Thursday, January 31, 2008

And There Went Your Credibilty . . .

Quannel X and Company held their protest in front of the CJC today. Honestly, there wasn't much stated that was very different from Mr. X's usual protests and statements to the media (I guess this Writer's Strike in Hollywood is having a trickle-down effect).

What's interesting to me, is that in light of the recent e-mail scandal, that now was a time that Quannel & Crew could really speak with some legitimacy about racism in the Criminal Justice System.

And then one of the speakers advocated releasing everyone who had been convicted of a crime in the past ten years.

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.

Can't Win for Losing

On tonight's Channel 13 report, Ted Oberg is doing an article on Kelly Siegler because she doesn't have enough e-mails on her e-mail account. Thus, she must be covering something up.

You gotta be freaking kidding me.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

An Interesting Day Tomorrow

There will be big doings tomorrow in the CJC World.

Quannel X will be leading a group of protestors to march upon the CJC and demand the resignation of . . . well, everybody. It's going to be bad weather, so bring an umbrella.

Chuck Rosenthal will be appearing in Federal Court to answer charges of contempt, levelled against him by Lloyd Kelley. It's a little bit amusing to me that the day Quannel comes knocking on the door that Chuck won't be home, but oh well. It's not like Quannel was looking for a real dialog on the situation. And Chuck certainly isn't either.

Tomorrow is going to be a bad day for the D.A.'s Office, any way you look at it. They are going to be bashed by protestors in front of the building, while Chuck is having all of their reputations bashed in Federal court.

Lisa Falkenberg, Rick Casey, and Alan Bernstein must be thanking their lucky stars for such a day as tomorrow.

For all those ADAs out there, who are trying to do the right thing, day in and day out, keep your heads held high. You know the job that you do is important, and you know that you do it for the right reasons.

Nobody can take that away from you.

Not Quannel X.

And not even Chuck Rosenthal.

Please Help About Mack Arnold

I received this comment last night on one of my posts:

My name is Bryan Arnold. Mack is my uncle.I just got a phone call from one of macks school mates here in longview about mack. I need help to find out what hospital he is in or a phone number. I have not seen mack very much since his b rother chuck was killed several years back. Please help. Bryan Arnold....bama9165@aol.com 903-738-9165.

I don't have the information on Mack, but I know you do. Can someone please call this gentleman back?

And once you do, will you please let us know in the comments that you did, so that we can rest easy?

Thanks to everyone.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A Little Boy Died Today

It didn't happen here.

It happened in Galveston County, but I wanted to talk about it anyway.

The news reports are still coming together, but we know that a couple walking along the road found the body of a baby boy, still in his diaper, dead on the side of the road. A child's car seat was near his little body. Preliminary reports say he died from blunt force trauma to his head.

We don't know if he was thrown from a car. We don't know if he was beaten to death and then left there.

I think we can all agree that whatever he did in his short life, he didn't deserve this.

Police are looking for his father. I don't know if he's the one who is responsible or not.

But someone is.

And some day, if there is a God, that person will be brought to Justice.

A prosecutor will stand in a court of law and put into words what the investigating officers have done. That prosecutor will feel his or her heart break every time they talk about or even think about the case. And that heart will never be the same.

A defense attorney will represent the accused, and it will tear him or her apart, just as much. He or she will put aside their personal feelings and uphold their oath that they defend their client to the best of their ability. And his or her heart will break every time they talk about or even think about the case. And that heart will never be the same, either.

All those people who will become involved in the case will take on a personal toll that those outside of this system will never understand the way that we do.

My prayers are with all those who will become involved.

But mostly my prayers are for that Sweet Little Boy.

I just had to get that off my chest.

Oh, and by the way, Mr. Bernstein . . .

Apparently in your frenzy to blast Kelly Siegler for her use of the word "Jew" as a verb (um, 20 years ago), you seemed to have neglected this little tidbit from Judge Lykos' past. And I'm really shocked that you were unaware that this story was out there.

The New York Times certainly seemed aware of it, but our local Houston paper didn't?

