Charlie Baird, the former judge who held a hearing in the Todd Willingham case in an attempt to determine if he was wrongfully executed, today criticized Travis County DA Rosemary Lehmberg regarding a fatal police shooting of a citizen in Austin. Baird is running against Lehmberg for Travis County DA.
Baird sent out the following email with the subject line “Where is Justice?”:
“All we know is that young man is dead and no one, presumably, is to blame.
Earlier today, a Travis County Grand Jury returned a no-bill in the case of Austin Police Officer Nathan Wagoner. Wagoner shot an unarmed, 20-year-old young man four times, including once in the back of the head, and killed him on the night of May 30, 2011.
That young man was Byron Carter, Jr. His death left his young son—Byron Carter, III.—without a father.
Byron is the latest victim in an officer-involved shooting in Travis County for whom there is no justice. As of today, with the conclusion of all grand jury presentments in this case, the only thing we know is that a young man is dead, and no one is to blame.
Time and again, law enforcement in this city has shot and killed people–mainly African Americans, like Byron–and time and again the grand juries to whom District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg and her office present these cases return no indictment.
How, when a police officer fires five shots in to two unarmed individuals in 1.5 seconds—which is what occurred in the case of Byron’s death, according to Police Chief Acavedo’s own account this afternoon—can a District Attorney not even secure an indictment for reckless discharge of a firearm against the officer?
News outlets such as the Austin Chronicle have raised significant questions about the shooting that killed Byron Carter. Today, we are left with more questions than answers.
Incidents like this, and the failure of our District Attorney to hold anyone accountable for such tragic deaths, shakes our confidence in the criminal justice system in Travis County to the very core.
No matter your race, economic background, or political bent, incidents like this should cause you to question the effectiveness and quality of our District Attorney’s Office.
Today, a son is without his father, a grandmother is without her grandson, and a community has lost its faith in its criminal justice system.
As someone who has given my life to improving our criminal justice system as a lawyer, judge, and law professor, rarely have I seen a result which has caused so many people to question the integrity of a District Attorney’s Office or the leadership of a District Attorney.
I will not, however, lose faith in our system. I know that we can do better, and I know that we can bring about justice that works for everyone in Travis County through new, bold, progressive leadership in our DA’s office.
I challenge you to also not lose faith in our system. Know that, through hard work, together you and I can work to make possible the only kind of change that counts in a situation like this: the kind of change that comes only from the ballot box.