Tuesday, December 2, 2008

My Day

The Lykos Administration took effect last week with District Attorney Ken Magidson extending the professional courtesy to Jim Leitner of hiring him on to do Pat Lykos' bidding prior to her taking office on January 1, 2009.

Yesterday, all District Attorney employees learned the drill: Leitner sent you an e-mail that invited you for a "meeting" where he told you that the Lykos Administration would not be re-hiring you as an employee. By the end of yesterday's count, he had taken out four investigators and one prosecutor.

So when work started today, all prosecutors knew that if they got an e-mail from Leitner, it was time to say goodbye to their jobs.

I got my e-mail around noon-ish while I was at lunch. I was having lunch with a close friend who knew that the e-mail may be coming.

Leitner misspelled my name, which I thought was a bit rude. I mean, seriously, if you are going to can somebody from their job after 9.5 years, you could at least spell their name right, couldn't you?

He asked me to meet with him at 3 p.m., which conflicted with my schedule since I had a witness meeting on a murder case at 2 p.m. that kept me out of the office.

"I've got a meeting at 2 p.m.," I responded. "Can you fire me earlier?"

He didn't respond.

But when I got back to the Office from lunch, as luck would have it, he was at the elevator bank.

"Can we go ahead and get this sh*t done with now?" I asked him.

"You want to come up now?" he asked.

"Why not?" I said.

We rode in the elevator up to the 6th floor. He refused to look at me.

We walked into his Office, where former-Judge Roger Bridgwater was working.

Jim started fumbling with his desk, saying he didn't know where "the letter" was. Judge Bridgwater told him it was in his desk. Jim ultimately found it.

It was a letter from Lykos thanking me for my service, but letting me know that my services were not needed under her administration. I found it a bit disingenuous considering the letter she had sent all District Attorney employees after the Republican primary run-off where she told us all that as long as we didn't campaign for Bradford that our jobs would be okay.

Wow. Never trust a politician. Who knew?

So, anyway, I read my "thanks for trying 55 felony cases more than I will ever try" letter from Lykos and calmly put it back in the envelope.

I smiled at Leitner and Judge Bridgwater.

"Good luck guys," I said. "It's a great job."

I shook Judge Bridgwater's hand and walked out the door.

And thus ended my career in public service.

By the way, for the 3 of you who may not have known. My name is Murray Newman.

And as of January 1st, 2009. I will be a member of the Criminal Defense Bar.

On a personal note, do you want to know what the most hurtful thing of the whole ordeal was?

The Old Goat didn't even have the courtesy of signing the letter "Snookems".

51 comments:

Anonymous said...

Do you know why? Was it Bridgwater, Leitner or Lykos that you pissed off?

A Harris County Lawyer said...

Well, I'm actually a pretty big fan of Bridgwater's. I doubt it was Leitner.

Perhaps it was comparing Patsy to a BudLite Lizard that got me canned.

But I stand by every last thing I ever wrote on this blog.

Anonymous said...

please don't go out like this.

Ron in Houston said...

That sucks in a big way. I know you enjoyed being an ADA and felt that you were contributing to society.

You'd think that a "reformer" would try to build bridges and not engage in political retribution.

I haven't heard of anyone getting canned at the County Attorney's office. Well, at least not yet!

Muck said...

Murray, I'm really sorry to hear about it. Even though you saw it coming there's a big difference between knowing it MAY happen and having the paperwork in front of you.

Too bad it wasn't handled better.

jigmeister said...

Murray,

I am so sorry. What has happened to the office and the people who are heart and sole of what was a great place? All of us who worked there will tell you that it was the most rewarding time of our lives. There was a spirit, unity of purpose, great friends, super intelligent and talented people doing something important. What the hell went wrong?

AHarrisCountyTaxpayer said...

I hope you continue your blog - it makes for interesting reading for those of us who don't spend our lives at the courthouse.

