Monday, April 7, 2008

Heroes - It's Worth Repeating

Growing up, I never wanted to be a lawyer.I actually wanted to be a cop (or an FBI agent to be more precise).

As I got older, I realized that getting shot at and risking getting killed on a daily basis was probably not the most stable way to raise a family. So that fell by the wayside, although most cops remain my heroes to this day.

Ultimately, I decided I wanted to be a prosecutor by the time I reached high school. I went to law school, not to become a lawyer, but a prosecutor. I had no interest in civil law, trusts and wills, torts, contracts, or any of that. I suffered through three years of dry material so that I could be a prosecutor.

I wanted to do what the police did, but I wanted to do it in a courtroom. I wanted to stop bad people from doing bad things. I wanted to help people who had been hurt by crime.

I was an intern when I first met Kelly Siegler.

Ironically, she and Vic Wisner were trying the one death penalty case that she didn't get the death penalty on.

The defendant's name was Brian Gonzales. He had shot and killed a young man named Omar Aycox while robbing an AMC movie theater. Mr. Aycox was a young African-American man who was home for the summer from college, and helping his family out by working through his summer vacation. If I recall correctly, Mr. Aycox had a mentally handicapped older brother that he had a special bond with. Mr. Aycox's brother thought that the sun and moon set by his baby brother.

Omar Aycox was shot four times in the back as he fled from Mr. Gonzales during a robbery.

I watched Kelly Siegler try that case through the guilt/innocence phase as if Omar Aycox was her own child. After a quick guilty, she proceeded into the punishment phase with the same passion. (NOTE: The only thing that saved Brian Gonzales from death row was a pregnant juror that went into early labor during punishment deliberations, thus resulting in a mistrial.)

But as a first year law student, watching Kelly Siegler try that case, she became my hero.

I watched Kelly Siegler prosecute him, and I wanted to be just like her. I wasn't a five-year-old kid who thought being a fireman would be cool. I was a 25-year-old law student who was in awe that a lawyer could be that passionate about her case.

That good at what she did.

I doubt Kelly remembers me back from those days, or knows what the effect of watching her in trial had on a young law student.

It made me want to be the best prosecutor in the world, and I knew that where I wanted to be was in Harris County. I wanted to walk amongst the Giants of the Criminal Justice World. I wanted to work for Johnny Holmes. I wanted to try cases against lawyers like Racehorse Haynes and Dick DeGuerin.

What can I say? I was a starry-eyed kid.

And ultimately, I did become a Harris County prosecutor, and other than my family, there's nothing I'm more proud of in my life.

I don't consider myself a "hero", but I don't see anything wrong in being proud of the job I've done. I'm proud of the people that I've done the job with. And I'm equally proud of the people I've done the job against. Whether you are a prosecutor or a defense attorney, if you have practiced in Harris County, you have truly walked amongst Giants.

Tomorrow, one of my heroes is on the ballot to become the District Attorney of Harris County, Texas. In a less controversial time and place, the decision would be one that there could be no question about.

A true leader. A prosecutor's prosecutor. A true hero would be the unarguable choice.

But instead, we have whispers and gossip. Stones overturned by a newspaper that is more willing to embrace a person convicted than a person victimized.

Innuendos by a practiced and polished politico who's "passion" for justice is no more than a cloak disguising political ambition. That same politico will most certainly begin to unceremoniously fire people who dare to cross her, regardless of their skill, talent, or passion for the job.

Has Kelly said or done things in her life that she wishes she could take back? Of course.

But, Dear Reader, so have you. So have I. So have we all.

Tomorrow Kelly Siegler will be on the ballot to become the leader of the job that she was born to do. For 22 years, Harris County has had the benefit of having a Legend of the Game walking amongst the Giants on the State of Texas' behalf.

The thought of this job that I have loved in the hands of anyone else is physically sickening.

Whatever happens tomorrow, Kelly Siegler will always be one of my heroes.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

JAGJO writes:

AHCL - You are one smart cookie (no matter what Bennett says ;-)) and are blessed to feel the way you do.

A lot of people will not get where you are coming from and will shrug at your post and think to themselves that your writing comes from a "sheltered" life etc.,. A few will get it.. like myself and know EXACTLY where you are coming from and in turn, applaud you.

True passion on any level and in any area of life, is rare and takes courage to pursue. Yes, sounds like a simple statement but when you break it down, it is complex. I think the numbers of passionless people are staggering and account for so many failed or medicore careers, unhappy marriages, unhappy families all resulting in disappointments and an ever growing astronomical amount of RX's for antidepressants. Main reason for it? It is easier to settle... than take a risk or put forth effort to go for what you want and believe in. It is easier to succumb to fear or in some circumstances even persecution than for some to embrace their passions in life.

There are many adjectives like greedy, self absorbed, arrogant, ambitious, competitive, self righteous that are masqueraded under the pretense as passion but they are only an imitiations.

Regardless of what some others believe about the law; about loving it or not, respecting it or not. It is one of those paths regardless which side of the bar you are on,(or bench) that if you do not have a passion for and do not love, that you have no business being a part of. That in itself is an injustice. The founding laws were written out of passion for the country and countrymen by very impassioned souls. To not embrace that same premise with the same passion is living and practicing a mockery.

I have discovered that the only time one is happy on all fronts is when they are doing what they love and have a passion for. Same rule applies to personal lives as well as professional ones.

Life is much too short to not love what you do and do it with passion.
Passion for a certain career choice ideally happens at a young age but I think it is ageless and can occur at any time. My wish for anyone without passion of any variety, is that when it knocks, they will answer the door.

As for working among legends and giants.... my faith is UNDETERRED that you will not be subjected to working along side with any less number tomorrow than you have tonight. :-)

anonymous c said...

