windows approximately three months before. The affiant goes on to state in the affidavit that she had never before been arrested for anything. The affidavit adds that attorney Dereck Wyatt was appointed to represent her, the affiant, by the court system in the affiant’s case pending before Judge Alejandro Gonzalez. This becomes important as Wyatt’s wife is currently employed by the District Attorney’s office and attorney Dereck Wyatt stated during the hearing before Judge Roman that he was “conflicting” himself out of the case because of the conflict of interest his wife’s employment posed for him.
The affidavit closes with a litany of alleged crimes committed. Among them are sexual assault, obstruction or retaliation, criminal conspiracy, official oppression, perjury, abuse of official capacity among others, virtually a repeat of the first set of allegations levied against the Police Department and Jaime Esparza’s department in the first Court of Inquiry.
During the hearing before Judge Roman requesting the Court of Inquiry, Judge Roman, at one point asked the alleged victim what she was seeking. The affiant, the alleged victim, responded, “justice.” Justice, the very core of the jurisprudence by which we allow ourselves to be subjected seems to have suddenly become an unattainable goal in this community as those seeking justice against alleged police abuse must now resort not only to a system that seems to impede their every step but a system that seems to force those seeking justice to request, no, demand justice be seeking a Court of Inquiry, when all it should take is system open and transparent following its own process regardless of who the alleged perpetrator is. It is unconscionable that in this day and age, the judicial system forces those seeking justice to demand it by standing before a judge and filing an affidavit requesting an investigation, and even more reprehensible is that no one in the legal professional, except for Caballero and Leeds are willing to demand justice on behalf of an alleged sexual assault victim. Forcing a woman to go on her own, pro-sea, before a judge and navigate a judicial quagmire is something that should never be accepted by any community.
Contrary to those who would defend the system, this issue and the one before it is not about who’s lying or who’s telling the truth but rather about a process that leaves too many wondering if you are an alleged victim of police abuse, forget being treated fairly and openly by the system, rather shut-up and don’t make waves or else you will be the one being arrested instead of the officer alleged to have committed the crime. These two Courts of Inquiry are about a process that seems to favor themselves over the community. If even one allegation, among the many allegations presented in both affidavits is true than the system has failed the community by allowing the perception of unfairness and arbitrary application of the laws to foster. One must now question how many others have been silenced through intimidation. And how many are unwillingly to step forward lest they find themselves in jail for even thinking of complaining about one of the man in blue.
Judge Roman seems to want this question answered once and for all as he openly cited Art. 52.01 (e) in his finding for probable cause during the hearing. Art. 52.01 (e) states “If more than one Court of Inquiry is commenced which pertains to the activities of a state governmental entity or public servant thereof, then, upon motion of the state governmental entity or public servant, made to the presiding judge or judges of the administrative judicial region or regions where the Courts of Inquiry have been commenced, the presiding judge or judges shall transfer the Courts of Inquiry to the presiding administrative judge of Travis County. The presiding administrative judge of Travis County shall consolidate the Courts of Inquiry for further proceedings and shall assign a district judge to preside over the consolidated Courts of Inquiry”. This raises the question of whether an investigation will now be opened by a judge in Travis County to investigate these serious allegations. By all accounts, an open investigation by someone beyond any possible influence would alleviate some of the concerns of the community. An open, transparent investigation led from Travis County will go a long way in alleviating the anxiety of the community. In the end, the courage exhibited by both alleged victims, their families and attorneys Caballero and Leeds should be appreciated by the community as without their courage we may never know the truth behind the hushed whispers in the hallways of the County Courts of El Paso. It is now conceivable that more members of the community will step forward to denounce their own experiences at the hands of the El Paso Police Department and the District Attorney’s office. In the end, all we can hope is that this community rises to the challenge and the courage to demand an open and transparent justice system in our community.