I have never liked Pat Lykos. She was an awful judge, and will be a worse DA, in my opinion. My Mother was a juror in her court one time, and another juror complaines about Lykos smoking on the bench. Lykos gave the juror a ration of crap about how it was her court room, she made the rules, and the juror needed to shut up and quit complaining. That's all I ever needed to know about her.

I've heard good things about Leitner from friends who are knowledgeable, so maybe he can serve as a buffer between Lykos and the rest of us. Otherwise, it's going to be a long, expensive, time until the next election.

Of course, most of thijs is Chuck Rosenthal's fault. He should have suppressed his ego and stepped down long before the primary season started. Then, we would have had some real choices.

Good luck with the defense career!

collin county collin said...

Murray, its C. Kennedy in Frisco. I've always enjoyed your blog and I hope you keep it up. I read your latest entry to my wife this morning. She knows nothing about the political landscape in Harris County, but we both agreed that Lykos is a very small person if she's firing people for not supporting her during the election. Its really sad how much different the HCDA's office looks from back 5 or so years (when I was still there). It doesn't look like an attractive place to work at all. When the economy turns around, I predict that Lykos will have an extremely difficult time keeping all the ADA positions staffed. In any event, good luck to you. You'll do great as a defense lawyer. By the way, that was a classic Newman line. "Can we get this sh*t over?"

The Punisher said...

of all things, we are going to miss your wicked sense of humor. I guess we'll get to see some of it from the dark side, but it won't be the same. Lykos doesn't know what she has lost.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I'm sorry you lost your job, man, I know how it feels to lose a job you liked in a political purge.

I'm afraid during the primaries you said some of the kind of things about Lykos that it's hard to take back - and clearly you don't want to since you stand behind all you wrote. It'd be difficult for both of you going forward to develop any trust. My guess is this could turn out to be a blessing in disguise. I hope so. Buena suerte, amigo.

Anonymous said...

This SUX in a big way!!!!

Anonymous said...

Aw Murray, that totally sucks. But I know you'll do a GREAT job, wherever you choose to go. I'm like the way you handled it, though. Make them squirm a bit...
For obvious reasons, I'm not signing my name, but I am a friend and co-worker. :-)

Anonymous said...

Leitner is not trustworthy. He is a political leech. Anybody who has to get into office by lving off of the blood of a snake is shameful. I don't feel the same way about Bridgewater as he unfortunately lost the election.

Question: With Leinter being the hatchet man and Term of Terror begins, is it really appropriate for his wife to be handling felony cases? Seems to be an inherent conflict. I know I am going to be hard pressed to argue with her when she comes into my court.

Anonymous said...

Word is that more investigators are going today.

anonymous c said...

Oh, goody! This has just gone swimmingly, hasn't it?

Jesus. What a freakin' train wreck. We not only gain a spiteful, vindictive, bitter, absurdly unqualified, career running-for-shit, asshat as our "top prosecutor", but we lose the real top prosecutors in the predictable (but still heart-breaking) fall-out....

What? You dedicated your entire careers to being Harris County prosecutors? And damned good ones? With long track records and miles of grateful victims and families to prove it? Well, thanks, but no thanks, y'all. The Shit Munch who has never prosecuted a single case, but won anyway (no doubt because of her stunning looks, great style and graceful, ass-licking ways) says that you just don't get to be prosecutors anymore. So, thanks! God bless. Have a great day! :-)

Well, this just fucking sucks in a supreme way. Words are inadequate.

And many of the career prosecutors who do survive the chopping block can be easily identified as utterly gutless sacks who didn't have the freakin' cojones to stand up for the ONLY person in the race with the real qualifications to be DA.

Jason said...

I'm sorry man. I hate to see you go like this. Maybe someday you can come back. Anyhow, good luck to you and I hope you keep blogging from the other side of the aisle.

PS-I said a long time I thought I knew who you were. I was wrong.

r. becca said...

you. are. awesome.

Anonymous said...

