Special grand jury empaneled in Uvalde County to review Robb Elementary school shooting case

12 Uvalde County residents selected to serve on special grand jury

UVALDE, Texas – A special grand jury was empaneled Friday in Uvalde County to review the case of the Robb Elementary school shooting case, ABC News has confirmed.

The special grand jury of the 38th Judicial District Court is comprised of 12 Uvalde County residents who are expected to spend at least six months studying the May 24, 2022, shooting that claimed the lives of 19 students and two teachers.

The formation of the panel comes one day after US Justice Department officials traveled to Uvalde to release a scathing report on the failures of law enforcement to respond to the massacre.

However, according to a social media post by Uvalde County District Attorney Christina Mitchell, the DOJ report will not impact her independent investigation.

While a grand jury usually reviews dozens of cases presented by prosecutors, this panel will solely focus on the Robb shooting and serve as investigative tools for Mitchell and her prosecuting team with power to subpoena witnesses and compel evidence, the Uvalde Leader-News reported.

This type of jury is utilized for complex cases that may be labor-intensive, including public corruption cases.

Jurors may meet about twice a month, depending upon work schedules, as they hear testimony from witnesses and study the case presented by Mitchell. At the end of the procedure, they should make a recommendation and possibly issue a report on their findings, the report said.

At that time, should Mitchell decide to pursue charges, she would then present that case to a regular grand jury.

Legal experts weigh in

The decision to convene a special grand jury is not used often.

“A special grand jury has this specific purpose of looking at one particular issue, one particular case,” said Brent Delapaz, a criminal defense attorney with LeGrand & Bernstein.

A dozen people from the community will serve on the special grand jury, going over the investigation the Texas Rangers handed over to Mitchell.

KSAT has learned through a joint lawsuit with other media organizations against the Texas Department of Public Safety that the investigative material is 2.8 terabytes of data.

“The whole purpose is for them to look at everything instead of one thing in a vacuum. Now, they have an array of information that they can pore over,” Delapaz said.

Throughout the special grand jury proceedings, the jurors can ask questions of the district attorney, specifically about charges that can be brought.

In the past, KSAT spoke with Alexandra Klein, an assistant professor at St. Mary’s University School of Law about possible charges that could be filed against law enforcement officers who failed to act during the shooting at Robb.

Klein stated it’s hard to speculate as to what charges could be filed without access to a full case file, however, charges of injury to a child by omission or child neglect could be possible.

“But again, if you have an omission, a failure to act, you have to prove that there’s a legal duty that was breached,” Klein said.

In Texas, there is no penal code for child neglect, instead, charges are referred to as abandoning or endangering a child.

“Child endangerment. Do you think that would be a fair charge to present to a special grand jury,” KSAT 12 News reporter Leigh Waldman asked.

“Everything is going to be on the table. And I think if a special grand juror were to ask that exact same question, I think that’s a fair question to ask,” Delapaz said.

According to the Texas penal code, a person convicted of child endangering “is a felony of the second degree if the actor abandons the child under circumstances that a reasonable person would believe would place the child in imminent danger of death, bodily injury, or physical or mental impairment.”

Felony charges have a statute of limitations between two years and no expiration date, and Klein points out that some crimes against children have a statute of limitations that extends a full 10 years past the 18th birthday of the victim of the offense.

Ultimately, Mitchell will use the special grand jury as an investigative tool, with community input, to decide how to proceed further.

“They can then use that information to start asking those questions, to start trying to find out what is a reasonable charge to bring and against whom,” Delapaz said.

About the Authors

David Ibañez has been managing editor of KSAT.com since the website's launch in October 2000.

Leigh Waldman is an investigative reporter at KSAT 12. She joined the station in 2021. Leigh comes to San Antonio from the Midwest after spending time at a station in Omaha, NE. After two winters there, she knew it was time to come home to Texas. When Leigh is not at work, she enjoys eating, playing with her dogs and spending time with family.

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