2015.57: 170 in Waco

More than one hundred seventy bikers are in jail in Waco on charges arising out of the Twin Peaks melee that killed nine. According to the LA Times article, in McLennan County, “there are just 100 [lawyers on the court-appointed list] and many of them do not do the kind of felony proceedings that have stemmed from Sunday’s violence.”

Each defendant has bail (not “bond”) set at $1 million at the moment; they have a constitutional (under the Texas Constitution) right to “reasonable” bail, so as they get lawyers and those lawyers file applications for writs of habeas corpus, the bail amounts will take a nosedive. In Texas (contra Las Vegas lawyer Draskovich, quoted by the LA Times) a murder doesn’t merit a million-dollar bail. In Harris County, for example, the standard bail for murder is $30,000 [correction: $50,000]. A person can be held without bail for capital murder, but only if the State jumps through some procedural hoops within seven days of the arrest and proves at a hearing that the proof of the crime is “evident.” Because there are very few bonding companies that can make a million-dollar bond (none in Houston, unless the defendant puts up a million dollars of collateral), a million dollars might as well be no bail.

Every biker charged in Waco will require a separate lawyer. Conflicts of interest bar one ethical lawyer from representing two defendants unless each defendant, advised by separate conflict counsel, waives the conflict. This is not to say that there are not unethical lawyers who will represent multiple defendants, but the courts can’t very well appoint conflicted counsel. So for each defendant who remains in jail (and is presumptively indigent), the courts will likely need a lawyer. I would guess that there are fewer than 25 court-appointed lawyers competent to handle a murder case in McLennan County, which leaves a huge gap.

Even those who bail out are likely to need court-appointed counsel: while the clubs probably have war chests, I doubt that they have the millions (a meager $50,000 per case times 170 cases equals $8.5 million) needed to defend everyone.

This is a fascinating situation. If the bikers (who see themselves as outlaws) stick together and reject cooperation with the law, they can gum up the McLennan County criminal-justice system for years to come.

That’s not likely to be allowed, though, because the trains must run on time. My early prediction: once the investigation is mostly complete, a move to federal court (charges could include ViCAR) for the defendants against whom the evidence lies heaviest, and dismissals or sweetheart pleas for the rest.

5 responses to “2015.57: 170 in Waco”

  1. Do you really think the feds will want to touch this mess with a ten foot pole? In my experience they only file cases that are practically gift-wrapped for them. Yes, the high-pub nature of the incident might tempt them, but I further suspect that the bikers against whom the evidence “lies heaviest” (you pun, perhaps?) are, in fact, dead.

    It just seems like the kind of debacle the AUSAs will look at and then quietly avoid. Am I wrong? Further thoughts?

    • My thinking is that the feds might already have an investigation of one or both gangs going, and these overt acts (if there are any) might slot into something else they’ve been working on.

      Juicy news of the weekend: SWAT had video rolling through the entire melee.

  2. The Feds may want to remind the good people of Waco just who they are. It’s been a long 22 years since the Branch Davidian debacle.

  3. I stumbled across you blog through the Blawg100. I’m really, really hoping someone can explain how the AP gets 8800 pages of reports on the Waco biker shootout, and turns that into 1,000 words with no new information.

    Any chance of an update? Or, as Ken White would call it, a lawsplainer on what a “speedy trial” means in Texas?


    • I don’t know. If news outlets wanted to remain relevant, they’d give some serious thought to throwing public records up on their websites. Imagine the ads they could serve as I paged through 8800 pages of more-convenient-to-read-online-than-to-download documents. Hell, they could even embed the ads in downloadable PDFs!

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