Monday, February 18, 2008

The Canadian E-mail Response

For the past several weeks, I have asked Alan Bernstein (through this blog) why he has failed to publish the e-mail from Rob Freyer to Mike Trent, explaining himself for the use of the term "Canadian". For reasons unbeknownst to me, Mr. Bernstein has elected not to publish this e-mail. For some reason, Mr. Bernstein (and other members of the media, to be fair) has decided that the publication of anything even slightly mitigating on behalf of the Office is not worth their time.

Below is the e-mail that he has been sitting on all this time.

I realize that the explanation offered by Rob will not be acceptable to those who have been bashing him on every website that they could find, but the fact remains that he did give an explanation at the time.

I apologize for not having access to a scanner so I can't scan the copy of the e-mail that I was able to obtain. It was written on August 7, 2003 to Mike Trent. I have faithfully re-typed it word for word. If you have a doubt about any of the wording in it, contact Alan Bernstein at the Chronicle. He should have a copy of it, although he has elected not to publish it for his own reasons.

The trial referenced in the e-mail involved two counts of intoxication manslaughter related to a defendant who killed two people and injured a third while driving the wrong way down I-10, while intoxicated. The defendant had pled guilty to a jury, and the jury was only deciding the appropriate punishment on the cases (a fact that Mike Trent got wrong in the now infamous e-mail he sent to "All Prosecutors"). The jury deliberated for approximately two days, and at the time of the comment, Rob was frustrated with their inability to reach a verdict.

As stated earlier, this e-mail was written on August 7, 2003 at 11:58 a.m. and was not recently drafted in response to the bashing that Rob has received as part of the 2008 election. It reads:

This memorandum is written in response to an incident which took place on August 6, 2003.

On that date, as well as the day before, I had a jury deliberating punishment (the def. had already pled guilty to the jury) on a very bad and highly emotional intoxication manslaugher case in the 263rd District Court. I was frustrated by their inability to reach a verdict and commented in passing that (after reading some of the numerous pointless and confusing questions that they had sent out) that there must be some "canadian" back there in the jury room that was hanging them up. I in no way ever intended that such remark be taken seriously, nor did I attach to it or intend or suggest any other connotation for the term, other than it signifying that there was some weak-minded juror who was back there confusing the rest of the jury and preventing them from reaching a verdict. While I asked the jury to give the defendant the maximum on each of the three cases, a few members of the jury, in reading the questions that they sent out, were actually considering giving the defendant probation on one of the cases. After the case was over, I spoke at length with the jury before they left, and they told me that they had been confused by the deadly weapon special issue that had been submitted to them. I came back to my office and learned that my chief had sent out an all prosecutors email congratulating me on the result (12 years on two cases, stacked and 10 years on the inxication assault), and that some people in the office were offended by the email. I am truly sorry for that fact and want to stress that it was minsinterpreted and not intended in any way to offend or upset anyone.

Now, as I mentioned, I know that this e-mail will not appease those who have already decided within their own minds what they think of Rob Freyer.

However, that being said, it still does not explain nor justify why journalists such as Alan Bernstein have elected not to publish it as some form of mitigation. They have preferred to sit by and allege that Rob never responded to the allegations, when, in fact, they knew that he had. They have let him be called a racist (as well as several other choice names) by everyone who read their stories.

To me, that is irresponsible journalism.

It's also cowardice.

44 comments:

anonymous c said...

AHCL, you continue to earn your hero status daily!

Thank you again and again.

A Harris County Lawyer said...

It was overdue.

Please feel free to link to this post in the Chronicle comments the next time that Falkenberg or Bernstein elect to write a one-sided story regarding the D.A.'s Office.

PJ said...

It seems to me that Freyer's email has not been reported for the simple reason that the Chronicle's news bureau has not reported on the Canadian email itself. There's no reason to publish an explanation of something you aren't even reporting on in the first place. The Chronicle's coverage regarding race has been exclusively about Chuck and what was on his computer, i.e., fatal overdose and the Bill Clinton joke.

A Lexis search reveals not a single Chronicle news article reporting on the Canadian email. The search string I used was "Trent" and "Canadians," two words that would have to be used in any coverage of the story. There were two hits, but neither were news articles. One was from columnist Lisa Falkenberg raising questions about the email and whose story included this: "But, if we assume Trent is merely exceedingly gullible for a prosecutor, the focus turns to Freyer. If he used the term "Canadian" first, what did he mean by it? Freyer didn't return my e-mail and calls to his home and office." The other hit is from a letter to the editor. (I also ran "Canadians" and "Harris," a much broader search, which did not net anything further.)

To me, the Chronicle's apparent refusal to cover the original email as news is what is troublesome.

