Court orders Travis County DA to record grand jury in law enforcement use of force case

Grand jury investigations into use-of-force cases will now have to be recorded. But, after a Travis County judge ordered that extremely-rare measure Thursday, District Attorney Jose Garza started working around it.

Court documents show Doug O'Connell and Ken Ervin, who represent several Austin police officers indicated by Garza, claim the DA has unfairly withheld critical information from grand juries in order to push a political agenda.

The court order only involves information presented to grand juries, not deliberations or votes.

In response to the order, DA Garza issued a news release stating he would bypass the grand jury in the case of APD officer Alex Gaitan by using a legal procedure called information filing, that allows his office to file a preliminary charge without an indictment.

The head of CLEAT, Charlie Wilkison, criticized Garza's move, calling it "illegal" and a "squirrelly way to hide evidence."

The DA's office says the charges against Gaitan is connected to an investigation of his alleged assault of a man on March 12, 2021.

Officer Gaitan will have the right to an examining trial if he requests one, which is an open court hearing where the prosecution presents evidence to allow a magistrate judge to "examine into the truth of the accusation made."

"Our notice of agreement means that we will not object if Officer Gaitan requests an examining trial," said Travis County DA José Garza. "Our office will continue to hold law enforcement officers who engage in criminal conduct accountable and will do so transparently."