Waco detective may hear biker shootout cases as grand jury foreman

Story highlights

  • Police detective will be foreman of a grand jury that might consider biker shootout cases
  • He tells newspaper he has had little to do with investigation into killings of nine bikers
  • Attorney says investigator from investigating agency shouldn't be on grand jury at all

Dallas (CNN)A Waco, Texas, police detective will be the foreman of a grand jury that could soon be considering indictments of nearly 180 people in May's deadly shootout at the Twin Peaks restaurant, a move that has upset an attorney of one of the bikers arrested in the case.

The lawyer compared Friday's appointment of a Waco police officer, the same agency investigating the May 17 melee that left nine bikers dead, to an episode of a classic television comedy.
The "grand jury is reminiscent of an old 'I Love Lucy' episode in which the same police officer who stopped Ricky (Ricardo) for speeding in a small Southern town was also the judge and jury at his trial on the speeding ticket," Clinton Broden, who represents biker Matthew Clendennen, wrote to the court.
    In his court motion objecting to the detective's selection, Broden said that it was "hardly a laughing matter" and that the arrangement "would lead any reasonable person to be flabbergasted."
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    Judge Ralph Strother, who presided over the appointments on the grand jury, said there was nothing to prevent Waco police Detective James Head from leading the grand jury and that he believes the officer will be impartial and fair.
    "Who would know the law better than an officer?" Strother told CNN. "He has one vote like the rest of them (grand jury members)."
    Head has been a Waco police officer for 26 years and has been a peace officer for 34 years. He was selected to serve on the grand jury through a newly mandated random selection process. Names of grand jurors in Texas are not kept private, but the proceedings are secret.
    The Waco Tribune Herald-Tribune asked Head if he had any involvement in the shooting investigation at the now-closed Twin Peaks restaurant. Head only said "not really."
    But the Waco newspaper also said Head, who investigates thefts, vowed to recuse himself if necessary during the grand jury proceedings.
    "If something comes up that I have worked on, or something like that, that involved any type of apparent conflict, I am not going to vote on it," Head told the Herald-Tribune.
    The news of the grand jury appointment comes as many bikers who were swept up in the mass arrests have been highly critical of how Waco police investigators handled the shooting investigation.
    Clendennen has been one of the most vocal critics and has filed a lawsuit against the Waco Police Department.
    He spent nearly two weeks in jail and was released after a judge reduced his $1 million bond.
    "I don't think they (Waco police investigators) knew what to do. I think they were clueless as to what to do," Clendennen told CNN.
    Police have said the shootout began after an uninvited biker gang showed up at the restaurant where a coalition of motorcycle groups had reserved the outdoor bar area.
    McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna said the Waco grand jury will serve until September 30. It is unclear just how many of the 177 Twin Peaks cases it will actually cover in that time.
    Reyna said it's also up to the individual jurors to recuse themselves if there's a conflict of interest.
    There are 12 grand jurors and two alternates. The grand jury will meet twice a month.