Thursday, January 31, 2008

Letter to the Editor

There's an interesting letter to editor in today's Chronicle regarding Rob Freyer:

A good man was mislabled
After reviewing Chronicle columnist Lisa Falkenberg's "Canadian" article in my head, I've decided I can't stand by and watch her try and destroy a man's career with careless and irresponsible journalism. (Please see "When is a Canadian not a Canadian?" City and State cover, Jan. 24.) Her column had no basis whatsoever and depended on a random Internet site as proof of racism. Secondly, she labeled a good man and attorney a racist and left it completely up in the air, knowing that the public reaction would be to assume the worst and ask questions later. Even her last sentence alludes to this: "My jury is still out, but I'm still hearing testimony."
I've known Rob Freyer for 19-plus years. WI e were good friends in college starting in 1988. We attended law school with each other here in Houston, where he was my roommate. Since then, I have watched him grow in the district attorney's office. If there was a man made for the job he has, it is Freyer. He is diligent and cares deeply about the work he does. He has never been tempted by the private sector and finds it a privilege to go to work every day. But Falkenberg never thought about the person. She was on a witch hunt and decided to consult an online site that actually also lists "bun," "butter," "pretzel," "mechanical," "Nike" and "Yen" as terms representing the "N" word.
CHRIS MILLERattorney at law, Houston


I think that Mr. Miller brings up an interesting point when he points out the seemingly innocuous words that this website lists as being codewords for slurs. I guess if someone is looking hard for a reason to be offended, they can always turn to that website for an obscure reason to feel slighted. I will go on the record right now saying that I have used the terms bun, butter, pretzel and mechanical with complete and total ignorance to the possibility that I was offending somebody.

I know Rob Freyer, and I know his reputation as being a very hard-core and zealous prosecutor within the D.A.'s Office. I also know that outside of his gruff exterior, he's a person who deeply cares about the victims of the cases he handles. Its a shame that under today's atmosphere of hate towards the D.A.s office, that a true public servant has been labeled as a racist.

For those of us who know him, that's simply not the case. Good for Mr. Miller for standing up for his friend in a time when it is certainly not politically correct to do so.

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

Why don't yoall ask minority lawyers that practice at the CJC to see if Rob Freyer is a racist?...you will find out that HE IS and someone should scrutinize his e-mails more closely...

A Harris County Lawyer said...

Did you miss the part where they did look through his e-mails and found absolutely nothing? I know the media didn't report on it, because THAT wouldn't make a good story.

It's been done. There's nothing there.

Anonymous said...

Maybe same thing happened to his e-mails as happened to CR's. You didnt address the issue of minority lawyers?

A Harris County Lawyer said...

Anon, you are clearly illustrating the point I was trying to make. Freyer is damned if he does, and damned if he doesn't. If they find something improper in his e-mail, case closed. If they don't, he must have deleted it. Case closed in the court of public opinion. Do you not see the fundamental unfairness of this?

I said it before, and I will say it again. It's a hell of a thing to be labeled as a racist, because the mere accusation of it is devastating. There is nothing that can be said by the person to remove or erase that perception through accusation.

At this point, Rob Freyer could rescue a group of orphans from a burning building, and all people would call him is a racist. Maybe my view is off, but I think there's something wrong about that.

You're right that I didn't address the issue of the "minority lawyers". I'm kind of at a loss, to be honest with you. I'm sure that Rob's gruff demeanor has offended plenty of people from the defense bar, "minority lawyers" included. ADAs anger and offend the defense bar on a daily basis, which is just part of the adverserial system. But if Rob were to anger a "minority lawyer", it becomes racism.

I am a firm believer that there are no absolutes in life.

I'm sure there are "minority lawyers" who feel that Rob's behavior is evidence of racism.

I'm equally sure that there are plenty of "minority lawyers" who don't believe that at all.

Anonymous said...

Rob Freyer is an Obnoxious Racist....and gives all ADA's a bad name...there has never been any need for his boorish behavior and he should have been fired years ago....

A Harris County Lawyer said...

Anon, you couldn't illustrate my point more clearly. The court of public opinion has judged him and now you are expressing your opinon of what the appropriate sentence is.
It doesn't matter the good he's accomplished on behalf of ALL members of this community during his time in the office.

Leviathan said...

AHCL - I like you, but sometimes you get very defensive and ease around hard questions.

Let's give Freyer the benefit of the doubt and simply ask directly:

"Rob, assuming that Trent's explanation for his e-mail was truthful, to what or whom, exactly, were you referring when you used the term 'Canadian' to refer to members of that particular jury panel?"

That's an easy question to answer, but Freyer's general silence on the matter leaves a vacuum that will be filled by others who are willing to respond.

