The reason Lykos and Crew believed this a possibility was due to some changes in the last legislative session which changed the terms of Grand Juries, thus ending all active Grand Juries on December 31st, 2011 . . .
. . . unless that Grand Jury got an extension from the Court . . .
. . . which the 185th Grand Jury did.
Unfortunately, while the Lykos Administration was hoping against hope that their Grand Jury problem was going to go away by January 1st, they were forgetting to do something else: work on establishing new Grand Juries for January 2012.
Selecting a Grand Jury is not something that can be done overnight. You have to find people willing to serve and the ability to serve for what is now (under the law change) a six month term. Details have to be ironed out about how exactly they are going to do that. Are 11 of the 22 District Courts going to have active Grand Juries the first half of the year and the other 11 the second half? Are Grand Juries going to meet just once a week, instead of two? There are a lot of things to consider.
And Lykos and Crew considered NONE of them. They were way too busy holding their breath and waiting to see if the 185th was about to go away.
Which explains this e-mail from First Assistant Jim Leitner to the rest of the Office today:
-----Original Message------This is the legal version of getting caught with your pants down. In Harris County, Texas, there are two Grand Juries meeting every day of the week to manage the enormous caseload that comes through the courthouse. It will take the District Attorney's Office and the courts at least a week (and most likely longer than that) to get them up and running again.
From: Leitner, Jim
To: All DA Employees
Subject: Grand Juries for the November Term 2011
Sent: Jan 5, 2012 9:43 AM
I have just been notified that the Judges have terminated all Grand Juries that were empanelled for the November Term 2011. That termination, from what I understand, has been backdated to December 31st. Therefore, do not take any cases in to any Grand Jury until the Judges have created and sworn in Grand Juries for the January Term 2012. Also, don’t issue any Grand Jury subpoenas until we have new Grand Juries empanelled. I am meeting with Judge Hill today to make sure that we have the right information on this, but until you hear otherwise proceed as if there are no Grand Juries available until the new term Grand Juries are sworn in. This does not affect the 185th or 232nd Grand Jury which have been extended for pending investigations.
Obviously, having no Grand Juries running is going to create an enormous backlog.
It can also create a danger to the public. Here's why.
When a person is arrested and incarcerated prior to trial, the District Attorney's Office has 90 days to get that case indicted. Otherwise, the person accused is entitled to a bond they can make.
That applies to all felony charges -- from Aggravated Sexual Assault to Aggravated Robbery to Murder. If the deadline goes past the 90 days, the end result is those folks will be getting back out on the street.
It recently happened in Fort Bend with one case.
The rank and file prosecutors had absolutely ZERO notice this was coming. Nobody from the Upper Administration sent them anything letting them know, "Hey, if you have a case getting close to 90 days old, you need to get it to the Grand Jury before December 31st."
And most of the more serious cases take the full 90 days to get ready for Grand Jury. As a prosecutor, I routinely took murder cases and sexual assault cases to the Grand Jury on the 85th to 89th day. The trial prosecutors are about to find out that if they were banking on going to the Grand Jury this week or next, that they are not going to be able to do so.
And some really bad people are potentially about to be back on the streets.
If Lykos had been watching the Public's back, rather than her own, perhaps she would have caught this.
I cannot emphasize enough what a colossal screw up this is.