Discovering Chief Knee

Legal proceedings against former Austin police officer Eric Snyder have been postponed again and are now set for Oct. 25. Snyder was fired after a March 2000 incident that spurred the charge of "official oppression" he is now facing in district court. But the battle that's slowing this case to a crawl is not between Snyder and the state, but between his defense attorney Steve Edwards and City Hall. Edwards argues that the charge against Snyder stems from the police department's disparate disciplinary practices -- legally considered a case of "selective enforcement" -- and should thus be thrown out.

This summer, Edwards convinced state district Judge Julie Kocurek to let him proceed with discovery efforts to shore up this charge, and that's where the case has ground nearly to a halt. Edwards has filed two motions of discovery -- one to subpoena numerous APD Internal Affairs Division files, the other to subpoena the testimony of APD Chief Stan Knee. Predictably, the city is fighting both motions. While state civil service rules make it unlikely that Edwards could actually get access to the IAD records, it is hard to imagine what argument the city could make that could keep Knee off the stand.

That question was put on hold in late June after Assistant City Attorney David Douglas passed out in the courtroom just as he was about to begin to argue to quash the Knee subpoena. (Douglas is fine and was in court Sept. 27.) No one keeled over this time, but Edwards said both sides are conducting more research to determine how to proceed with discovery. Edwards has filed a motion asking that discovery be conducted under civil procedure rules, which would free up court time and allow for deposition testimony of key witnesses (like Knee) and allow other paper-based information exchanges.

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