Justice not done in Oregon case
Panelist wants to talk to feds
November 02, 1998, 09:51 p.m.
By BOB SABLATURA Copyright 1998 Houston Chronicle
A member of the Harris County grand jury that investigated the shooting death of Pedro Oregon Navarro said Monday he is "unsatisfied" that five of the officers involved were cleared and only one was indicted, on a misdemeanor charge.
Simon Rodriguez, a retired Internal Revenue Service officer who served as the panel's assistant foreman, said he wanted to talk with federal investigators about the closed-door grand jury sessions.
While he would not discuss specifics -- citing state law barring grand jurors from revealing grand jury testimony -- Rodriguez said a federal investigation may uncover evidence that the grand jury did not hear.
"I don't want to criticize anyone right now," Rodriguez said. "But if, in fact, there was some evidence that was not presented, that is something someone higher than me and you should look into."
He also said did not believe justice was done in the six-week grand jury probe.
"I believe it warrants further investigation," Rodriguez said. "Obviously, if it came out the other way, there wouldn't be people marching in the street."
If given immunity, Rodriguez said, "I have a lot to say, and I have not even begun to touch on the subjects that need to be discussed."
Harris County District Attorney John B. Holmes Jr. said he has no problem with Rodriguez testifying before a federal grand jury and does not believe it would be a violation of the law.
Holmes said he suggested to Edward Porter, the assistant prosecutor who presented the case to the grand jury, to contact federal prosecutors and suggest they call Rodriguez before a federal grand jury to see what he has to say.
"That way they will know what is troubling him," Holmes said, "other than he just didn't like it and may have gotten outvoted."
Holmes said he was surprised when he first heard that Rodriguez was disgruntled with the grand jury's decision because he believed there was unanimity within the grand jury.
In fact, Holmes said, the grand jurors wanted to call a news conference and defend their decisions, but he discouraged them because some grand jurors could have revealed too much information, and thus violated the law.
"I certainly could not tell them what to do, but I told them it was not a good idea," Holmes said.
Holmes also said he believes all of the evidence was presented to the grand jury.
"I can't think of anything they didn't have," Holmes said. "They also had the opportunity to ask anything they wanted of the witnesses."
Rodriguez said his dissatisfaction with the decision was no surprise to anyone on the grand jury, or the prosecutor presenting the case.
"Because of the discussions that went on, the people within the grand jury room knew how I felt," he said.
The six officers burst into Oregon's southwest Houston apartment at 1:30 a.m. on July 12, without a warrant, looking for drugs. The officers say they opened fire after Oregon pointed a pistol at them.
An autopsy revealed that the 22-year-old Mexican national was shot 12 times, once in the head, twice in the shoulder and nine times in the back.
Five of the officers were cleared, but one was indicted on a misdemeanor charge of criminal trespass.
Federal authorities have announced they are investigating the case, and FBI agents began collecting evidence last week.
Rodriguez, who has served three times as a grand juror, said he believes all the evidence in this case should be made public so everyone can see that the system is flawed.
"The grand jury system is not working to protect people the way it was intended," he said.
This case perfectly illustrates that, he said, because everything that took place involved a violation of constitutional rights.
"There is so much at stake because this is not an ordinary case," Rodriguez said. "When the constitutional rights of one person are violated, the rights of everyone are diluted."
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