I was fired 2 years ago by the incoming Denton County DA in a similar chickens*#t fashion. With the exception that he scurried up to the office and dropped off letters for the 25 people (1 secretary, 2 investigators, and the 22 attorneys, some of whom had been with the office 20+ years) and then scurried back to his hole. He left the job of handing out the letters to the current DA. I feel your pain, man. I luckily got to stay in prosecution with a nearby office where I am mostly relieved I am not working for that jerk. Keep the faith!!

advocat98 said...

Mr. Newman, I do hope you continue your blog. I have enjoyed reading it this past year.

I wish you the best of luck in private practice.

J-Ro said...

Murray,

I can't say that this was unexpected. I guess I was hoping she would have the brains to not immediately prove correct the stories about her being vindictive bitch. Silly me!! Lykos did something that no one else has done since I began voting - she got me to check the box for a Democrat - a person I considered to be the lesser of two evils. The taxpayers of Harris County are the ones who will suffer during the term of this arrogant, unqualified poseur. 2012 cannot come soon enough!!

I am also proud of you for sticking to your guns and exercising your right to free speech, even at great personal cost.

I hate that you have to cross over to the dark side of the bar, but I wish you much success. I hope you continue to blog, as your writings and perspectives are always intriguing.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Bummer. Seriously. I can't imagine how you must feel. I was one of the three people who didn't know your name, but I'm also one of the 178,000+ hits you get of people reading your blog. I you'll continue writing.

Your situation provides you with a unique perspective on the "now what?" question many people ask themselves when they have to leave the job they love. What's next for you? Politics? Private practice? "Prosecutor-for-hire"? Another county? Teaching? Writing? Investigative journalism? Bowling? Another profession altogether?

I hope you find the next chapter of your life as fulfilling as the last.

Anonymous said...

Likening Pat Lykos to the Bud Light lizard smoking a stinky old ciggie, classic! That made my day! She sounds like a PITA to work with, and you're probably better off leaving there now.

Ghostrider said...

As one of the 3 who did not know your name, I wish you good luck in your new phase of your career. I have always enjoyed reading your blog. I hope you keep it up and now you can really say whats on your mind.....lol

Anonymous said...

Murray -
I hope you know or will find out who is writing this. Besides another child abuse ADA who works computer crimes and shall remain nameless, I have never had more of a blast!!! working with the likes of you and Rob Freyer. It was ALWAYS a pleasure, as a detective, to work with you and see you at the CJC. You know that, if you ever need anything from a certain person at the HCSO or FBI, hint hint, just ask Eric where to find me.

ps. I ALWAYS knew it was you. I did my background work on you. You can take your Star Wars poster down now.

Sabrina said...

Murray, I wish you the best of luck in your new career. What a loss for the citizens of Harris County. You were the kind of prosecutor they should all aspire to be. I've always admired your devotion and integrity. BTW I have never met you & I was one of the readers who did not know your name until today.

The Moose said...

Newman,

I am sorry about your news and wish you the utmost success on the Criminal Defense side.

Monique Finster-Petersen

jeff's dad said...

Wow; You are so cool for facing the ax like that - "Can we go ahead and get this sh*t done with now?" I asked him. -- woooo balls Newman...breakin' 'em.

So when are you going to change your name to "Former Harris County Lawyer"...huh Newman?

Mark Bennett said...

I'm sorry I missed the wake, but I'm available to celebrate this with you as soon as you see it as an event to celebrate.

The government's loss is the People's gain.

I'll sit second with you any day.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Big boys and girls, you included, knew what you were getting into when you decided to play politics and become involved in someone's campaign. If that someone does not win, your days are limited. You knew that, yet now you want to whine about it?

Anonymous said...

Don't think that being a prosecutor prepares you for being a criminal defense lawyer (unless you are committed to being a bad one.) It is a different job, a different set of talents, a different experience altogether.

Some of the worst criminal defense lawyers in the city are former prosecutors. Many of the best have never been prosecutors. The former prosecutors who become good criminal defense lawyers generally 1) did not like what they were doing as prosecutors, and 2) realized that they had to start over from scratch to learn criminal defense. Just like right from law school, except there were alot of mistakes they had to unlearn.