In any event, it isn't the Chronicle's responsibility to publish Freyer's 2003 explanatory email, particularly when they aren't even covering the story in the first place (shamefully, in my opinion). If Freyer had something to say about it, he could have spoken to the one columnist who wrote about it and asked him for comment. As the media go, I assume it would have been sufficient for him to have referred the writer to his email if he had so chosen.

By the way, I don't buy Freyer's version. I think he used the term in confidence in a one-on-one conversation with a fellow white guy. He obviously didn't expect it to be repeated, much less in an office-wide email (and then eventually released to the general public). This explanation actually makes Trent's plea to (extreme) ignorance more credible.

Anonymous said...

Really? I don't belive Rob Freyer is racist. I also think that if you really believe he meant anything other than "there were black folks on the jury, and the DA's office believes black folks are weak on punishment" you are out of your mind.

jigmeister said...

Rob is one of those special people that are truly dedicated to prosecution. (PJ that means trying to do the right thing).

For that reason, I am very worried about what will become of people like him that will patently refuse to go into defense work, should this election go south. Kelly is another.

Though people like Rusty left swearing they would continue the "mission" (my words) after leaving the office...he didn't. And,if you were around then, it was easy to tell that he wouldn't.

I guess fretting like the old man that I am won't help. By the way, if any of you remember her, Mindy (McCracken) Montford is running for DA in Austin and passes her along her concern and regards (by phone of course).

pro.victims said...

OK. The Chron runs columnists' opinions in print that could potentially reach 3 or 4 million people, accusing a single man of being a racist, and since it runs under "columnist" (employed by the paper), it isn't "covering" the story. They don't run his response made at the time of the event, even though it was written 5 years ago, un-motivated by political elections.

And you think that "shamefully" the Chron isn't calling Rob a racist?

Well, if the Chron had his response from, well, 5 years ago, why didn't they mention that? "Five years later, Freyer failed to address what he promptly responded at the time it happened."

You've made it clear that from your view, fairness is not relevant.

Go get 'em, Tiger. God, you'd be a defense lawyer's worst nightmare - you'll convict anyone on the allegation alone.

Michael said...

I agree with anonymous 10:41 that there's only one explanation of the Freyer email that passes the smell test, and that is that Freyer thought his verdict was being held up by an African-American juror. That being said, I can't agree with him that Freyer's email wasn't racist, since racism is, in part, assigning certain characteristics to classes of people based on their race.

I also agree with pj that there is no good reason for the Chronicle not to have covered the original email. Had they done so, it would be more troubling to me that they hadn't published Freyer's explanation. But even in that instance, I could understand the Chronicle's decision not to publish the explanation because it is specious on its face. Freyer's suggestion that "Canadian" means "weak-minded juror" is akin to Anne Coulter's insistence (apparently bought by the mainstream media) that her use of the term "faggot" to deride John Edwards was not meant to imply that he was gay. This lie goes past bullshit, a term suggesting an inoffensive lie, all the way to horseshit, a lie where the liar is stating "I'm lying, you know I'm lying, I know you know I'm lying, and there's nothing you can do about it." If Freyer can insist that his use of the word "Canadian" meant something else than a black juror with a straight face, he must have facial muscles made of stainless steel. The Chronicle might actually have been doing him a favor by not publicizing evidence that he's dishonest as well as racist.

Speaking of BS, I find it hard to believe that you don't have access to a scanner. I've been to Houston; they have Kinko's everywhere, especially downtown. I take it you have a credit card and an automobile? Then you should have no problem getting a scanned copy.

anonymous c said...

Hey, Bernstein? I got your latest e-mail last night. You know, the one in which, along with another little veiled threat, you ask me to relay some information here, in an effort to clear your name? Well, guess what? I’m going to bury it. :-)

If you have something to say, come type it up here like the rest of us.

PJ, you are very contrary, aren’t you? If we said potato, you’d say po-tah-to, right?

anonymous c said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ron in Houston said...

You all have your points.

PJ has a point that it's unfair to single out Bernstein if he didn't cover the Canadian email.

You guys have a point because it does appear that Freyer is being painted with an unfair brush. I could very easily have said the same thing since until very recently I had no idea it was some sort of racial slur.

It's an unfortunate fact of life the the shit flows downhill. I think the question that the media and people in general are all wondering is whether Chuck's racism infected the culture of the office.

A Harris County Lawyer said...

I knew when I posted this story that it probably wouldn't change many (if any) minds about the Canadian e-mail scandal. It's like I said earlier in this blog about something, it would be like trying to change your mind about abortion or the death penalty.

What I do find interesting in why the Chronicle never ran this story. Ron, you asked why I singled out Bernstein. The reason is that out of him, Falkenberg, and Casey, he's the only reporter. Casey and Falkenberg are columnists. Bernstein is also the only one who dares to venture over onto this blog.

The overall point that I was trying to make has now been made, with the anti-Rob faction proving my point clearly. Once the allegations of racism have been made against an individual, there's nothing they can do to get that stain off of them. People (like PJ) will spend more time explaining to me why I'm more wrong for believing Rob not to be a racist (because I know him personally), than listening to anything I would have to say.