Now, it seems to me that an incident where Kelly wasn't aware of the offensive nature of her words twenty years ago is much less offensive than Lykos willfully showing her true feelings in open court and on the record.

Kelly immediately apologized for her actions.

Lykos steadfastly stuck by her feelings.

Which one is more offensive?

And more importantly, Mr. Bernstein, how on earth did you miss this?

Or did you?

NOTE: The search for the articles that Alan Bernstein from the Chronicle missed took an incredible amount of effort and research to find. Not only did I have to plug in the term "Jewish" into google.com, I also had to plug in the term "Lykos". Obviously, this was waaaaaaaay too difficult for the Chronicle staff to look into. Thanks to my anonymous poster for pointing this incident out.

Hey, y'all don't think that the Chronicle intentionally ignored this story because they are biased, do you?

Trial 101: For you, Lisa Falkenberg

Yesterday must have been National Integrity in Journalism Day, because I didn't see a single article bashing the D.A.'s Office for racism. Did I dare let myself believe that this was the entry into a new era of good feelings between the Chronicle and the D.A.'s office?

Nah, I'm not that stupid.

Lisa Falkenberg rode back into town this morning on her old dead horse that she's been beating, with an article about Kelly Siegler and the Lakewood juror. Except, this time she has a new twist on it. Apparently, Kelly had not exercised a peremptory strike on two other Lakewood Church members, but (gasp) they were Hispanic, and not African-American. Falkenberg clearly believes she has now found the smoking gun that proves that Kelly is a racist.

Falkenberg opines that these two dastardly potential jurors even put on their juror cards that they thought the propensity to commit violence could be linked to race. And Kelly still, didn't do her civic duty as a prosecutor and use her peremptory strikes.

So here's the deal, Lisa, because you clearly don't understand trial. Both sides have a certain set of peremptory strikes. If I recall correctly, in a death capital, each side gets 15 peremptory strikes that they can use to strike a juror for any damn reason (as long as it isn't about race).

Now, here's the deal, Lisa, which you don't seem to understand. The number "15" is a long way from infinity. Both sides tend to horde their peremptory strikes and not use them unless they have to. If one side is certain that the other side will have to "burn" one of their strikes, all the much better.

Now, Kelly and her trial partner Luci Davidson, being no dummies, read that two jurors in their questionnaires felt that "blacks are more violent than other racial groups". And, Kelly and Luci also realized that their opponents in the case were also, no dummies. Kelly and Luci knew that there was no way in Hell that Loretta Johnson Muldrow and her trial partner were going to allow those two jurors on the jury.

Does it really stretch a columnist's mind so much to see the strategy here? Okay, let me spell it out to you, Lisa. Kelly and Luci knew that Loretta would have to burn defense strikes on those jurors (if Loretta wasn't able to get the two jurors for cause). Why on earth would they use strikes?

Now, Lisa, I gotta say that I appreciate you for keeping your articles in the Columnist section, and don't pretend to be writing "real news" like Alan Bernstein does on his editorials.

But Loretta, I'm disappointed in you. You know damn good and well how a capital murder voir dire works, and you are manipulating the press to make Kelly Siegler and the D.A.'s Office out to be racists. Where's the article on you for striking not one, but two Lakewood Church members? There's not one? Why is that? Maybe because you had good, sound reasons to?

Does it really stretch the imagination so much to think that maybe Kelly and Luci had some sound reasoning in their trial strategy too?

They did win the trial, after all.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

In Case You Don't Read the Comments . . .

. . . there is currently a pretty interesting exchange going on between myself and Mr. Bernstein from the Chronicle. There are also a lot of other good comments being brought up as well.

You can find them under the comments to "WTF - Pt. II".

WTF? - Part II

NOTICE: Due to this blog putting newest articles on top, please scroll down to WTF - I and read it before reading this.

Okay, now I've had breakfast and three cups of coffee, so I've calmed down a little bit with my fury towards the Chronicle. But only just a little bit.

