Via the Atlantic by Conor Friedersdorf
The criminal-justice system in Waco, Texas, continues to boggle the mind. Last month, a grand jury in McClellan County held a marathon session to consider whether District Attorney Abel Reyna had presented enough evidence to justify indictments in the shootout at a May gathering of bikers where nine people were killed. In the wake of those killings, 177 bikers were arrested. Many proclaimed their innocence, and local authorities faced criticism for jailing so many individuals using fill-in-the-blank paperwork that didn’t differentiate among the jailed.
Still, the November grand jury session returned 106 indictments at the end of one day, some against unknown figures who hadn’t previously been arrested. And the citizen jurors would reconvene at a later date to consider the fate of 80 additional bikers. This, despite the fact that leaked surveillance footage certainly seems to depict many bikers who look surprised that bullets are flying and unprepared for a gunfight, not as if they were conspiring to murder a bunch of their rivals:
That more than 100 indictments were issued anyway wasn’t really surprising. Yes, local authorities had misbehaved repeatedly during their investigation––and yes, grand juries theoretically do offer innocents protection from being tried based on flimsy evidence. But in practice, it is scandalously easy to secure an indictment.
Even so, one detail from Waco is extraordinary. On November 16, a blog called The Aging Rebel, written by a biker who has been following the case, noticed that “the indictments charge at least some of the defendants with murder and assault rather than just the original charge of engaging in organized criminal activity. The indictments name ten murdered persons. Those victims’ names are: Richard Matthew Jordan II; Jesus Delgado Rodriguez; Charles Wayne Russell; Daniel Raymond Boyett; Wayne Lee Campbell; Jacob Lee Rhyne; Richard Vincent Kirschner, Jr.; Manuel Isaac Rodriguez; Matthew Mark Smith; and William Anderson. Anderson’s name had not been previously associated with the other murder victims.”
Indeed, the inclusion of that 10th name was very weird.
Authorities in Waco had consistently referred to nine dead from the outset. Who was this 10th dead man, William Anderson? The bikers and their attorneys were confused, but were barred from speaking out to the press thanks to a dubious gag order.
It took until four days ago for the Waco Tribune to notice: “While authorities have said for months that nine bikers died in the May 17 Twin Peaks shootout, indictments in the cases attribute a 10th death to the melee.” The newspaper asked the cops about the mystery man, but they said they were only aware of nine deaths. The district attorney’s office didn’t return phone calls. Prosecutors wouldn’t comment.
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