I also find it intriguing that you focus on the apparent, if disingenuous, innocence of the words that cause your heartburn, but decline to acknowledge that context has any role in this mess. Context often communicates much more than the words used. For example, while Christians abound in this country, how often do you hear of a clever businessman "christing down" his adversary?

Of course, you don't.

Anonymous said...

Rob Freyer will not respond because he knows what awaits him when he lies. If I was in public office and someone insinuated I was a racist...I would immedietely speak up and make an effort to clear my name and not just have other people speak on my behalf....

A Harris County Lawyer said...

Leviathan,
You make a fair point. Of course I'm showing some bias, but for God's sake, I'm a blogger. And a biased blogger is a bit redundant.

I try to keep intellectually honest, I really do, but I know that I fall short of that some times.

If I were Rob's personal advisor, I don't know whether or not I would advise him to address the issue or not. I don't think that there is anything he could say to a member of the media (the presumptive group he would need to address his statements through) that would be satisfactory to anyone.
I was at the Office when the Canadian e-mail came out. Rob was horrified. I'm also pretty sure that he wrote a response at that time explaining himself, and that it's probably out there somewhere, if anyone is interested.

I don't believe that I'm taking what Kelly said 22 years ago to be inoffensive, but I do know that it was something she apologized for, immediately. I think it's one thing to say that you're sorry, but I think it takes a hell of a lot of humility to go to the juror's home and apologize in person.

I guess my bias comes from having worked at the Office for a long time, and knowing the dedication of the ADAs. Can they become crass? Absolutely? Jaded? Without a doubt. Insensitive? Well, yeah.

It just seems that there is an absolute public relations massacre going on right now, so I guess it does make me a bit defensive. I guess I just wish that the media would hand out credit as freely as they hand out criticism.

As always, Leviathan, your words are well taken, and I appreciate you keeping me honest.

afhcp said...

I am a minority and worked closely with Rob Freyer after the e-mail "scandal". I certainly had a particular impression of him before working closely with him, but came to realize that he has a big heart and is not a racist. I remember seeing him approach a Hispanic couple whose daughter had been killed by a drunk driver and whose other daughter had been seriously injured. Rob spoke to them in Spanish, the only language in which they could communicate, and really listened to what they had to say regarding the type of punishment they were seeking as justice for their daughters. He didn't have to do what he did. This was only one of the many times I saw him show empathy and care for people whether they were Black, White or Latinos. He is a very dedicated prosecutor and is an extremely hard worker. He can be obnoxious at times, but he is an equal opportunity annoyer.

I know many prosecutors never forgot about the notorious e-mail and I'm sure a few never forgave him for it. However, I believe I got to know him well enough to know that he is not a racist.

And by the way, I'm Mexican.

-AFHCP

Anonymous said...

like I said i doubt Freyer will ever address the issue himself... have him address the issue...I am a minority lawyer....

PJ said...

Here's the problem: There is no way the term "Canadian" gets used in that context without somebody meaning it derogatively. It showed up in Trent's email. He blamed Freyer. I don't believe that either of them are stupid enough to have used or understood it literally or even metaphorically for something like "liberal." If what they have been saying were some defendant's excuse at a trial, prosecutors would openly mock it in closing argument before the jury. (Incidentally, it's not just that database that recognizes "Canadian" as a racial slur; if you look around blogs and particularly message boards where the subject has come up--mostly as a result of this incident, of course--you will see plenty of confirmation from average, everyday people of the well-understood racist meaning of the code word. See, for example, this (a video game message board--these people have no axes to grind) or this (check the comments)).

After all, it hasn't been that long since a Dallas County prosecutor's training manual was in circulation instructing DAs to prevent "Jews, Negroes, Dagos, Mexicans, or a member of any minority race [from sitting] on a jury." And, sure, times have changed, but there is still way too much anti-black prejudice afoot, and it's not really all that surprising to find its remnants within the offices of the State, where it has historically flourished, particularly in the deep South.

Trent and/or Freyer probably are nice guys, but nice guys can be racists, too. This defense of Freyer, however, is no defense at all, particularly when the writer tries to go on the offense. This accusation: "But Falkenberg never thought about the person" rings especially hollow given that we are talking about somebody who (at least according to Trent) labeled three probably quite diverse black folks as "Canadians," even despite the fact that were fair jurors who voted the State's way in the case. Who here isn't thinking about the person? If this is Freyer's defense, I'll line up behind Falkenberg without hesitation.

Leviathan said...

Let me just say this - I don't know enough about Freyer to label him "racist," and probably most of the other people who post are equally clueless on the topic. So let's separate the person from the behavior (something parents do every day).

From time to time, most of us have or express a thought that could be condemned on some level. For example, I was walking toward the CJC a couple of mornings ago when I saw some guys being let out of a car in the middle of traffic and something led me to remark to myself about the apparent "Chinese fire drill." Was that a "racist" remark? No. Was it a racially insensitive remark? Yeah, probably so. Of course, in the current climate I thought about that and realized that I have no idea from whence the term came.