I would now like to address the column on Pat Lykos. There are many things that I like in life, one of the things I like the most is when I experience one of those rare moments when I'm right about something. In yesterday's article on Reality vs. Perception, I pointed out that Pat Lykos is not a good candidate for the D.A.'s Office, because she gives over broad and general answers to questions that sound lovely to the voters, but aren't really worth a bucket of pee pee to those who know the litigation side of the Criminal Justice System.

The "puff piece" on Lykos in today's Chronicle proved me right. Although, undoubtedly, the voters probably loved it.

Here's what she listed:

1. "She proposes that the agency establish an ethics office to provide guidance for achieving the right kind of justice" - cute idea. And what exactly would this "ethics office" do? Would it be staffed full time? Would it have a hotline?

"Hello, you have reached Harris County District Attorney's Ethics Office. Do you have an ethics crisis? Are you up on a ledge and thinking of acting unethically? Let our experienced professionals talk you down."

This is a weak-minded and political attempt to win over the public.

The right answer - sending more prosecutors to more ethics classes. If you want to make a difference in the public opinion, make sure that prosecutors aren't getting just minimal CLE, but even more than required. Prosecutors that get in trouble with the Office? Make them take a CLE that might directly relate to what they did.

2. "that (the Office) get more concerned with stopping human trafficking, organized crime and drug cartels" - this one is awesome, and thus my favorite. I have this vision of her dispatching prosecutors like Vic Wisner, armed to the teeth, down to Columbia to focus on the drug cartels. There's something about that visual that just cracks me up.

Um, Judge, the people who do that are usually called the Feds. True, sometimes HPD and other agencies do get involved with the major cases when human trafficking, organized crime, and drug cartels come into Harris County limits, but this is the cops job.

True, there should be a specialized division that helps handle major cases like this. Oh wait, there already is one.

It's called Special Crimes, and Kelly Siegler is the head of it.

Nice shot with the pandering and a good try at re-inventing the wheel.

3. "and less concerned with imprisoning low-level offenders who have problems with addiction, homelessness or mental disease" - Lykos also made several other controversial statements such as "the sun is hot", "cancer is a bad thing", and "I like puppies."

My response to this portion: "Well, duh". Jim Leitner said in his speech at the Spaghetti Warehouse that "a change is coming no matter what". He was so right about that. I would argue that only a trial lawyer would know how to effectively put "less concern" into drug cases. What does that mean, Judge? More 12.44(a) or (b)? Class Cs on all crack pipe cases? Not taking residue cases at all at intake?

All of the above are interesting solutions. I know which one I like best, but it would be naive to think there aren't also, at least some, downsides to them, as well. Don't forget that in neighborhoods where the use of crack cocaine is a problem, there are a lot of good people there who want that stuff off their streets in their neighborhood. These are the people clapping when the cops arrest a guy for walking in the street where a sidewalk was provided (and subsequently found a crack pipe). Why are they clapping? Because that guy just got taken away from their house.

Somewhere, a balance must be struck between protecting neighborhoods, and also not over-charging and ruining people's life. It takes careful thought and consideration. Not just a glib answer from a candidate.

4. "make sure convicts are sentenced consistently, with no regards to whether their lawyer is a high-paid private practitioner or a relatively inexperienced lawyer supplied by the county?!?!?!?"
Okay, loyal readers (this means you, Bennett). You blasted me for my "faint praise". You blasted me for my explanation of Batson and the African-American juror. You gotta be jumping all over this quote.

"Relatively inexperienced lawyer supplied by the county?" Oh, and who does she mean by that? Folks like that poor, slow Jerry Guerinot? The barely functioning Ricardo Rodriguez? How about that half-wit, Rob Morrow? Is that a little bit of drool running down Charlie Brown's chin? And that Skip Cornelius guy just doesn't get it, does he? Poor old Pat McCann still screws up the alphabet doesn't he?

I don't mean to be pandering to those members of the Defense Bar that take appointments, but who in the hell does Lykos think she is to insinuate that y'all are anything other than some of the best attorneys in the State of Texas, and thus the world.

Maybe once you guys get a little more experience you can do as good as Dick DeGuerin.

What happened on his last murder trial, by the way?

