The Next Fight in the Waco Shootout Will Be in Court

Waco authorities have a lot of work to do.

By Rhonda FanningMay 20, 2015 9:05 am|

As the dust settles on the Twin Peaks parking lot after Sunday’s deadly biker shootout, the showdown in the courtroom is just beginning.

Authorities in Waco no doubt have a challenge ahead of them – sifting through the physical evidence and countless statements regarding the encounter that left 9 dead. But the district attorney’s office is now tasked with how to prosecute the roughly 170 arrested and charged with engaging in organized crime.

A bond had been set at $1 million for just about all the 170 suspects. Yesterday the Fort Worth Star Telegram reported that three of those individuals were released Tuesday on bonds ranging from $20,000 to $50,000. A judge realized that their charges were similar to the others’ and issued arrest warrants – the three suspects turned themselves back in that evening.

Geoffrey Corn, professor at the South Texas College of Law, joins the Texas Standard to talk about the legal challenges.

How do authorities sift through those who were engaged in organized crime and those who weren’t? 

“Well it’s going to require a careful investigation. At this phase of the process what they have to establish is probably cause, which is just fair probability that these individual have committed an offense. Ultimately they’re going to have to gather sufficient evidence that they can admit in court, to prove beyond a reasonable doubt whatever [crimes] they allege these individuals committed.”

On those who don’t seem to fit the profile of a gang member yet were still arrested:

“One thing people have to understand is that in an incident like this where you have multiple people involved, it’s very common for the accusation to be based on the theory of accomplish liability. When you encourage someone else to commit a crime….you can be charged as if you committed it.”

On the impact on the innocent individuals who were arrested: 

“This is inherent in our criminal justice system. The system is not perfect, it’s cautious…we don’t charge people at the point in time where we’re positive or even convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that they committed a crime in all cases. In many cases, we charge people early in the process as the investigation evolves and develops. And that’s just a consequence of the system that recognizes that in many cases it’s unrealistic to expect that the police have all the evidence that they need at the initiation of the process.”