None of this would have even come up in the media if it wasn't a controversial election year. I am kind of curious as to why it wasn't brought out during the 2004 election.

Leviathan said...

"I am truly sorry for that fact and want to stress that it was minsinterpreted and intended in any way to offend or upset anyone."

I had to read that twice.

Shall we assume an inadvertent omission, or that you "faithfully re-typed it word for word" and Freyer intended offense and upset?

Me? I'd have found a scanner.

A Harris County Lawyer said...

Dammit, Leviathan. You got me. Okay, it was faithfully re-typed after a couple of glasses of wine. It just goes to show you that you can proofread something four times over and still screw something up.

I'm changing it in the body of the text, but let this serve as a testament that you caught me screwing up.

And by the way, I forgot to mention to Michael how wounded I was that he didn't believe me that I don't have a scanner. I guess I'll have to confess to being lazy. Once I get in my car during rush hour in Houston, I don't like pulling over to get gas, let alone to stop and go to Kinko's.

Leviathan said...

OMG!!! Ur human!!!

You know, the positive aspect is that you have my rapt attention . . . for whatever that's worth.

worldisgray said...

AHCL,

Kinko's hasn't been fun since FedEx bought them out anyway.

The Chronicle (I like the nickname Comical whoever came up with it) will not run the story of Rob's explanation or the consequences of his actions because it's not "news" as they define it. Veiled accusations and innuendo seem to suffice to slander a person's reputation.

The news media keeps talking abut racist and sexual emails. By close reading, the only one's I've heard described (over and over again) are the Sharking video (which is just juvenile and dumb), the Clinton "joke", and the overdose picture. It's never really been made clear if Chuck sent, received, or forwarded them. Out of how many thousands of emails were these pulled? Because of three emails a staff of 200+ is painted as racist? Everyone needs to get some perspective. Did Chuck do some bonehead things? Yes. Has he been punished for them? Yes. He has left in shame after a 30 year career serving Harris County. His record won't be the good things he's done, it will be the last few weeks.

PJ, you sound like you started with a mindset and no logic or facts will change your mind. So be it, but charges of "institutional" racism are a slap at the people at the CJC who work hard doing their jobs and don't need unfounded accusations hurled at them.

AHCL keep up the good work, I hope your identity is never revealed, it would compromise too much.

anonymous c said...

Pro.Victims, WorldisGray, Jig and AHCL, right on!

PJ, Michael and Anon 10:41 (PJ), how dare you slander a man's reputation on less than ZERO evidence?

Let me do some slandering of my own, but the difference is that I actually have real evidence. You are unethical cowards.

Michael, comparing the term “Canadian” to the term ‘faggot’ is a joke!

None of you know Rob Freyer and are basing your attack on one e-mail from years ago that has now (finally! Thanks, AHCL!) been shown to be innocuous. The fact that you don’t choose to see that is due solely to your glaring political agendas.

Rob’s e-mails were all searched in an Open Records Request, along with Trent’s, Kelly’s and Rosenthal’s. What did they find? NOTHING! And, before you say that he must have deleted them, be aware that he was NOT aware that he was in any way in the line of fire before the request.

They found nothing because Rob Freyer is not a racist. Over the totality of Rob’s career, he has busted his a** to achieve Justice for victims of all races and to keep you clowns safer on the Houston streets. The fact that you all sit in front of your computer screens feeling perfectly justified in annihilating a man’s character is shameless and damn near criminal.

Ron in Houston said...

AHCL

Don't worry I comment a lot of times after several glasses of wine!

Proofreading your own stuff is next to impossible.

As to not changing minds, I didn't have mine made up.

The problem is that you guys need to stop blaming it on the liberal media or some lynch the racist mentality and really place the blame squarely where it belongs - on Chuck Rosenthal.

If Chuck were a leader, he'd have made some public statement in support of Freyer. He would have said something like, "I may have allowed some racist humor on my computer, but trying to pin my faults on any of my staff is just wrong."

Chuck didn't lead a charge into hell, he dragged his whole office through hell with him.

Michael said...

I always find it amusing when someone posting anonymously calls me a coward.

I didn't compare the word "Canadian" to the word "faggot". I compared Freyer's explanation of his use of the word "Canadian" to Ann Coulter's explanation of the word "faggot". Both were so incredible on their face that they compelled the conclusion they were lies. As far as Freyer goes, I'm basing my conclusion on the relatively well-known phenomenon in the southern United States of using the word "Canadian" to refer to African-Americans. I haven't found any authority for the idea that "Canadian" refers to someone who's slow-witted.