5. She presided over the Karla Faye Tucker trial - Ann Richards once stated that George Bush taking credit for the end of the Cold War is like the rooster taking credit for the sun coming up in the morning. A Judge presiding over a high-profile death penalty case and then claiming it like Lykos always has is a little bit silly, if you ask me. But the sad thing is that it seems to be effective.

The Karla Faye Tucker trial was before my time at the Office, although I'm certainly familiar with the facts of the case. But for the life of me, Lykos has done so much crowing over it over the years, that she's the only name I know associated with the case. Some of you older (um, I mean seasoned) lawyers help me out here. Who were the prosecutors? Who were the defense attorneys? You know -- those people who actually did all the work on the case while the Lykos presided? The ones who's names she seems to eclipse.

WTF? - Part I

Damn, I hate the Houston Chronicle. I mean, I know they have always been as biased as my mother at my 5th grade spelling bee, but I mean - - well, damn.

Alan Bernstein wrote a puff piece for this morning's otherwise uneventful edition. Four separate articles on each of the four Republican candidates (I tried to find the link for y'all, but can't find it on the web for some reason. Mark, if you can find it for me, could you post it in the comments?)
At least, it starts off as a puff piece, but what it ends up being is three puff pieces on Lykos, Leitner, and Perry (the Chronicle may still acknowledge him as a candidate, but I don't) and a hatchet-job on Kelly Siegler.

I suppose that the Chronicle editors may have finally realized that stretching out the "nuts and screwballs" comment slowly over four weeks has gotten to be old news. (NOTE TO EDITORS: It was old news about three and a half weeks ago). And Lisa Falkenberg's article on Canadians had played out (which I guess happens when you do an article on something that Fox 26 broke two and a half weeks earlier). So they went looking more dirt on Kelly.

And they found it. But not until they 1) looked into her prosecutorial past for about twenty years, and 2) interviewed the president of her fan club: Dick DeGuerin.

Now let's look at this crap:

Apparently when Kelly was a misdemeanor prosecutor twenty years ago, she used the term "Jew" as a verb. The article points out that she didn't know what it meant, and went to the extra-ordinary step of actually going to the home of an offended juror and personally apologizing.

Now, everybody who is reading this board knows that the difference of knowledge and experience levels between a Baby Misdemeanor Prosecutor and a Bureau Chief could fill volumes. If I recall correctly from office folklore (and Kelly's inspirational talks at prosecutor training sessions), this is somebody who didn't win a lot of trials when she first started out. She worked her butt off to become the best prosecutor in the Office, the State, and the Country.

My point is that the Chronicle and Bernstein are absolutely ridiculous point shows that their zeal against the Office has hit new levels -- very low levels. To write such cheesy puff pieces about Lykos ("I was a charm school dropout" hee hee hee), Leitner ("I shaved my moustache") and Perry ("the tall candidate does often look the lawman part"), and then use Kelly's article to continue the smearing is just poor journalism.

Oh but wait, we aren't quite done yet. I haven't mentioned the Dick DeGuerin source. I can't link to the article, but here's what it says:

"After Siegler's recent prosecution of David Mark Temple in the 1999 killing of his pregnant wife, defense lawyer Dick DeDuerin's unsuccessful request for a new trial noted that she told law students that she regularly made remarks to juries that she knew judges would find out bounds."

So our in-depth background research was getting handed a copy of the Temple Motion for New Trial, Bernstein? Did you not do the follow up investigation into, oh, I don't know, common legal practices, which would have taught you that what is alleged in a Motion isn't evidence. I just point that out because you seem to site the Motion as some sort of proof.

And all it really is is DeGuerin stating: "It sucks that I lost my trial. I want a new one. Kelly must have cheated. I heard that she tells people she cheats."

Give me a break.

I know that there are plenty of people who read my posts on this website that don't support Kelly, and that's fine. But at least y'all will have rational discussions with me over the merits of her candidacy, as well as the candidacies of everyone else in the race (except Perry).

The Chronicle does it's readers a disservice by failing to analyze Kelly as a serious candidate when all they do is blast her with anecdotal stories.