I work with a very diverse group of people, and I can promise you that folks from every possible group have made racially insensitive remarks and would be appalled at being labeled "racist." Perhaps we all should admit that we are imperfect "works in progress."

Only Freyer can tell us whether the word in his e-mail was racially or ethnically insensitive (lacking intent, as you clearly would categorize Kelly's remark), or whether its use was indicative of more deeply held beliefs regarding people of other races or ethnicities (having intent). The former reveals a stunning lack of judgment, given that County employees are constantly reminded not to put in an e-mail anything that you wouldn't want to see in the Chronicle. The latter reflects a lack of integrity that would do Janus proud. I would submit that neither is desirable in an ADA or any other public employee.

Anonymous said...

Just an observation: without regard to Trent's allegations against Freyer, and that is who is alleging that Freyer used this word, this letter from a friend joins the rank of unique public relations efforts by Cindy Rosenthal, Vic Wisner and Trent.

I'm not sure I've ever seen such a thing, ada's and the da's wife responding to the media via letters and postings.

There are some that are outraged at the Chrons treatment of the personalities in this scandal. But if they are not giving interviews, and btw I wouldn't either, then the Chron and the other media outlets are going to beat that dead horse.

Damned/Damned.

A Harris County Lawyer said...

I think all the points here are well-taken. I'm going to try to save a little time here and make a new article and try to address all of your concerns.

I appreciate all of you sharing your feelings on the Canadian e-mails.

Anonymous said...

Many, many years ago the HCDA's office had a written list about who NOT to leave on a jury. It was the same or similar to the one discovered in Dallas. Ted Poe used to train the new hires on this subject....one of the funnier no-no's was women who wear their hair in a bun. This was way before Batson. I guess all the copies of those training sessions have been deleted.

anonymous c said...

Leviathan,

Freyer did not write the e-mail. Trent did.

Everyone, Rob Freyer is not a racist. I DO know him personally and can say this with absolute certainty. He meant "sympathetic to the defendant" by the term.

Also, why are y'all automatically assuming that he was even referring to the black jurors when he made that comment? He wasn't. He was referring to the hold-outs, none of which were black.

Anonymous said...

Yes. I heard what anonymous 12:32 heard. Can anyone confirm that?

Anonymous said...

Spin control for Freyer is what it is...

Anonymous said...

It is interesting though. Any proof to back that up, 707?

A Harris County Lawyer said...

I know that there is an e-mail in the possession of the media in which Freyer explains himself. Whether or not anyone finds it acceptable at this point, is most probably doubtful.

I do find it interesting that the media hasn't released it, however.

A Harris County Lawyer said...

And by the way, that e-mail is dated from 2003, when the incident first happened. Not something recently created.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to see that email myself. If they're holding that back, the obvious question is why? If the African-Americans really weren't the holdouts, then we all would have to rethink this mudslinging. At least it seems that way to me and I am definitely no fan of CR's minions. I wouldn't put it past the Chronicle to leave that out though. I just can't believe they'd be that flagrant with their bias.

A Harris County Lawyer said...

Anon 10:05, I will see if the media releases the e-mail. If I haven't seen it in a couple of days, I'll try to track it down.

You're kidding about the media not being flagrant in their bias, right? They buried a story on Pat Lykos refusing to allow a witness to wear a yarmulke in court, despite of his religious beliefs. In stead, they ran a story on Kelly Siegler using the term "Jew" as a verb in the 1980s.

Nah, they aren't biased.

Anonymous said...

Biased? The Chronicle? No way! lol I wonder why no one else has brought up the issue of exactly who the holdouts were before. I'm going to laugh so hard if the holdouts really were Anglos. A big pie in the Chronicles face is what that'll be. Can't wait.

Anonymous said...

Nice try but Freyer's gonna be walking out right behind CR. Birds of a feather.

Anonymous said...

I will second that response...its time for both to hit the bricks...

Anonymous said...

In the article are "hard-core" "zealous" and "gruff exterior" code words for being a ranting, raving, lunatic?

A Harris County Lawyer said...

I always find it interesting when I get three separate "Anonymous" e-mails on one of my older articles that all seem to pop up at the same time. Kind of makes you wonder if it isn't the same person, posting three times in a row to bolster their own credibility.

Just a thought.

Whomever is posting, if you'd like to move to a discussion rather than just name-calling, I'll be happy to talk about it.

anonymous c said...

Yes, and I'd like to know why you all (or one person) think that Freyer should be fired. On what basis?

Do you have any factual, relevant evidence or just flagrant, bandwagon, substance-less insults?

I'm honestly curious.