“This seems to be a brainwashing that all but guarantees immunity for the cops. It really seems outrageous and holds the potential of tainting the jury.”
Houston, TX — Texas grand juries have an unusual manner of presenting “evidence,” unique only to Texas. It’s called a shooting simulator.
The DA’s office, which began using the simulator in 2003, contends it helps grand jurors understand pressures of police work and the split-second decisions officers must make.
“It’s made very clear at the orientation that self-defense applies to citizens as well as police officers, so it applies to both types of cases,” Anderson said. “This wasn’t a primer on police shootings, it was a primer on self-defense in Texas.”
Terri Burke, director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Texas, said grand juries should serve as a check on abusive police practices.
“This seems to be a brainwashing that all but guarantees immunity for the cops,” Burke said about the simulator. “It really seems outrageous and holds the potential of tainting the jury.”
The simulator creates a biased level of empathy within the jurors as it doesn’t show the officer’s actual situation prior to a shooting, but instead it shows a one-sided barrage of scenarios designed to “train” the juror into understanding the “police officer’s experience when he goes on some of these calls.”
An investigation conducted by the Houston Chronicle found that the grand jury process in Harris County is severely stacked in the favor of police.
Between 2007 and 2012, according to HPD records, officers killed citizens in 109 shootings. Every killing was ruled justified.
The 112 instances of an officer shooting and injuring a person were justified, too.
So were the 104 times an officer wounded an animal, and the 225 times an officer killed an animal.
There were 16 shootings found “not justified,” but they were all ruled accidental.
In more than one in five cases in which officers fired on citizens, the citizen was unarmed.
In the report by the Chronicle, it was found that Harris County grand juries have cleared HPD officers in shootings 288 consecutive times, from 2004-2013.
On December 23, another cop was added to this streak as he was cleared of any wrong doing after shooting and killing an unarmed man.
Jordan Baker, a 26-year-old father and college student was riding his bike through a Northwest Houston strip mall in January of this year. HPD officer Juvenito Castro was working off-duty as a security guard, when Baker came riding by.
Unfortunately for Baker, who had committed no crime, he “fit the description” of a robbery suspect, according to Castro. According to police reports, Officer Castro approached Jordan and asked to see his identification, to which the officer claims Jordan began to scuffle with him and eventually ran away.
Officer Castro claimed that a foot chase ensued, to which the officer caught up with Jordan and cornered him in an alley behind the strip mall. Castro told investigators that Jordan lunged at him and charged towards him, “reaching for his waistband,” prompting him to discharge his weapon, firing the one shot that killed Baker.
The number of unarmed men who “reach for their waistbands” to grab a non-existent weapon, which causes police to “fear for their lives” and shoot them, is a statistical anomaly which is oddly common in instances such as Castro’s.
Sadly Jordan Baker is now a part of that statistic, and the grand jury that just cleared Castro for killing him, has reinforced the power of the phrase, “reached for his waistband.”
On December 26th, a major protest was held in front of Houston Police Department headquarters to demand answers for the shooting death of Jordan Baker.
Another massive demonstration was held on December 29th, where hundreds of people gathered in front of the Harris County District Attorney’s office to express their disappointment with everything from the grand jury decision not to indict Officer Castro.