Because I find Freyer's explanation of his use of the word "Canadian" to be specious, I also find his email not to be innocuous. (Of course, I am referring to the explanatory email, not the Trent email, which I haven't seen.) I also find the amount of evidence supporting my position to be greater than zero. I was able to do all of this without referring to your "glaring political agenda" or calling you a clown or a criminal. It's called "civilized debate", a technique I recommend to you if you tire of argumentum ad hominem in the near future. Its chief advantage is that it is persuasive.

anonymous c said...

Yet, you called Rob’s words “lies”, “bullshit and “horseshit” and you called him a “liar” and a “racist” with “facial muscles made of stainless steel”. You call that “civilized debate”?

Please spare me your moral outrage.

Michael said...

Unless you are Freyer, the words bullshit and horseshit are not aimed at you, but the subject of the debate; same for "facial muscles made of stainless steel". If you don't like the profanity, I could omit it and make the same point.

And I am not outraged at you, morally or any other way, unless, again, if you are Freyer.

anonymous c said...

Michael,

I don’t need to be Rob Freyer to be offended by your utterly baseless attacks on his character and your lewd language, to boot. In your response, you conveniently ignored the clean Open Records Request, just as PJ conveniently ignored my response about Rob’s trial record on Bennett’s blog. You know nothing about Rob Freyer and have about as much a right to call him a racist as I do to say that you’re a child molester.

You’ve got one piece of “evidence”…a word. And I have one piece of “evidence”…your picture. You think that the word is a racial slur because you’ve heard it used in that one way before and I think that, in your picture, you look like a child molester because I’ve seen pictures of child molesters before. Behind those worthless bits of “evidence”, however, is the totality of a human being that we are both ignoring. I’m quite sure that your life’s work has proven to the world that you’re, in fact, definitely NOT a child molester. I give you the benefit of the doubt because I’m a fair-minded person and I understand that I can’t go on one shallow piece of evidence alone. You, however, despite having testimonials from multiple people who know Rob personally, still choose to cling to your shallow piece of evidence to draw your complete conclusion that he’s a “liar” and a “racist”.

And, about that word, let me share with you what I shared with PJ, also on Bennett’s blog:

“Fact 2: There is a tradition of blacks being referred to derogatively as Canadians.”

Well, according to your (ahem) iron-clad, intellectually-sound source, “Canadian” has obviously been used in that way at one time or another.

But there is something that you, being a liberal, do not know or are choosing to ignore. Republicans often use the term “Canadian” to refer to liberals. How do I know this? I know this because I’m a Republican and I use that term all the time in that very way and have heard it used by many Republicans routinely. Why do we call liberals “Canadians”? You can probably figure that out for yourself, PJ. Canada is very well known for its uber-liberal ways. But, if you don’t believe me, let a real Canadian tell you all about it:

http://www.proudtobecanadian.ca/index/resources/lexicon

There goes your “greater than zero” amount of evidence. Let me remind you that you are not the authority on “slurs”. Republicans have been secretly calling extreme liberals “Canadians” for years. In case you’re curious, we also call you “Granolas”, “Tree Huggers”, “Hippies” and “Self-Loathing Communists”. :-) It shouldn’t take a mental leap to see why.

So, why would anyone refer to a juror asking for probation for an open and shut, self-admitted, double killer who was, at the time, on parole in another county, as a “Canadian”? Well, perhaps because of the “well-known phenomenon” of uber-liberals feeling sorry for criminals and completely ignoring the victims. A phenomenon that we have seen clearly illustrated in countless posts on this blog, as a matter of fact.

Unless you have any further evidence, Michael, anecdotal or otherwise, to prove that Rob Freyer is what you say he is, then you’ve simply got no credibility on the matter.

Michael said...

Again, I must pause to note the irony of an anonymous poster questioning my credibility.

The email recited in the original post featured Freyer defending a racial slur aimed at African-Americans, claiming it was a slur aimed at "weak-minded jurors". I'm not sure how much more evidence is needed to establish that, at least, that particular act was one of racism.

Anon c, your latest defense seems to be that Freyer's bigotry is not aimed at blacks, but at liberals. And? So instead of pre-judging someone based on their race, Freyer is pre-judging them based on their political philosophy. You appear to assume this is okay, based on your proud recitation of ad hominems that Republicans (not conservatives) use to derogate liberals. I'll go along with that for the time being.

The problem for me is, I've never seen a space on a jury questionnaire asking whether a venireman is liberal, conservative, or neither. Perhaps Harris County questionnaires are different than Travis, Williamson, and Tarrant County, but I'm betting they aren't. If that's the case, then how do you know someone on your jury is a liberal (or conservative)? They may have told you so in response to a direct question, but I don't hear a lot of attorneys asking that question in voir dire. I'm betting Freyer made assumptions about who his liberal jurors were, and those assumptions were, in part, based on race.

Which is not to say there's not a high correlation between African-Americans and liberals; or between liberals and teachers, state workers, and so on. My point is I still doubt that the word Canadian refers to something other than black juror.