I'd suggest you start at the March seminar TCDLA puts on in Huntsville, if you are serious and want to kick state butt. If not, then you should look for a different line of work.

Anonymous said...

On the bright side, when Pat starts prosecuting people for political crimes, I'll know a couple good defense attorneys.

Good luck Murray. You'll be much happier taking on a new challenge than working under Pat.

John

Anonymous said...

I am broken-hearted for you. But I am also feeling very proud of you. I love you.

Anonymous said...

Murray maybe you and that great lawyer Rob Freyer can start a defense firm....PLEEEASE!!!!

TxGoodie said...

Uh Oh, clearly there were more than three that didn't know 'cause I'm #4...

Like the rest, I'm sorry to hear of your loss.

I'm just a little old lady citizen, but IMHO from the White House to the Jail House "they've" thrown out the baby with the bathwater! What goes around comes around and no one is on top of the mountain forever...

Good luck to you and if you can bear to, would you please tell us who else is laying on the train tracks...

Anonymous said...

Lykos the Hypocrite. She fires the top major fraud investigator (Patrick Smith) because she wants to expand the Fraud division.

Patrick Smith hung signs for Kelly. Other than that, he has a perfect resume.

Who is the new prosecutor with the blog? Better take it down. The thought police is in town.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Murray. It's a damn shame what Lykos is doing and it's Harris County's loss.

You're top notch and you'll land on your feet no problem.

-Eric Morehead-

Ron in Houston said...

Mark has a good point. I hope you can turn this into a way to be a continual pain in the a** of the Lykos administration.

I'd say keep blogging. You never know you could be the person who gets Snookems unseated in the next election.

Anonymous said...

I'm in law school now and planned to make the HCDA's office my home after graduation. I just can't see that happening with her in charge and don't envy the person who'll have to come in and clean up after her. The wound to the office's reputation won't heal under her administration. I'm so sorry.

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:34:

If Lykos realy did let Smith go, that says volumes about her pettiness and ability to lead a public office.

Smith is one of the best investigators in the county, and whatever agency grabs him up will benefit tremendously from his service.

Anonymous said...

Lykos was the "special assistant" to County Judge Ed Emmett; what's that connection all about?
Don't look for any serious corruption investigations in the antics inside Harris County.

Mark Bennett said...

1413, do you really think this is the right time for that particular lecture?

1511, I don't think anyone who knows Rob, including Rob, can see him defending people. I understand he's got a new gig in Montgomery County.

Anonymous said...

I have always admired your attitude and your sense of right and wrong. Given your wit and intelligence, I am confident that you will land on your feet. The sad thing is that the citizens of Harris County are suffering a huge loss.

Anonymous said...

Murray,
Best of luck to you. Besides being a great prosecutor, you added so much life and humor to the office (I still have some of your weekly rankings from the steak-night days – good times!). Since I moved on, I have enjoyed keeping up with the office through your blog. Thanks for telling it like it is. You deserve a commemorative pair of brass ones like Roe has in her office.

VL

Anonymous said...

In this blog world, the DA's office better mind their p's and q's, the market is now cornered by the HCCLA.

Based on what I have heard, they will try and control prosecutors by fear. One ADA has already been told that the ADA had better comply as that person is lucky they haven't been fired. That was from Leitner.

Seriously, expect to see some big cases lost. With that fear, the promised changes by Little Leinter to the defense bar will not happen. (Remember, he was taking their money when he said that.)

The DA's office can't afford losses. This started with Kelly leaving and take a look at who is gone. Sure is a ton of trial experience. There are good ones there but they haven't had the opportunity to develop.

Anonymous said...

Have you thought about a career in journalism?

A Harris County Lawyer said...

Thank you everyone for the kind words.

There was one comment that I did not allow today, and that was because it had some harsh things to say about some of my fellow firees.