But, then again, I've always kind of felt that the Chronicle did it's readers a disservice by existing.

NOTE: WTF? - Pt. II will be written after I eat breakfast.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Perception vs. Reality

Ever heard the saying that "perception is reality"? I think most of us have, and right now it's a phrase being repeated over and over again around the CJC. Most prosecutors right now would probably like to take the author of that statement out back and shoot him.

What kind of inspired me to write this particular post this fine Saturday morning was after reading Leviathan's post about the D.A. candidates and their baggage on Mark Bennett's blog. Leviathan is one of the more witty and rational posters on both this blog and Mark's, and he or she makes a very witty post with this one. His conclusion is an endorsement of Jim Leitner as his or her selection for who should be the D.A.

You aren't ever going to catch me saying anything bad about Jim Leitner, because I think he is one of the most honorable, humble, skilled, and decent attorneys I've ever met in my life. You aren't going to catch any of the ADAs saying anything bad about him either, because they feel the same way. But, I do have an issue with all this ranting about Kelly's "baggage", and how this so-called "baggage" should prohibit her from Office.

The Defense Bar battles against "perception" every day of a client's case. There is a a perception of guilt from the time of arrest that we have to vocally defend against. There is a perception of guilt when our client is sitting at a counsel table when the jury files in, and that's where our battle really become a full-fledged war, isn't it? And fighting against the perception of guilt is the credo of our jobs, isn't it? Because the reality is that all persons accused are innocent until proven guilty.

Sometimes to get to reality, you have to prove that the perception is bullshit, don't you? Even when the fundamental principle of the criminal justice system is the exact opposite of that.

So, let's examine some perceptions and realities that have been thrown around lately.

Perception # 1 - The D.A.'s Office harbors a racist attitude and this is clearly proven by the fact that Chuck had two racially offensive e-mails on his computer, and that Mike Trent sent the "Canadians" e-mail.

Reality - Three e-mails are linked to two prosecutors (three prosecutors, if you listen to Trent's eager "I heard it from Freyer!" mantra. Something tells me Trent won't be on Freyer's Christmas card list this year). Yes, Chuck's e-mails (especially the "overdose" one) were grossly inappropriate and have no place on anybody's computer, especially not an elected official's. But how does that translate to the other 200+ prosecutors at the Office?

Jolanda Jones keeps talking about racist A.D.A.'s who offer African -American defendants higher plea bargain recommendations than white defendants.

Really? That's terrible.

And surely, Ms. Jones, you have been calling a press conference every time this has happened this happened to you. Surely, as a competent attorney diligently representing your client, you brought this to the Court's attention every time this type of injustice happened. Surely, Ms. Jones, you have successfully Batson challenged every prosecutor for a racially motivated strike, and have hundreds or thousands of incidents that you can cite where the trial court, or a Court of Criminal Appeals backed you up on this.

Surely, Ms. Jones, you aren't just jumping on the "ADAs are racist" bandwagon because it's fashionable right now. A newly-elected city councilwoman such as yourself wouldn't ever do something like that for political purposes, would she?



Perception # 2 - Kelly Siegler was part of Chuck Rosenthal's inner-circle who complacently allowed all of his bad acts to continue without saying a word. Thus, she is not a good candidate for District Attorney.

Reality - It is true that Kelly has been a prosecutor for the District Attorney's Office for over 20 years now. She served under Johnny Holmes, and subsequently Chuck Rosenthal. When Holmes left office at the end of 2000, she was a felony Chief. Under Rosenthal's administration, she's been promoted to Bureau Chief of Special Crimes, which specializes in the investigation and trying of "Cold Cases". She isn't his First Assistant. She isn't his General Counsel. More importantly, she's not his Chief Investigator.

If you want to know who is really in Rosenthal's "inner-circle", ask around the courthouse. It's an extremely small circle.


The lumping in of Kelly with Chuck is nothing more than a political smear on her. As a former/current/retired prosecutor, or whoever the hell I am these days, let me state one thing clearly about being a prosecutor:


A prosecutor's loyalty is to your job description, not your elected official. Not a damn one of those prosecutors gets up every morning and goes to the courthouse to please Chuck Rosenthal. They get up to do a job that they love.