Actually, "doubt" is not strong enough. I think that lie is just crap. And if you want to bolster your credibility, sign your name.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Michael. And I think he is God.

anonymous c said...

Sigh!

A name is not what gives you credibility in the Blogosphere, Michael. It’s the veracity of what you say.

And I most heartily disagree, once again, with your premise that the term was “a racial slur aimed at African-Americans”.

The word was used in response to the inane, sympathetic questions being asked by the juror. To make a wise-crack during a private conversation, in a moment of obvious frustration, that that juror must be a liberal was not unreasonable. And guess what? The juror wanting probation was not even African-American. Therefore, your entire premise is shot…otra vez.

And since your little grammar blog is chock full of Republican insults, I guess political digs are fair game all-around, aren’t they?

Anonymous said...

Michael sure has a lot of time on his hands! Things must be slow in liberal town aka, Austin or is it just where Michael hangs out his shingle that no clients are a calling? Michael sure is bird dogging HCCJC. Have the Austin bloggers lost interest in your same ole tired ass, liberal ass licking? Surely you must have better things to do being you are so edumacated and so intelligent and so knowledgable , perhaps like maybe, work? Sorry, I read your posts and I read, liberal, closed minded fool damning someone that you do not know personally. I see your picture and I think, "Uncle Fester".

Ron in Houston said...

Oh, the inhumanity of it all.

Michael, first of all, know that I'm not apologist for the Harris County DA's office. I know in your mind Freyer et. al. are racists, but I'm really not so sure.

You said, "I'm basing my conclusion on the relatively well-known phenomenon in the southern United States of using the word "Canadian" to refer to African-Americans."

I've lived in Texas for 35 years. I thought I'd heard just about every derogatory name for a black person. Until maybe 2 weeks ago I never would have thought that Canadian was a racial slur.

I do know the old southern maxim about one skunk smelling up a whole lot of other things.

This could very well be the case of that one skunk putting their smell on a bunch of non-skunks.

Anonymous said...

Dang. I gotta say watching Anon C keep taking down these idiots again and again is high-larious.Anon C for DA!

PJ said...

Anon C,

Let's get one thing straight. I haven't ignored anything or anybody. I stop responding when I feel I have made all the points that need making. If I haven't addressed some things you have said, it is only because I feel they are of such insufficient force in light of what I have already said that they do not even require a response.

You still seem to operate under the incredulous impression that we lack evidence when nothing could be further from the truth. You think Freyer's own words per se negate what happened when that could not be further from the truth. If we operated under the principles you suggest, then we'd have to acquit any defendant who took the stand in a criminal trial (because, after all, he said he did it in self defense). Just because Freyer has spoken does not mean he is to be believed any more than when a defendant pleads "not guilty" we should just accept his word and dismiss the charges. What kind of fantasy world do you live in?

Freyer's explanation is not credible, period. Nobody uses the term Canadian to refer to "weak-minded" or "confused" jurors. They use it to refer to black people. You (and he) would have a case were there no blacks on the jury. But there were, weren't there? End of story.

And most of the comments on this post are proof positive that the Harris County District Attorney's Office needs a serious attitude adjustment. Or, probably better, a bunch of new, different attitudes altogether. There is just no shame whatsoever, and the people of Harris County deserve better.

PJ said...

One more thing Anon C:

Freyer's explanation is not that there were some liberals on the jury whom he was referring to as "Canadians." His explanation was that, because there appeared to be confusion from the jury questions to the judge, he told Trent in jest that there must be some "Canadian" hanging it up. He went on to claim this meant to "signify" the existence of some "weak-minded juror who was back there confusing the rest of the jury." In short, a stupid person who was confusing the jury over the law. Freyer does not claim he was using the term to refer to liberals, so why are you making up excuses for him that he did not make for himself?

You are clearly biased, blind to the available facts, and looking for any excuse you can to pardon Freyer, even if it isn't one he himself has claimed.

Mark Bennett said...

On further reflection, I think it's shameful that Rob was disciplined by the Office for using the word "canadian" when he attached no other connotation to it than "weak minded juror who was back there confusing the rest of the jury and preventing them from reaching a verdict."

Michael said...

Ron:

The use of the word Canadian was rampant in the last firm I worked at, from 1998 to 2002. If it was imported there, it would have been from Dallas, not Houston, but I've heard the expression since at least 2001.

Michael said...

Mark:

Do you think Rob should not have been disciplined because he maintained the word "Canadian" meant something else than a slur on black people? If so, how far would you let this post-event explanation defense stretch? For example, if someone had used the word "Kike", and then later explained he was referring to people who were irrationally liberal, would that be okay? I guess it comes down to a question of how well-known the slur "Canadian" is. Apparently it was well known enough in 2003 to warrant an apology.

cjclawyer said...

