This was sudden.
For the second time, a Harris County grand jury indicted the wife of Texas Supreme Court Justice David Medina, alleging she burned down the couple’s Spring home and damaged two neighbors’ homes in a fire last year.
The indictment, handed up Wednesday, charges Francisca Medina with felony arson for the destruction of her home, felony criminal mischief of more than $200,000 for damage to their neighbor’s home and criminal mischief, a state jail felony, for damage done to the house behind the Medinas’ home.
Four months ago, a different grand jury indicted Francisca and David Medina, accusing her of having a role in the June 28 fire and him of fabricating evidence, specifically a letter he gave investigators about the incident. The indictments were dismissed the next day.
Prosecutor Vic Wisner said he didn’t expect any other indictments in the case, effectively clearing David Medina of any wrongdoing. The prosecutor said he remains open to receiving more information about the fire.
Francisca Medina’s attorney called the indictment “ridiculous.”
“There’s no evidence, there’s never going to be any evidence, that Fran Medina burned her own home,” said Dick DeGuerin. “It was her dream home.”
According to this Texas Lawyer story, the new grand jury just heard evidence today. That’s a pretty quick result. It also goes into some more detail about David Medina:
Vic Wisner, an assistant Harris County district attorney, says that in ensuing months, new evidence and witnesses developed in the case that warranted a second grand jury presentation. Wisner presented the case to the grand jury.
“We felt we reached a stage that we had sufficient evidence to go forward,” Wisner says.
Wisner says David Medina could be indicted later “if new evidence comes forth. But at this point, we’re comfortable with the charging decisions.”
“If he has relevant testimony we would call him as a witness at trial,” Wisner says. “We’ve examined the law, and we don’t think the marital privilege applies.”
As for why the grand jury declined to indict David Medina, Wisner says “I think that will be obvious at trial.”
“They examined his conduct and didn’t feel it was criminal conduct, or they felt there was criminal conduct but there wasn’t probable cause,” Wisner says, speaking generally about the grand jury decision. “But, I can promise, it will all be covered at trial.”
Boy, there’s a teaser for you. The report I saw on KHOU said that prosecutors have found away to get around the spousal privilege exception. It didn’t go into detail, and it quoted Dick DeGuerin scoffing at the notion, so who knows what they have in mind. I have a feeling this trial, should it get that far, will be covered pretty extensively.
One more thing, from the Chron:
Shortly after [former DA Chuck] Rosenthal moved to dismiss the [January] indictments, two grand jury members publicly denounced Rosenthal’s unwillingness to prosecute, a rare move for the group whose actions are typically secret. They alleged that Rosenthal’s actions were politically motivated.
The next week, District Judge Jim Wallace, who presided over a hearing to determine whether the two jurors were in contempt for speaking about the grand jury proceeding, criticized the district attorney’s office for not supporting the grand jury’s decision to indict the Medinas.
Wallace would dismiss the entire grand jury because of a procedural error by the district’s attorney’s office.
Members of the grand jury subsequently filed a lawsuit against Rosenthal for permission to discuss the evidence they heard while they were empaneled.
Before the indictments were handed up Wednesday, a judge dismissed the lawsuit, apparently coincidentally, said Scott Durfee, general counsel for the Harris County District Attorneys Office.
Jeffrey Dorrell, one of those grand jurors, is quoted in the Texas Lawyer story saying he feels they have been vindicated by this result, and that the second grand jury was not as kind to Mrs. Medina as they were. Some background on that saga can be found here, here, and here.