Newsmonger: The wheel of (in)justice, San Antonio's Finest
Published: December 26, 2012
Wiehl contends the TIDC didn't dig deep enough into the data. Wolff insists the numbers don't tell the whole story.
Wolff says the high number of appointments to certain attorneys may reflect single defendants who have multiple misdemeanor cases. And judges have to make appointments in the interest of justice, he says, particularly if a defendant has been languishing in jail with an unresponsive attorney. In such instances, a judge may grab an attorney who's "taken the initiative to hang around."
Wolff estimated 20 to 25 percent of appointments made "off the wheel" could be accounted for by jail court, where defendants are known to plead guilty for time served, and where assigned attorneys are often no-shows. Attorneys who take such appointments would naturally show higher caseloads with higher plea rates, Wolff said.
Wolff says to truly evaluate an appointed attorney, you have to pull each case to see whether the pleas were justified. He defended attorneys on judicial services' list of "frequent fliers," (the Current tried unsuccessfully to contact some) saying, "I know they're not forcing these defendants to take pleas."
San Antonio's Finest
December wasn't a particularly glowing month for SAPD.
Early this year, when cops found then-SAPD Sgt. Joseph Myers' incoherently roaming around in his a T-shirt and underwear near where his truck had crashed at 281 and Josephine, Chief William McManus publicly suspected a cover-up.
That bizarre February scene led to two grand jury indictments this month. Myers, who resigned this year, is accused of forging detectives' names to steal $7,000 from a department fund used to pay informants, and for trying to swap toilet water for urine during a drug test ordered the morning of the incident. SAPD Sgt. Ramiro Garcia, who's appealing a suspension he already served, was charged last week with evidence tampering during the incident.
Meanwhile the DA's office is investigating whether SAPD officer Michael Garza was justified in shooting and killing his girlfriend's ex-boyfriend, Alfredo Hector Aragon, this summer.
A suspension letter signed by McManus, released this month, hints at an internal investigation showing Garza lied about details of the shooting and was drinking on the job.
Garza initially told officers his girlfriend, Abigail Hernandez, contacted him around 2 a.m. on July 27, saying her ex was threatening her. According to his suspension letter, texts between Garza and Hernandez prove that's not how things went down. Garza, according to the letter, texted Hernandez at 1:30 am, just before picking her up at the Thirsty Horse Saloon, saying "Ok ma. I got half of crown n seven. Guna chug. B der in bout 13 mins and 27 seconds." After the shooting, an officer on the scene noticed the smell of alcohol on Garza's breath.
The initial police report says Garza picked Hernandez up and took her back to her apartment, where Aragon, waiting in the parking lot, started firing as the two waited for a security gate to open.
But the suspension letter states Hernandez and Aragon argued in the parking lot before shooting broke out. Aragon then fired at Garza and Hernandez as they drove away, bullets hitting Garza's unmarked police truck 12 times and striking Hernandez in the arm and abdomen.
Garza told officers he was chased by Aragon until just before he got to Aragon's home. But evidence showed Garza chased Aragon for nearly 2 miles. Garza fired nine rounds at Aragon at the front door of his home, striking him three times – in the right foot arm, and back. The first officers on the scene found Aragon motionless and handcuffed; Garza was uninjured.
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