The hold-out juror that Rob refered to as a "Canadian" was NOT an African American... stop overlooking this fact!!! How could he have intended it as a racial slur towards African Americans when he wasn't even directing it towards one?!? LAY OFF ROB, ALREADY!

Observer said...

Ok, here I go again with the commenting. Blame the insomnia, I suppose.

I have to say that while I do not know all about the jury to which the infamous email referred, I do know Rob Freyer, and I am truly appalled by what is being said about him.

Rob is a zealous prosecutor and cares deeply about his cases and his victims. Having worked closely with him, I can say that Rob truly strives daily to be worthy of his calling as a prosecutor. He lives for the job.

In the heat of battle on a case he had no doubt been preparing for months, and faced with repeated jury questions that seemed sympathetic to someone who senselessly killed two people through selfish and stupid actions, I am sure "Agg Rob," as he is affectionately known, was incensed.

Knowing him to be a politically conservative man, and having heard him rail on about liberal this and that before in casual conversation, I'd like to believe his email explanation of what happened. (I certainly didn't know what the term meant when I received the email). Even if I assume, however, that Rob did know the meaning of the term, and was spouting off about one of the black jurors being the possible holdout, I still am unwilling to brand the man a racist. This is because I flat know him not to be one.

I think there are few people in this world who can say that they have never used a racial slur before. (If you are one of them, well, good for you). I know that I have, in anger, described someone in a racially defamatory way in private conversation before, though I am not a racist person. (I'm sure some of you would argue that by virtue of ever having used such a term, I am). I'm not proud of it, and would not repeat it, as I like to think that I am wiser now than I was then. However, I know that I have used such a term, despite the fact that I do not prejudge or bear ill will towards anyone because of their race, and did not even when I said it. I used the term in expressing my anger, probably because it was inflammatory. If Rob was using the term to describe a black person, knowing him as I do, I would be inclined to think he was doing the same - spouting off, without thinking, out of frustration and anger.

Before one of the regulars jumps all over me, let me say that I do not believe this explanation makes the use of the term excusable. I just think we're all fallible as human beings, and that such a mistake is forgivable. (If this were some repeated pattern of behavior for him - which it is not - I would think otherwise).

I know that Rob can be a bit of a loose-cannon at times. I also know, however, that he is not only a dedicated and honorable prosecutor, but also one of the most honest, loyal, and kind people you could ever hope to meet. He is absolutely undeserving of the label that the media, and those of you here who do not know him in the slightest, have given him.

Perhaps someone can explain it to me, because I fail to understand the need that some of you seem to have to continue to slander the man for an isolated regrettable action from five years ago. Are you all really that perfect, or just lucky enough that your own worst behavior hasn't been broadcast for all to judge?

anonymous c said...

Ron,

Yay! Logic and reason are victorious! Thank you! :)

Anon 6:43,

That’s funnier than you know. But thanks! :)

PJ,

God knows that I am sick to death of debating this issue with y’all!

Here’s the problem, though. We are not debating your fanciful, little statistics or the emotional vacuum in which you think prosecutors should exist. We are talking about a man here. A very good man and someone that many of us call a friend.

We are not only talking about him, but we are talking about his career and his very dignity.

Therefore, as much as I’d rather hop up to the debate posts (because I watched it and, as AHCL says, it was very telling and just friggin’ ridiculous that it wasn’t televised!!!), I cannot sit back and allow you all to debate this in a half-a**ed and shoddy way which, with all due respect, is exactly what you’re doing.

Y’all are choosing to ignore certain, salient points and are just lazily grabbing for what you perceive to be the easy ones.

You are wrong here, PJ.

You are wrong about Rob Freyer’s trial record. He has not “sought and received higher punishments against racial minorities who were alleged to have committed offenses against white people than those alleged to have committed offenses against other racial minorities”. There are trial records that, with a little research, you could dig up to see this. Not in the mood to do the footwork? Then don’t say it.

You are wrong when you say that Rob “takes crimes against white people more seriously than those against racial minorities.” Again, there are trial records to prove this. In fact, on multiple occasions that I can think of, off-hand, he has sought death for white men convicted of killing African-Americans. Don’t want to do the footwork? Then don’t say it.

You have ignored the fact that Rob had both his e-mail and his personnel file searched in an open records request that he didn’t see coming. And what’d they find? They found nothing. Nada! Zilch. I can assure you, PJ, that, had they found one IOTA of a tidbit that even HINTED at racist tendencies, you, and the rest of Houston, would know about it.

You have ignored the fact that “Canadian” is synonymous with “liberal” to many people. Especially Republicans. I have provided evidence to you that is, quite frankly, much more credible than your evidence to the contrary. I haven’t denied that some people may use the term “Canadian” to refer to African-Americans (I still don’t see any connection there. Seems quite random to me, but whatever), but you have not acknowledged the other quite reasonable usage that is most definitely out there.