To him or her, I would just like to say that I don't think your complaints were entirely out of line, but at the end of the day, I'm human and these folks are my friends. As their friend, I'm not going to facilitate kicking them while they are down.

You can say what you want to about me and I'll publish it. I've grown pretty much accustomed to it since I've started the blog.

I hope you understand. If not, just take it out on me, okay?

Anonymous said...

Well I guess it was mine that you didn't publish. I don't think you're whining, so those weren't my comments. For the record, however, I do believe they were valid comments. Harris County has issues in the DA's office. From your perspective they are about to get worse. From mine, they will get better. This is not a statement in support of the firings, Hell I don't know enough about you to say one way or the other. It's more of a regime change that I hope will facilitate procedures that help to ensure more openness with Defendants, fewer Brady violations, better eyewitness vetting, and other procedures that will actually help ensure justice. I also think a huge problem is that criminal court judges are essentially prosecutors wearing robes.

I hope all of this will change. I'm concerned that it will not. As a result, the only real change will be that several people get fired, and those firings will be called part of restructuring when in fact they were political and will add nothing to the office. Nor will their replacements, most likely.

Again, good luck. Something tells me you will find it more difficult to win cases against The Man. It's a tough row to hoe fighting against all of the prosecutorial power of the state, especially when they withhold exculpatory evidence and the judge is a long time friend of the prosecutor's who used to be a prosecutor. Unfortunately for you, the new Democrat judges will be less than sympathetic with your support of Siegler, and the remaining Republican judges will probably be gone in the next election cycle. Add to that what will most certainly be a Lykos policy of black balling former prosecutors who supported her opponents and I think you're going to get the worst of both worlds--hostile judges and prosecutors unwilling to plead your cases out. I know you're not afraid of trials, but something tells me your win/loss record is about to invert.

shg said...

As Bennett says, you will see this as a reason to celebrate, though it has to hurt for the moment.

Welcome to the other side. We're not that bad either, and from everything I hear, you're a good lawyer and person.

David said...

Dear Murray,

I normally do not keep up with any gossip in our community, but you have been one of the finest prosecutor in harris county. I am puzzeled that Lykos would fire one of the best criminal lawyers I know. If you ever need help on this side, call me.

David A. Breston

The Phantom Bureaucrat said...

To those that have suggested this is anything other than a political purge, I have some ocean front property in Arizona to sell you. Just because the number of dismissals is "under 5%" is a non-issue, even if others were big Siegler supporters. The problem for Murray is that he was so accurately anti-Lykos, pointing out her many flaws and doing so supported by first hand and media accounts.

It has been suggested to me that a couple of ambitious junior ADAs met with Lykos awhile back to cozy up to the boss so she would treat them as loyalists and reward them. They will be easy to spot in coming months and their karma will hopefully even things up in no time.

Further though, these firings are on top of those that have already left for greener pastures and will serve as fodder to scare most of the others into submission. ADAs have no job protection from vindictive, petty political hacks such as Lykos and the howls over in the Chronicle forums lead me to believe the biggest disappointment most of them have is that the bloodletting isn't bigger in scope. See, political insiders in the GOP have spent plenty of time propping Lykos up as a "true Republican" who will "do the right thing" by them while in office; such political hacks more interested in the "R" next to her name and party endorsement over quality of service.

As far as gainful employment for Murray, there are a wide variety of other offices in the area he could work at, perhaps even for one of the police unions that have seen his dedication and determination or in Civil Law practice, so I too think he will land on his feet in a better place.

Anonymous said...

I hate that your leaving reading your blog brought tears to my eyes! We didn't know each other very well, we had a couple of conversations and due to you knowing my sister, thats how I was introduce to you! YOu were very nice to me always said hi when you seen me, not like others in the office! But I am glad to say that I know you...its sad to see you go but all things happen for a reason, thats what I believe and I KNOW everything will turn for the good! Your a hard worker from what I heard and seen and I wish you the best in anything you do! YOu will me greatly missed!