On Thursday, February 22, 2024, KSAT reported that attorneys for three former San Antonio police officers, accused of committing crimes while on duty, filed motions accusing the Civil Rights Division of the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office of intentionally concealing evidence that would have cleared their clients.

The motions were filed in February 2024 for the criminal cases against ex-SAPD officers Carlos Castro and Oscar Cruz Jr. The attorneys are asking the judge in each case to prohibit prosecutors from retrying their clients due to what they say was “intentional misconduct” during the previous trials.

The head of the DA’s Civil Rights Division, Daryl Harris, defended the handling of the cases when interviewed. However, the motions claim prosecutors failed to disclose exculpatory evidence from three expert witnesses in Castro and fellow ex-SAPD officer Thomas Villarreal’s case, who stated during interviews that the officers were justified in arresting the suspect and did not use excessive force.

In Cruz’s case, his trial ended in a mistrial last month after it was revealed that two minor witnesses in the case had pending criminal charges that were not disclosed to the defense. Court records show the judges have not set hearing dates yet to consider the claims in the motions to dismiss the cases due to prosecutorial misconduct.

Castro and Villarreal had been fired and indicted in 2020 for aggravated assault by a public servant following an incident where they kicked in a door and used force on a man fleeing a traffic stop. Their trial ended in a mistrial. Villarreal’s charges were later dropped due to insufficient evidence. Castro was reindicted for misdemeanor assault. Cruz was fired and indicted in early 2022 for deadly conduct with a firearm after chasing and shooting at two teens suspected of pulling on vehicle doors.

In the article, prosecutors are defending their actions but acknowledging a review is underway of internal disclosure processes. Bexar County DA Joe Gonzales pledged stronger procedures but has been criticized for mistakes by police union leaders. The defense attorneys said the language accusing intentional misconduct in the motions was “very calculated” and could result in judges sanctioning prosecutors.

A legal expert consulted in the article, Robert Almonte II, said failure to disclose evidence is a serious issue that violates a prosecutor’s fundamental obligations. He noted defense attorneys would not seek a mistrial unless there were legitimate concerns, and judges similarly grant them reluctantly. It remains to be seen how the courts will handle the various requests to dismiss cases following multiple mistrials in a short period involving the same prosecutorial division.

 

 

Source: KSAT