But, PJ? You WERE right about something. You were right when you said this:

“His explanation was that, because there appeared to be confusion from the jury questions to the judge, he told Trent in jest that there must be some "Canadian" hanging it up. He went on to claim this meant to "signify" the existence of some "weak-minded juror who was back there confusing the rest of the jury." In short, a stupid person who was confusing the jury over the law.”

In other words, PJ, a liberal. It was a joke about liberals.

Now, you can continue to unfairly and irresponsibly slam Rob Freyer with what are, at best, uninformed and baseless half-truths and, at worst, outright, deliberate lies. But I will continue to hold you accountable for every single word that you say.

What you are doing is just that wrong to me.

Mark Bennett said...

CJClawyer,

What's the basis for saying that the "canadian" jurors were not black?

I've seen that asserted as fact only in blog comments by anonymous posters, with no attribution.

AHCL, do you know?

Mark.

PJ said...

cjclawyer:

One problem: at the time Freyer claims to have used the term, he could not have known the race of the hold out (although I am sure he made an assumption on that). Again, you all are just making stuff up. While I'm sure Freyer finds it flattering that you rush to his defense, you are not doing the people of Harris County any favors.

Anon C,

I am very doubtfully wrong about Freyer's trial record. This is just a fact we know about institutional racism. (See this) In any event, I said you'd likely see the same thing if you examined any prosecutor's record, so I don't see the salience of this to the subject. I brought this up to rebut the argument that just because somebody has prosecuted a case in which a victim was a racial minority, that somehow means the person could not have used a racially derogative term on the job. As I said, those kinds of crimes were even prosecuted in the Jim Crow era, although at the rate you're going you'd probably defend the prosecutors of that era as well.

As for Freyer's email generally, this, too, tells us nothing about whether he used a racially derogative term to describe a citizen whom he claims to serve. This would mean you would have to acquit any defendant if a search of his house yielded nothing inculpating him despite other evidence against him. Is that the general rule you are advancing?

Last, I have not ignored your argument about Canadian being synonymous with liberal. First, it isn't. But second, no reading of Freyer's explanatory email remotely supports that is what he even claims to have meant. Nowhere does he suggest a juror was holding out because he was liberal. You are making two great leaps and attributing them to Freyer. One, that he used "confused" or "weak-minded" as code words for liberal. And two, that he then on top of that used "Canadian" as a code word for liberal. What lengths you assume Mr. Freyer will go to obfuscate his own innocent meaning. It's not credible.

Again the appeal to accountability? An assistant district attorney uses a racially derogative term to describe a juror, and it's me you want to hold accountable for my words? The hypocrisy of a Dixiecrat conservative knows no bounds, does it, Anonymous C?

Observer,

Thank you for taking the time to be rational. I disagree with you, but can do so respectfully. Perhaps some of us think this is important because (1) Freyer used the term not in his capacity as a normal citizen as some of us who may use such a term in a regrettable fit of anger do, but in the course of his duties as a public servant and about a member of the public performing his or her civic duty; (2) while Freyer used the term many years ago, the public is just learning about it now; (3) public servants, and especially assistant district attorneys, hold enormous power over our lives and, as such, we should demand very high ethical standards, including an awareness of and sensitivity to racism; and (4) we have a historical tradition of not being very fair to blacks, particularly as criminal justice goes, so any hint of it existing today is very troublesome.

Is it really surprising that the public (which includes many black people of course) would want something done about this kind of conduct?

This is all I have to say on the subject.

Michael said...

As a follow-up to Mark's question:

Aren't all jury questions forwarded to the judge by the foreman? If so, how do we know which juror raised the question? We do know that there were black jurors, as we know that there were no jurors who were Canadian citizens. I also can't find any reference to which juror asked the question, other than anonymous ADAs, I mean commenters, on this blog. For that matter, I can't find any reference to what the question was, so I'm unable to independently determine whether the question really was as stupid as it's alleged to be.

Observer said...

PJ, thanks for addressing my question. It is nice to put something out into the blogosphere and actually get a response (Ahem, Mark).

I really appreciated you breaking down your thoughts on the matter. I did want to address a few points you made, for what it's worth, before slipping back into "observation" mode, where I am far more comfortable. :)

You said:
(1) Freyer used the term not in his capacity as a normal citizen as some of us who may use such a term in a regrettable fit of anger do, but in the course of his duties as a public servant and about a member of the public performing his or her civic duty.

I can appreciate the distinction between public and private actions. However, Rob did not make this statement publicly, throwing the weight of his position as a prosecutor behind it. He had no reason at the time he said this to think that he was doing anything other than blowing off steam with a colleague. (Kinda like calling your boss an asshole with a co-worker over beers). Had he known that his comment would be broadcast, first by Trent, then the media, I am sure he never would have said it in the first place.


