TEXAS CITY — An attorney seeks $3 million for his client who was acquitted of an armed robbery charge when a judge found prosecutors “secreted” evidence from the defense.
Taft L. Foley II of the Houston branch of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People filed a lawsuit in federal court Feb. 21 on behalf of Joshua Dwayne Bledsoe, who was jailed for 10 months on accusations he robbed a Texas City business in January 2010.
In a July 1 motion seeking summary judgment, Foley claims former Assistant District Attorney Jon Hall, who prosecuted Bledsoe, had a history of withholding evidence and that Galveston County Criminal District Attorney Jack Roady ratified a policy of withholding evidence by failing to properly train his prosecutors.
Roady and Hall have denied that evidence was withheld but have declined to comment on allegations in the pending litigation.
In the most recent motion, Foley asked a judge to award Bledsoe $3 million and $148,420 in attorney fees.
Hand caught ‘in the cookie jar’
“What scares me most is Joshua Bledsoe caught them with their hand in the cookie jar,” Foley said. “Many people suffer egregious prosecutorial misconduct but can’t afford an attorney to bring the bad things done to them to light.”
At a June 2011 trial, a witness testified she could identify Bledsoe in a photographic lineup despite telling her manager and the police dispatcher — with the 911 tape running — that she didn’t know the race of the suspects.
Bledsoe’s trial attorney, Jyll Rekoff, said the robbers wore ski masks. Rekoff said she asked prosecutors for the police dispatch recording, but it wasn’t provided until after the trial began. The 911 tape exonerated Bledsoe, Rekoff said.
Judge Susan Criss, of Galveston’s 212th District Court, agreed, saying the prosecution “secreted” evidence from the defense. Criss ordered the jury to acquit Bledsoe.
Roady told The Daily News in March that the 911 tape was in the file, but there was no measure previously in place that documented what prosecutors made available to the defense.
The motion for summary judgment explained how evidence was handled when it reached the district attorney’s office. Hall was accused of telling Criss that some evidence could be put into files without prosecutors knowing about it.
Evidence ‘magically appeared’
It’s abundantly clear that Roady was aware of his office’s mismanagement of exculpatory evidence, Foley states in the motion.
“They would either let the evidence sit on their desks and collect dust while criminal defendants rot in jail, or they used the Siegfried and Roy approach, claiming that the evidence magically appeared in the case file at trial,” Foley said.
“The latter approach worked until one of the big cats (plaintiff) got out of the cage and bit them on the a--,” Foley said.
The motion lists two other trials — a teacher accused of viewing child pornography at school and a man convicted of assaulting an officer — in which evidence was allegedly withheld.
In Bledsoe’s case, the lawsuit claims that a page of the offense report and cover sheet, which contained when the 911 tape was received and who delivered it, were missing from the case file.
Hall told Criss that the witness, after making the 911 call, told police that only one of the robbers wore a mask, the motion claims.
Hall resigned Oct. 1 amid the firing of another prosecutor accused of misconduct in an unrelated case.
The state bar is attempting to investigate the matter but was thwarted when appointed Judge Trey Dibrell concluded Bledsoe’s expunged case precluded the Commission for Lawyer Discipline from relying on the court records.
The commission is petitioning the Supreme Court of Texas to overturn Dibrell’s ruling.