Grand jury reports By Greg Davenport & Bob Boyd San Antonio It was in 1969 when a good ol’ boy from the cattle country of deep South Texas, Ted Butler, rambled into the courthouse as the new Bexar County district attorney. The Texas Legislature had created two additional criminal district courts in Bexar. Gubernatorial appointments, especially judgeships, offer one of the best rewards for party loyalty the power structure has. It was no surprise when Preston Smith promoted some good Democrats District Attorney James Barlow and his top man Preston Dial to fill the two new spots. This left the DA’s office open, which is where Butler comes in. He, too, was a long-time Demo-loyalist, having served a stint as county judge back home in Karnes City. He moved to San Antonio as a federal prosecutor and later, during the LBJ years, became the chief prosecutor. But Butler had one major problem no one outside Davenport is a graduate student in political science at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. Boyd works for a San Antonio daily. While the authors were working on this story, the Bexar DA’s office launched massive drug raids in San Antonio. Almost all of the culprits snared in the DA’s web were juveniles, charged with possession of small amounts of marijuana. 8 The Texas Observer of a select circle knew who he was. Being a clever political practitioner, Butler apparently realized that in order to build an identity for himself he needed to toward whom he could direct his hostility. He needed an enemy that a large percentage of the Bexar County electorate shared or at least could be made to believe they shared. BUTLER IS the strapping tough Texan type who might have buckled on a long-barreled .44 and shot it out with the outlaws and punks he saw polluting the Alamo City had he arrived 100 years ago. But, alas, such direct action is now considered bad form. Butler therefore strapped on the grand jury system and, finding no Berrigans, Hoffmans, or other big name gangsters handy, began shooting it out with the local drug-porno-sex mob, using as his ammunition an almost forgotten privilege of the grand jury the special report. From 1959 until 1968 there was only one special report released by the Bexar County grand juries, and that one was a one-page commendation piece of pap. In contrast, during the past four and a half years of the Butler regime there have been 12 full-sized special reports issued by Bexar grand juries \(which, by the way, continue reports have ranged in subjects from drugs, to porno theaters, to teenage prostitution with numerous immoral stops along the way. Most of the actual reports vary from absurd to ludicrous. Almost all the investigation on which the reports are based is planned and carried out by the district attorney’s office or other cooperating law enforcement agencies. The conclusions of the reports are usually based on unclear, unstated, irrelevant, or incomplete information. Example: Less than seven months after the misdemeanor penalities for possession of small amounts of grass went into effect, one jury urged lawmakers to make Texas the only state in the Union to have felony penalties for all cases of marijuana possession. The report concluded, from the testimony of one narc, that use of all drugs from glue to heroin was up substantially as a result of the “liberalization of marijuana penalties.” One juror said they were told \(and marijuana smokers could “blow smoke into a cop’s face and he couldn’t do anything.” Example: When queried about the source and verifiability of figures pertaining to drug use and drug-related crimes, the primary author of the report admitted he did not know how reliable the figures were but explained, “We needed some large numbers to attract public attention.” Example: Another report states that its conclusions are based on the premise that adult theaters “violate every form of moral decency, social acceptability, and attack the very heart and fiber of traditional American values of home, religion, and country.” The same report uses as its evidence that the places encourage heterosexual and homosexual rendezvous the fact that there are prophylactic machines in the restrooms. Such a line of thought would ultimately lead to the closing of most bars \(including some all drug stores in town. But it is politics, not logic, that is served by the “Butler Reports.” This is not to say that everything is black and white. There are a variety of dynamics involved in the development of special reports which on the surface appear to indicate pluralistic partcipatory democracy; not the least of which is the widely held myth that grand juries are an active check on abuses from law enforcement. Revelations about the activities of government and government officials during the recent series of Watergate-related scandals should alert even the most casual observer to look for the more subtle indicators of abuses of power. TO BE SURE, Butler did not instigate all of the reports. One report was even the product of ACLU-oriented jurors. Butler’s reports begot others from jurors who were unclear about just what it was they were supposed to do. Some assumed the reports were mandatory. Others caught the community spirit and in their overzealousness wrote a report that Butler had not planned on. But the district attorney holds a deck stacked in the finest Doc Holliday tradition. A top member of his staff admitted that “98 1/2 percent of all information going into the grand jury comes through the district attorney” \(including a host of “expert witnesses” Who introduce the jury to the scene in stranglehold on information flow that prompted one district judge to comment, “The products of the grand jury are more the products of the district attorney.” Butler runs the game: even if a juror demanded a fresh deck, it would be unsealed and shuffled before his eyes and still the suits would picture hippies, dopers, pornoers, and mobsters. Apparently the district attorney takes special care to select the right jury to perform a special investigation. \(Special investigations are usually conducted at his his general attitudes on the social issues that will be investigated and is willing to follow his lead. Some jurors admit to being conscious and willing participants in the district attorney’s efforts to mobilize public opinion and establish community norms on emotional social issues. The names of some
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