(2) while Freyer used the term many years ago, the public is just learning about it now

True, and I can understand the uproar, given all that has been made of what was said. What is interesting to me, however, and should be of interest to those now calling for his head, is that no one can point to any action Rob has taken in the five years between comment and disclosure that would warrant his newfound reputation as a racist.
That is because there simply isn't anything there.

I can understand the concern that someone who makes this sort of comment might not be fit to be a prosecutor, but with everything else that has come out in the media, on blogs, in Chronicle commentary, etc. about every other person whose name has been dragged into the broad DA's office scandal, don't you think if there was anything out there to suggest that Rob treats minorities differently or worse than non-minorities, you would have heard it by now? In the absence of that, isn't it a little irresponsible to keep demanding that he be fired?

(3) public servants, and especially assistant district attorneys, hold enormous power over our lives and, as such, we should demand very high ethical standards, including an awareness of and sensitivity to racism;

There is nothing wrong with demanding high standards from public servants. It is a problem when you expect them not to be human. We all make mistakes. The question should be whether or not we learn from them and avoid repeating them. Again, no one can point to anything outside this isolated incident when calling Rob's character into question. If you do not think that he has learned from this mistake, you are wrong. Furthermore, if you expect awareness of and sensitivity to racial issues, who better to educate younger prosecutors on how to conduct themselves in light of how their actions may be viewed than someone who has learned these lessons the hard way?

(4) we have a historical tradition of not being very fair to blacks, particularly as criminal justice goes, so any hint of it existing today is very troublesome.

It is troublesome, and I know the saying goes, "Perception is reality to those who perceive it." If someone perceives Rob is a racist and knows that he works at the office, then they could perceive that the office condones racism and that the office as a whole is unfair to minorities. No one wants that. This does need to be addressed, and I agree that the office handled the entire situation poorly at the time. However, I don't think you can correct a misconception by giving into it. I don't think Rob should become some sacrificial lamb just to get the public to like us all again. He doesn't deserve this, and the public doesn't deserve to lose someone who truly does work tirelessly on their behalf, with their best interests at heart.

Outreach to the community needs to be made. Minority recruitment efforts need to be increased. The office should be pro-active in addressing race issues whenever and wherever they arise with real solutions. Symbolic gestures like firing Rob just won't fix the real problem that you have identified.

anonymous c said...

“I am very doubtfully wrong about Freyer's trial record.”

Wrong.

“As for Freyer's email generally, this, too, tells us nothing about whether he used a racially derogative term to describe a citizen whom he claims to serve.”

Wrong.

“Last, I have not ignored your argument about Canadian being synonymous with liberal. First, it isn't.”

Wrong.

“The hypocrisy of a Dixiecrat conservative knows no bounds, does it, Anonymous C?”

(Deep, cleansing breaths and a generous glass of Shiraz)

(Repeat mantra: “Quit talking to a wall. Quit talking to a wall. Quit talking to a wall.”)

Cheers, :-)

Anon C

Mark Bennett said...

What's the basis for saying that the "canadian" jurors were not black?

Anon C, feel free to answer the question, since you've made that assertion as well.

anonymous c said...

Thanks for the permission, Mark.

As you read in Rob’s hitherto-buried, e-mail response, he spoke to the jury at length before they left and that is when he found out who was pushing for probation and was told why they were confused.

Before you say it, yes! He didn’t know that they weren’t black when he made the statement during the private conversation. But that has no bearing on anything because he wasn’t using a racial slur to begin with. He was, in frustration, making a political joke. How do I know this? I know this because I know him.

Apparently, only the Republicans around here get the connection between liberals and Canada, although I honestly find that really hard to swallow.

I spent the first 26 years of my life as a proud and DEVOTED liberal (Voted for Clinton twice and even campaigned for “Born with a silver foot in his mouth” Ann Richards. I was absolutely inconsolable when she lost. I’m 100% not kidding you! I was seriously crushed!).

During that time span, I must have been called an “effin’ granola-Canadian” a hundred times. I started as an under-graduate at UST in 1991 and was VERY vocal about my liberal leanings! Much to the annoyance of those around me! Hehe!

Which is why I agree whole-heartedly with AHCL about the fact that none of us are ever going to change the minds of the other. At that time, I was so militant about my belief that Republicans were “white, rich guys in suits who hate the poor, the old and the minorities and want to club baby seals and eat whales-on-rye” that nobody could tell me differently!

I’m quite sure that I was annoying as hell! I can think of several of my professors who would have loved to club ME! Sorry, Dr. Little and Father I! I get it now! :-)

Anyway, I digress! I don’t believe that anybody here has based their defense on the fact that he knew they weren’t black beforehand.

It’s more of an interesting addendum to the whole Arthur Miller-esque, pitchforks and rioting villagers, pseudo-“controversy”.

Michael said...

That comment was an evasion, anon c. Can you please answer Mark's question?

Anonymous said...

Asked and answered, Uncle Fester. Can't you read?