Should video of possible police misconduct be kept under wraps?

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Lawyers from the Harris County District Attorney's Office and the county's Criminal Defense Bar were in front of a judge Thursday to talk about a video that would normally never be seen by the public before it was shown in court.

It is Houston Police video, where one can see a police officer balling his fist, punching a woman in the face and slamming her to the floor of a drunk-tank cell after she swung her elbow at the officer while questioning a no-refusal blood test.

The attorneys weren't there to talk about the officer's actions.

Instead, they were talking about whether a lawyer should be punished for possibly helping Ted Oberg Investigates acquire the video and show it to viewers.

"The DA is trying to intimidate the defense bar from releasing information that has public value," said Mark Bennett with the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association.

That is a claim that the DA's office said is absolutely not true.

After abc13 started asking questions about the events on the video -- and a day before the story aired on August 10 -- the officer was relieved from duty.

The incident took place in December 2015.

On Wednesday, two assistant District Attorneys interviewed three Houston Police employees to figure out how defense lawyer Tyler Flood got the video.

Today, they suggested Flood could hypothetically be held in contempt or otherwise sanctioned.

In the end a judge said there was nothing she can do, in part because of conflicting laws on the matter. One Texas law states that lawyers can't turn over video. Another states that clients can turn over video like the one in question.

"The end result was the judge thought there was no harm, no foul," Flood said.

District Attorney spokesman Jeff McShan said the DA was simply trying to keep the case from being tainted.

"We're trying to protect the people who come to court to make sure they get a fair trial," he said.

District Attorney Devon Anderson has previously said she did not want the video released publicly.

"The reason I won't comment on it and the reason we don't want it released is that it is a pending case and we don't want to influence potential jurors," Anderson said last month. "There was a use of force that needs to be investigated."

Ted Oberg Investigates is not saying how abc13 got the video.

But defense lawyers suggest the entire exercise could keep the public from seeing videos like this.

"If the police are protected from their misconduct being revealed to the public even for a minute, it affects the safety of the public," Bennett said.

Lawyers on both sides Thursday expressed concern this could happen again and new laws may be needed to clarify the rules.
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