Mornin'!

AHCL:

As always, beautifully put and goose-bump inducing...even the second time around!

JagJo:

Wow! Wow! Wow!

That was a truly inspiring comment. Made me stand up and cheer a bit. ;-)

Off I go to get ready to do the job that I'm most definitely passionate about!

Go, Kelly, go!

jigmeister said...

Some of my earliest heroes were Pete Moore, Doug Shaver, Ken Sparks, Mike Hinton and of course Johnny Holmes. There wasn’t much diversity in the office then on either side of the aisle then. To this day, I think that Sparks was magic in the courtroom. The office was located on the 5th floor of the old Criminal Courts building with everyone crowded together in a space that eventually became a courtroom. Working through law school as a clerk I got to see my heroes up close because the clerk’s office was crowded into another space on the same 5th floor and I was assigned to old Garth Bates as an assistant clerk. I remember vividly his bribery trial in his own courtroom and recall Holmes, who was then a Special Crimes prosecutor, make the final argument.

Even then there was controversy and change. We were in a period where the death penalty had been suspended because of Ferman v. Georgia and then the legislature gave us the first modern penal code in 74 and all the old crimes were redefined from things like battery, murder with malice, burglary in the nighttime, etc. No longer was possession of a joint a felony that could draw a life sentence and Strong-arm Robbery was no longer a death eligible crime.

One of my heroes became DA and after a short stint as a defense attorney, he gave me a job. The office was a magic place for a young lawyer. Every year I saw some of those heroes leave, but others took their place. And the office remained a magic place.

Years later I had the privilege of supervising a young upstart female prosecutor by the name of Kelly (I couldn’t pronounce the last name). When I first started making the rounds of the courts I supervised, I began to hear that this female with a folksy demeanor might be something special. Defense attorneys, other prosecutors, even the bailiff and court reporter told me to watch this one, for she is exceptional.

I didn’t believe them at first, but the rumors didn’t go away, instead the voices got louder and I did watch. Then I watched from the second chair, and continued to watch over and over. She had the magic. Her work ethic and plain spoken style made me a believer and thereafter whenever I had the chance I got Kelly assigned to work with me.

I can’t fathom the magic leaving the office, so I am convinced it won’t happen. Kelly will win today and again in November. Extensive damage has been done, but the pride, honor, and the sense of doing the right thing for the right reasons will be reaffirmed.

Anonymous said...

JAGJO writes:

AHCL - you personally have my deepest heartfelt sympathy. A grave injustice happened in Harris County today. The entire landscape of the CJC was altered in a matter of 12 hours and the hypocrisy that lies ahead pales in comparison to the frailties of the of disgraced Rosenthal.
I feel betrayed by my own party in this race. I am physically sickened. I am also further disturbed that anti Siegler supporters, whether they are allegiant to Liemyway N. Toelection or the democratic side, would rush to this blog at warp speed to pour salt into the wound. I think that displays the very same tactless and classless and shameless behavior of the person whom has won the Republican party nomination for HCDA.

Having said that, that is the reason I chose to post under the "Hero's" topic to express a feeling of sincere loss and not under the "Go Kelly" topic as I do not want to add fuel to a string with posts that follow such a persona typified reaction of those of lesser intelligence and emotionally inferior and completely ignorant to the fact of whom was just nominated to defend the CJC opposing Clarence Bradford in Nov. Bradford is going to come out swinging and the dirt that is slung is going to be an eye opening experience to those that casted a vote for a woman that they truly do not know.

I also chose to post under " Heros" headline to make a statement that Kelly remains a very well respected top shelf prosecutor with an unlimited amount of potential ahead of her with a vast array opportunities. I think what beckons will be something quite wonderful. The universe has her own sweet way of righting a wrong. While on the other hand, her opponent literally has a limited amount of time to make a difference or give semblance of redemention and that is only if she, like the "tin man", could convince the wizard to give her heart. Think about it! In the mean time, Kelly, has another 20 years to go to even reach the age that Liemyway is currently at. 20 years is an awfully lot of time to accomplish more greatness. I hope that Kelly takes this perspective when she reviews her new path(s).

oliviarw said...

The information that you gave was partially correct. Omar Jamal Aycox was born 6/18/74, and he had graduated a prestigous black college by the name of Morehouse of Atl, GA. Omar was an outstanding person, he was a young deacon of his church, he did have an older mentally disbaled brother that we all called JJ (Joe). He was not home helping his family. His mom is an executive at Exxon of 30 plus years, his step dad was the police chief of roman forest, and his real father that resided in PA had his own successful business of medical equipment sells. Please do not pain the picture that he was some poor black kid that was helping his family. he was the mgr of the AMC on Richey rd. Those guys hide in the theater as waited for everyone to leave. Omar walked in on them robbing the other manager and as he turned to run, he was shot 4 times in the back. What AMC failed to do is alert the employees of these guys because they had robbed 2 other AMC theaters before, and there was no security. Omar was my fiance. We went to cy fair high together and he is the reason why I left Rice to attend GA Tech. Today is his birthday, he would have been 34 years old. His family still resides in Raven's Way community. Excuse me if I seem a little testy, but when you are a prosecutor, the facts need to be 100%

BHurdle said...

Omar was my best friend. I've been looking for more information on the web for the last few years. Thank you.

olivia said...

Hi There,
I received your request,a nd yo may be able to go to the courthouse and get the entire case docs. I have his obituary and the funeral that was recorded. His mom still lives in their old house, his step dad pased and she remarried. Her last name Whittaker. Did u attend CyFair as well? I remember a guy that he was great buds with in high school that use to work at Grandy's together, resided in Barwood. U my contact me at GaTechRules@live.com