January 17, 2008
David Medina indicted by grand jury for arson

I know there's a lot of weird stuff going on these days, but this qualifies as a shock.

Texas Supreme Court Justice David Medina and his wife have been indicted in connection with the arson fire that destroyed their Houston-area home last summer.

David Medina's attorney, Terry Yates, confirmed to 11 News that the justice has been indicted on a charge of tampering with evidence.

Yates told 11 News reporter Lee McGuire the indictment was "shocking to us."

Yates said Medina was returning to Houston from Austin Thursday evening and plans to turn himself in and post bond on Friday.

Yates said Francisca Medina, the judge's wife, is charged with arson. She's hired famed defense attorney Dick DeGuerin to represent her, according to Yates.

The fire was ruled to have been intentionally set back in October. As Tom reminds us, Justice Medina was not considered a suspect by Harris County DA Chuck Rosenthal at the time. It would appear that Rosenthal is still looking out for the Medinas:

Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal told 11 News he will move to dismiss the indictments for lack of evidence.

"It is our collective feeling there is not enough evidence to pursue prosecution of the indictments and that the indictments be dismissed," said Rosenthal.

Rosenthal admitted such an action would be "fairly unusual," but denied that Medina's status on the Texas Supreme Court has anything to do with it.

"I don't know him, I've met him maybe once, I have paid close attention to the evidence in this case," insisted Rosenthal.


Nathan Green, the lead investigator on the case, said in October that a dog detected an accelerant at the fire scene.

It was the second such fire at the family's home in 10 years; both started in the garage.

Suspicion was fueled by a trail of financial troubles for the Medinas, including foreclosure proceedings and tax liens against the fire-ravaged home, according to court records and other documents.

A mortgage company filed to foreclose on the home in June 2006, according to public records. Medina and the mortgage company reached an agreement the following December, according to Green.

The foreclosure filing was a "very, very big red flag" for investigators, Green said.

The home was not covered by an insurance policy, which lapsed because the premiums weren't paid, Green said. The loan on the house was insured by the finance company, he said.

I have to say, even after all we've seen emanate from his office this month, I find Rosenthal's actions in seeking to dismiss the indictment that his own office secured to be incredible. The grand jury foreman, Jeffrey Dorrell, who spoke to the Quorum Report, thinks so as well.

"Rosenthal resisted these indictments with a vigor I have never seen or heard before. The DAs 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."

He continued, "Rosenthal went to the press (at the end of October) ... where he tried to sweep it under the rug. This really pisses me off. I am offended at his actions."

Dorrell said, "Our term ended on November 2 but our investigation of this issue had not been completed. We were held over for three months. This was the only case on our docket. Twelve citizens have put in countless hours on this issue. It is very irritating for someone who was not in the room with us decide not to prosecute.

"If this was a truck driver from Pasadena, he would have already been tried and convicted. Instead, there was a concerted effort by his office to protect this sitting elected Republican from the normal process of justice "

"It is an offense to justice", Dorrell said.

Remember, Rosenthal had no problems taking C.O. Bradford to court on flimsy evidence, and while he went out of his way to not prosecute onetime local GOP kingpin Steven Hotze on a drunk driving charge. He has an established history of questionable judgment, and it would seem that it's no better today.

Please note that I am not claiming that Justice Medina is guilty of anything. He very much gets and deserves the presumption of innocence that we all enjoy. My layman's view of the news stories, which I had not followed very closely before now, is that the state's case would be very circumstantial. It's quite possible that despite Mr. Dorrell's protests, Rosenthal is making the correct call to not pursue these charges. If Rosenthal's judgment were remotely trustworthy, there wouldn't be that much to say about this story. But his judgment is anything but trustworthy, and so I and I'm sure many other people are deeply suspicious of Rosenthal's actions here. That's corrosive to the justice system in general, and very unfair to the Medinas, who is owed a real chance to clear his name.

I don't know what's going to happen. Even with Rosenthal's issues, it would be a bad precedent for public opinion to put pressure on a DA to prosecute someone when that DA thinks the evidence is lacking. All that I can really conclude is that Rosenthal is well past his expiration date, and would be doing everybody a huge favor if he'd just get the hell out. That's the kind of public opinion pressure I can get behind.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 17, 2008 to Crime and Punishment

I think David Medina is a good and fair-minded judge but man, this stinks to high heaven. The cloud over Rosenthal is going to engulf his entire office, Justice Medina, and the Texas GOP.

Posted by: Jeff N. on January 18, 2008 8:01 AM
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