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The Bell County trial of C.J. Grisham, the Texas soldier whose March 16 arrest by Temple police spawned a viral video, scheduled to begin today has been postponed until Oct. 15.
Grisham’s March arrest has initiated new scrutiny with regard to the Temple Police Department and its general conduct in dealing with citizens. The arrest has also fueled new discussions of Second Amendment rights – specifically those dealing with open carry – in central Texas and other parts of the state.
The police dashcam video of Grisham’s arrest has yet to be made public. In mid-May, Judge Neel Richardson ordered the Bell County Attorney’s Office to release two police videos and the 911 recording which initially brought Temple Police Department officers in contact with Grisham, but only for use by Grisham’s defense team, not for dissemination to the press or the public. The video is significant as it documents the initial encounter between Grisham and Officer Steve Ermis of the Temple Police Department, the encounter which prompted the events seen on Grisham’s widely-viewed video.
Police dashcam videos and other audio recordings associated with pending legal cases are often made public either by acquisition via public information requests or through release of the materials by government entities. In this case, the city of Temple and Bell County Attorney’s Office have stringently argued against any such releases.
The release of Grisham case video and audio was required by law, specifically Brady v. Maryland, which requires the release of evidence favorable to a defendant be released to defense counsel. On Sept. 30, Williamson County District Judge Ken Anderson will be in court as the State Bar of Texas’ Commission for Lawyer Discipline seeks to prove the former district attorney committed professional misconduct in Michael Morton’s 1987 murder trial by withholding key pieces of evidence favorable to Morton’s case.
Instead of releasing the Grisham case materials as a simple administrative matter, county officials elected to expend additional taxpayer resources, take up court time and generate unnecessary legal expense for the defendant by delaying compliance with basic law.
The video’s presentation at a July 31 public pre-trial hearing would suggest it as now being subject to public information laws, however, Deputy City Attorney Nan Rodriguez maintains this position:
You request various materials related to the March 16, 2013 arrest of Christopher J. Grisham by Temple Police officers. Per the attached Attorney General’s prior ruling on a previous request for the same materials, the requested citizen complaint and video recording of the arrest are evidence in a pending criminal prosecution. These materials will remain evidence in a pending prosecution until a final verdict in the case has been rendered and, if necessary, all appeals have been exhausted.
Further, the Court admonished counsel in open court against the release of the video evidence you’ve requested. Use of the video by the Court during a pre-trial proceeding does not constitute a waiver of either the Court’s admonishment or the AG’s ruling.
The City respectfully refers you to the attached Attorney General’s response to a previous request for the same records.
A similar public information request to the Bell County Attorney’s Office yielded an unknown response purportedly within a document attached to an email. Upon being unable to open the document and advising the sender of such, no further communication was received.
The initial video was shot first by Grisham, but upon his being restrained by Ermis, Grisham’s son Chris assumed control of the camera.
With the release of that video, Grisham published this account of the incident:
On March 16, 2013, my son and I were hiking along country roads among pastures and fields with my 15-year old son to help him earn his hiking merit badge. I always enjoy these father/son hikes because it gives me time alone with my son. As I always do when we go on these hikes and walks, I took my trusty rifle with me as there are coyotes, wild hogs, and cougars in our area. In Texas, it is legal to openly carry a rifle or shotgun as long as you do so in a manner that isn’t calculated to cause alarm. In other words, you can’t walk around waving your rifle at people. I always carry my rifle slung across my chest dangling, not holding it in my hands.
At about the 5 mile mark of our hike, a voice behind us asked us to stop and the officer motioned for us to approach him. He got out of his car and met us a few feet later. He asked us what we were doing and I explained that we were hiking for my son’s merit badge. He then asked me what I’m doing with the rifle, to which I responded in a calm manner, “Does it matter, officer? Am I breaking the law?”
At that point, the officer grabbed my rifle without warning or indication. He didn’t ask for my rifle and he didn’t suggest he would take it from me. He simply grabbed it. This startled me and I instantly pulled back – the rifle was attached to me – and I asked what he thought he was doing because he’s not taking my rifle. He then pulled his service pistol on me and told me to take my hands off the weapon and move to his car, which I complied with. He then slammed me into the hood of his car and I remembered I had a camera on me (one of the requirements of the hiking merit badge is to document your hikes). This video is the rest of that encounter. Up to this point, I am not told why I am being stopped, why he tried to disarm me, or even that I’m under arrest.
We did not set out that Saturday morning to “make a point” or cause problems. Our goal was to complete a 10-mile hike and return home without incident. My son chose a route that away from populated areas but near our home.
The arresting officer is Officer Steve Ermis and the supervisor is Sergeant Minnicks of the Temple Police Department.
Grisham’s trial will certainly have important ramifications within his personal and professional life. The case’s outcome, however, is also an issue of which city of Temple and Bell County residents should take note – not only for its Second Amendment and open government issues, but because it also positions taxpayers for significant financial liability in the event of future civil action and continued questionable conduct on the part of public officials.
Tags: Bell County Attorney's office, Bell County Texas, county government, government, gun control, gun rights, taxpayer, Temple Police Department, Temple TX
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