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The civil cases against Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson entail a broad and comprehensive effort to find potentially relevant evidence. That effort recently included securing sworn testimony from a Houston police detective who believes that Watson committed crimes.
Via Brent Schrotenboer of USA Today, detective Kamesha Baker said under oath that she shared this opinion with the office of the Harris County District Attorney. Baker also said she doesn’t know why the grand jury opted not to indict Watson.
Detective Baker, per Schrotenboer, testified that she believes Watson committed criminal indecent assault, sexual assault, and prostitution, at to cases where consensual sex happened and money changed hands.
Baker got this question: “Did you feel confident that you had the evidence needed to pursue those charges?”
“Yes,” she replied.
She then was asked this: “And was there any doubt in your mind as the investigating officer that a crime had occurred?”
“No,” she answered.
She also said there was no disagreement within her team that Watson had committed crimes. Baker testified that she met with prosecutor Johna Stallings to share her opinions on the matter.
“I expressed to her that we did find the complainants credible and reliable,” Baker testified. “That’s why we did a warrant that stated they were credible and reliable.”
Baker did not testify during the Harris County grand jury proceedings on nine criminal complaints. She said she was told by Stallings that Watson’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, would have objections to Baker testifying before the grand jury. That’s confusing, because the suspect’s lawyer has no standing whatsoever to object to anything the prosecutor does during the grand jury proceedings.
“The presumption of innocence is a fundamental tenet of our justice system,” attorney Leah Graham told Schrotenboer in a Friday statement. “It is incredibly unfortunate that this presumption was not given to Deshaun Watson by one of the investigating officers. Ultimately, however, justice was served by two grand juries in two separate jurisdictions who did what this detective refused to do: take a fair and impartial look at all of the evidence before reaching a conclusion.”
Frankly, the playing of the “presumption of innocence” card in this context is extremely disingenuous and deliberately misleading. The presumption of innocence applies only after a suspect is officially charged with a crime. If every police officer went around presuming the innocence of every potential defendant, NO ONE WOULD EVER BE CHARGED.
The police identify the people they believe are factually guilty. The prosecutors, often working with a grand jury, frame the charges, if any, that flow from the available facts. Then, if the suspect becomes a defendant in a looming criminal trial, the presumption of innocence attaches.
Justice, contrary to Graham’s statement, was not exclusively served by the two grand juries. Justice, as a practical matter, was deferred to the civil justice system.
Again, the decisions of the grand jury are not conclusive, especially without access to the full presentation made by Stallings. As explained earlier this week, Stallings quite possibly opted to share the information provided to her by Watson’s legal team in the hopes that the grand jury would not indict Watson, which would have forced her to try to prove multiple crimes beyond a reasonable doubt — while dealing with a dream team of high-priced lawyers who, as Rusty Hardin demonstrated by repeatedly contacting Stallings prior to the grand jury presentations, would have made her life as a practical matter miserable for the duration of the criminal cases.