Harris County, Texas, District Attorney Kim Ogg plans to support the reversal of “at least 91” more convictions in cases involving Gerald Goines, the former Houston narcotics officer whose fraudulent search warrant affidavit led to the January 2019 drug raid that killed Dennis Tuttle and Rhogena Nicholas. Ogg’s office had already backed the dismissal of 73 cases initiated by Goines, who faces state murder charges and federal civil rights charges in connection with the deadly invasion of the middle-aged couple’s house on Harding Street.
“We will continue to work to clear people convicted solely on the word of a police officer who we can no longer trust,” Ogg said in a press release last Thursday. “We are committed to making sure the criminal justice [system] is fair and just for everyone.”
The latest batch of questionable cases all involved search warrants obtained by Goines. The previous batch involved cases in which Goines was the only purported witness to drug transactions he claimed to have observed.
Prosecutors are filing motions asking that lawyers be appointed for each of the 91 defendants. If those lawyers decide that Goines’ sworn statements were material in convicting their clients and seek new trials on that basis (both of which seem likely), prosecutors “anticipate that they will agree to relief and eventual dismissal,” Ogg said.
“We’ve come to the conclusion that every conviction in which Goines was the major player, for the past 11 years, needs to be flipped,” said Josh Reiss, chief of the Post-Conviction Writs Division at Ogg’s office. “The number of cases may grow.”
Goines, who served the Houston Police Department (HPD) for 34 years, has admitted that he invented a fictional heroin purchase by a nonexistent confidential informant to justify the no-knock Harding Street raid. Four officers were wounded by gunshots during the exchange of fire that killed Tuttle and Nicholas, which began when the cops broke into the house and immediately used a shotgun to kill the couple’s dog. Lawyers for Nicholas’ family say she and Tuttle were napping at the time of the raid. Police found no evidence that the the couple was selling heroin, as Goines had claimed.
One of the men framed by Goines, Otis Mallet, was sentenced to eight years in state prison because the officer claimed he was involved in a 2008 crack cocaine sale. Mallet, who served two years of that sentence, has always denied Goines’ account. He was declared “actually innocent” in February, along with his brother, Steven Mallet, who served 10 months after Goines implicated him in the same purported transaction.
“If the magistrate who Goines asked to sign a warrant to permit the raid on Harding Street had known of his history of lies and deception, he would not have signed it, and Rhogena and Dennis would likely still be alive today,” Ogg said. While Tuttle and Nicholas were white, all of the defendants in the 164 cases identified by Ogg’s office so far are members of minority groups, and the vast majority are black (as is Goines).
Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, who initially hailed Goines as a hero while posthumously tarring Tuttle and Nicholas as dangerous heroin dealers, has denied that the problems revealed by the disastrous Harding Street raid reflect a “systemic” failure within the HPD’s Narcotics Division. At least 164 suspect convictions over 11 years involving a single officer suggest otherwise.
Another former Houston narcotics officer, Steven Bryant, faces state and federal charges because he backed up Goines’ phony story about a “controlled buy” that never happened. It is hard to believe that no one else was complicit in Goines’ shady practices spanning more than a decade, either by actively assisting him, by looking the other way, or by failing to adequately supervise his activities. Ogg said her office is investigating “other officers” in Goines’ squad.