Some Grand Jurors Defend Perry Indictment

Image: Some Grand Jurors Defend Perry Indictment Texas Gov. Rick Perry is booked at the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center in Austin on Aug. 19. (Jay Janner/MCT/Landov)

Wednesday, 20 Aug 2014 09:35 PM

By Cathy Burke

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Some grand jurors are defending their indictment of Gov. Rick Perry — a rare break in the usual code of silence — with five of nine identified panelists showing a "significant Democratic skew" in past voting, reports say.

Three panelists quoted Tuesday in the Houston Chronicle took issue with Perry's complaints that the controversial indictment was more political than criminal.

"We were asked to serve, we attended eight sessions over the course of five months, we listened to hours of evidence and we formed opinions, and those opinions were not motivated by politics," juror Scott Hillman told the Chronicle. "They were simply motivated by our understanding of the facts as applied to the law."

Hillman called Perry's comments "disrespectful," referring to the Republican governor's slamming of last Friday's indictment as an "abuse of power" and "outrageous."

"I see him laugh at these charges, and I think he's laughing at the process, and he's laughing at the grand jurors," Hillman told the newspaper. "We took our role very, very seriously."

Juror Janna Bessin told the newspaper the panel "really tried to keep an open mind and come to a fair decision given all the testimony that we heard," and called the Republican governor's criticism "too bad."

"But I guess that's his side's job – to really spin it," she said.

Another juror, Rho Chalmers, told the Chronicle, "For me, it's not a political decision. That's what a grand jury is about – take the emotion out of it and look at the facts and make your best decision based on your life experience."

A panelist who didn't want his name in the newspaper said the public's perception of the case, "if and when the facts come out, that'll change."

Breitbart News reported that the Travis County Clerk's Office provided a list of names of grand jurors to "multiple" reporters, and that their comments pushed the envelope on rules demanding secrecy – but were not illegal because they were general statements.

The Chronicle also reported that of the nine of 12 jurors identified, five had voted only in Democratic Party primaries over the past 20 years, according to county records. One has voted in both Democratic and Republican primaries. Three haven't voted at all.

"In other words, of the jurors who have been identified, there are no strong Republicans, but there are five Democrats and one swing voter," Breitbart notes, adding "voting records showed a significant Democrat skew."

Perry, who is mulling another presidential bid in 2016, faces felony charges of abuse of official capacity and of coercion of a public servant.

The charges are related to Perry's threat to veto funding for the Travis County District Attorney's Office's Public Integrity Unit unless District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg resigned after her drunken-driving guilty plea. Lehmberg refused and Perry vetoed the $7.5 million in state funding for the unit.

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