Friday, April 5, 2017
Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg requested Wednesday that a special prosecutor handle the case against a man charged with capital murder for the August 2015 shooting death of Sheriff’s Deputy Darren Goforth.
Ogg asked that she and her staff be recused from prosecuting Shannon Miles “to avoid any appearance of impropriety” according to a motion signed by Ogg and filed in the 185th District Court.
The motion states that when Ogg’s chief of staff, Vivian King, was a private practice defense lawyer in 2015, she represented two witnesses regarding Miles’ whereabouts during the murder and Miles’ mental state at the time.
Miles is accused of repeatedly shooting Goforth in the head as the deputy stood at a convenience store gas pump. Miles faces life in prison or death if convicted.
“This decision was not made lightly,” said David Mendoza, chief of the Office of Professional Responsibility, which Ogg created shortly after her administration began January 1.
“Seeing that justice is done, with respect to the capital murder of a police officer, is one of the most profound functions of the district attorney,” said Mendoza, a retired state district judge.
“We want to see this case tried once and see it tried cleanly,” Mendoza said. “The people of Harris County and the family of Darren Goforth deserve justice.”
Wednesday April 5, 2017
Today, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg filed a motion to disqualify her office from the prosecution of Shannon Miles. This decision was made because the District Attorney’s Chief of Staff, Vivian King, while still in private practice in late 2015, briefly represented Miles’s mother and brother during the grand jury’s investigation into the death of Deputy Darren Goforth. In that capacity, she provided counsel to these material witnesses.
Also, while she was a criminal defense attorney, she talked with Miles’s counsel, Anthony Osso, about the case. These circumstances raise a suggestion that she – and, by extension, the office – may have gleaned knowledge of Miles’s confidential defense theories and strategies to such a degree that it could compromise Osso’s ability to effectively represent his client.
This decision was not made lightly. Seeing that justice is done with respect to the capital murder of a police officer is one of the most profound functions of this office. The District Attorney acknowledges and respects the very hard work that has already been done on this case by current and former staff, including Major Offender Division Assistant District Attorney Samantha Knecht and District Attorney Investigator Genni Ruzzi.
It is the gravity of this case, however, that compels this conclusion. Deputy Goforth’s family, Shannon Miles and his family, the citizens of this county and the courts that will likely conduct appellate review should have no questions about the integrity, independence and effectiveness of the lawyers in this capital murder prosecution.
Ms. King is a high-ranking supervisor in the leadership team of the District Attorney’s Office and her previous representation of Miles’s family members could be a compromising factor in any post-conviction appeals in the case. Her position as Chief of Staff would make it difficult to effectively screen her from the various discretionary decisions that arise in the course of prosecuting a high-profile case.
This Office is confident that the presiding judge will appoint a team of experienced and qualified pro tem prosecutors who will continue the substantial work that has already been done in the effort to bring Miles to justice. The District Attorney has explained the situation to Deputy Goforth’s family and they have expressed their understanding of the need for this decision.