AUSTIN (KXAN) — A judge in Travis County has ordered the District Attorney to disclose the names of any and all witnesses who testified before the grand jury that indicted two police officers earlier this year.
The order, requested by the defense attorneys representing Eric Heim and Jeffrey Teng, specifically requires the D.A.’s office to add the witnesses’ names to the indictment documents.
Heim and Teng were among 19 officers indicted in February over claims of excessive force during protests in downtown Austin in 2020. Both men appeared in person in Judge Karen Sage’s 299th District courtroom Wednesday morning.
This hearing comes nearly five weeks after the Travis County District Attorney’s office released the names and some details of four grand jury witnesses who testified in these cases in a court filing.
According to the defense’s reply, filed the morning of this hearing, the way these witnesses’ names were revealed was “a violation of the law.”
Their motion stated, “Mr. Garza violated the law by publicly revealing multiple ‘events transpiring before the grand jury,’ including dates of witness testimony, that certain witnesses adopted certain exhibits, that certain witnesses prepared certain exhibits, and that certain witnesses presented certain types of exhibits to the grand jury…Any disclosure other than witness names is a violation of law.”
KXAN reached out to the District Attorney’s office for additional information or comments and is awaiting their response.
Defense attorneys Doug O’Connell and Ken Ervin presented two exhibits of previous, unrelated cases where witnesses’ names were required to be disclosed on the grand jury indictment, one of which included the name of an Assistant District Attorney who testified before the grand jury. The defense requested Judge Sage order the state to compel the names of all witnesses including any ADA’s or D.A.’s on the face of Heim and Teng’s indictment and argued that while the D.A.’s office previously released the names of four witnesses, there is no way of knowing if these were the only four witnesses who provided grand jury testimony without the court granting this motion.
In response, attorneys from the D.A.’s office argued that without a court order, it is not required by law to include the names of all witnesses who provided grand jury testimony on the face of the indictment, nor is it standard procedure.
After hearing the defense’s arguments, Judge Sage granted the defense’s motion – requiring the state to disclose the names of all witnesses on the indictment, including ADA’s and/or the D.A., who provided grand jury testimony. Judge Sage further stated, “surely these aren’t the only four people who provided grand jury testimony in these cases.”
Ervin and O’Connell told KXAN that after Wednesday’s developments, they believe they’ll be able to file a new motion asking the court to order the D.A. to disclose the entire grand jury record.
“We’re pleased with today’s court and we believe it will help us uncover more evidence that these indictments were wrongfully obtained,” said Ervin and O’Connell.