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Indictment Against Texas Supreme Court Justice Is Dismissed

The curious story of Republican Texas Supreme Court Justice David Medina and his wife just keeps getting curiouser. Justice Medina and his wife have been the subject of a great deal of talk since their suburban Houston home burned down last summer. At the time, the Medinas were in financial distress.

Yesterday, the Medinas were indicted by a Harris County grand jury for arson in her case and evidence tampering on his part. Within hours of the indictment, the Republican Harris County District Attorney, who is leaving office after salacious e-mails from him were discovered, announced he would not prosecute the case. Today, a Republican Harris County State District Judge has thrown out all charges against Justice Medina and his wife. Here are excerpts from two stories in the Dallas Morning News:

“A prosecutor certainly has discretion not to pursue a case because the evidence is just not there,” said University of Texas criminal law scholar Steven Goode, who is not familiar with the case and declined to speculate on Mr. Rosenthal’s motives. “But in this case, it does sound very unusual for a prosecutor to decide so soon to seek dismissal of the charges in a well-publicized case.”

A fellow Houston Republican, Mr. Rosenthal decided last month not to run for re-election, facing pressure from his party for writing romantic e-mails to his personal assistant using his county e-mail account.

Harris County fire officials believe the June blaze, which destroyed the Medina home and a neighbor’s house and did nearly $1 million in damage, was intentionally set. Their initial investigation focused on six people close to the justice, and was fueled by a trail of financial troubles for Mr. Medina’s family.

In an interview with the Quorum Report, Jeffrey Dorrell, the assistant foreman of the grand jury, accused Mr. Rosenthal of playing politics to protect Mr. Medina.

“Rosenthal resisted these indictments with a vigor I have never seen or heard before,” Mr. Dorrell told the online newsletter. “The [district attorney’s] office called my office last week and said we should not meet, the case was not viable and we should not indict. Obviously, that came from the top.”

Mr. Yates, Mr. Medina’s attorney, said the indictments won’t affect the justice’s work; Mr. Medina met with Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson on Thursday, Mr. Yates said, and has no intention of resigning.

Under Texas’ rules for the removal of judges, any justice under indictment may be suspended by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct – but only if that body takes action. As of Thursday, it didn’t appear Mr. Medina’s job was in immediate danger.

A judge Friday dismissed indictments handed up a day before against Texas Supreme Court Justice David Medina and his wife that accused them of burning down their suburban house in the midst of financial troubles last summer.

Medina was indicted Thursday on charges of evidence tampering. His wife, Francisca, was charged with arson in the June 28 blaze.

State District Judge Brian Rains ruled on the motions from the prosecutor’s office at a brief hearing.

The grand jurors also said that if the charges are dismissed the panel, which is in session until February, may reconvene next week and re-indict the pair.

“This is ludicrous. This is not right. This is a miscarriage of justice,” Ryan told the newspaper. “If this was David Medina, comma, truck driver, comma, Baytown, Texas, he would have been indicted three months ago.”

The dismissal spares Medina scrutiny by the state Commission on Judicial Conduct.

The commission can suspend a judge who is under indictment, but Seana Willing, the commission’s executive director, said there was no point in taking any action now.

Medina’s indictment and swift dismissal comes a week after Rosenthal became entangled in a scandal that forced him off the GOP ballot for re-election. Rosenthal was embarrassed – and is under state investigation – after dozens of e-mails of his were released, a file that included pornography, racist humor, love notes to his secretary and campaign strategizing on a county computer.

The Harris County Fire Marshal’s office has said the fire was not electrical or accidental. A dog detected an accelerant at the scene, and authorities identified six “persons of interest.”

Investigators became suspicious after discovering that a mortgage company sued in June 2006 to foreclose on the home. The suit, filed after the family missed payments for five months, was settled in December.

Bob Kraft

I am a Dallas, Texas lawyer who has had the privilege of helping thousands of clients since 1971 in the areas of Personal Injury law and Social Security Disability.

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