Punishing Kelly Siegler because she's been a prosecutor for so long, and because of the fact that she's risen to the level of Bureau Chief is insane. That makes her more qualified to be the D.A., not less. Those who would want you to believe otherwise would probably like to have the D.A.'s Office abolished in general.

Perception # 3 - Bringing in an outsider like Pat Lykos will restore integrity to the D.A.'s Office, and that will be for the best.

Reality - You know who else could have restored integrity to the D.A.'s Office if he were still alive? Late children's TV host Mr. Rodgers. He was such a sweet, dignified man.

Too bad he didn't know anything about the functioning of the D.A.'s Office, either. Has anyone else noticed that Republican "It" Girl, Pat Lykos has yet to challenge either Kelly or Jim Leitner to a debate on any of the real issues facing the Criminal Justice System? Why do you think that is? Could it be because that to do so would be to clearly illustrate her lack of understanding of what we do every day down there? Hit all three candidates (I'm no longer acknowledging Doug Perry as a candidate) with substantive questions and watch her crumble.

Here's my challenge to my readers: Write in your comments substantive questions that you believe ought to be posed to the D.A. candidates. I mean real ones. Not political ones. Not ones like "Kelly, how do you remove the stench of Chuck Rosenthal from the Office?"

I mean ones like this: "Should 12.44(b) be more utilized in crack pipe residue cases where the Defendant is a first offender, and an otherwise poor candidate for probation?" or "Should the Office's use of pre-trial diversion become more common-place for non-violent first offenders?"

I would humbly suggest to my readers that if you start asking substantive questions, you will cut through more of the bullshit perceptions about the CJC and get down to the Reality, which should be true Justice.

Just a thought.

In case you missed it . . .

Cindy Rosenthal (Chuck's wife) breaks her silence about all of the courthouse scandals in a Letter to the Editor in today's Chronicle. I'm sure that not everyone will have a lot of kind things to say about the letter, but she points out something about the Medina case that I've been thinking since it happened. She questions why in the hell Chuck would have done anything to help the Republican Party, when they turned their back on him. I think it's a valid question, for those conspiracists who believe the Medina dismissal was a Republican Plot.

And as usual, the idiocacy of the posters on the Chron.com website is in full motion.

Friday, January 25, 2008

And the Finalists are . . .

After a week of voting, the four finalists for the Hector Heathcoat Award are in.

Congratulations to Skip Cornelius, Danny Easterling, Pete Justin, and Jim Leitner for making the final round. I think everyone would agree that these are all excellent choices out of four separate fields of excellent choices.

Voting closes in a week, so make sure to vote for who you think is the best unsung hero of the Defense Bar.

And yes, I know I may be committing copyright infringement based on the fact that the HCCLA already has a similar award, but this one even lets those damn prosecutors vote.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A Day Without A Plea?

There have been some fliers circulating around the courthouse the past two days that are indicative of more of the fallout from the Rosenthal e-mail scandal. I saw one of them, but don't have one with me to quote verbatim.

The article basically calls upon all defense attorneys to boycott pleading out any cases on Thursday, January 31st to protest the sexist and racist administration of Chuck Rosenthal. It purports to be sponsored by the same coalition of groups that are scheduled to protest at the CJC that same day. It also, of course, calls for the removal of Chuck Rosenthal and his staff.

Now, that's all well and good, but I can't help but wonder who this boycott would potentially hurt the most. Maybe felony cases wouldn't be that big of a deal because they are typically plea offers for significant amounts of time (a day or a week or two reset wouldn't matter so much, since there can be credit applied for a Defendant's time in custody), but what about misdemeanor cases?

Isn't there an ethical duty to convey any and all offers made by the State? What if the offer is for "time served"? Does the client get to spend an extra night in jail because his or her attorney is trying to make a point? What if the court resets the date for four weeks? What if the prosecutor won't hold an offer open past that day? It seems to me that there could be numerous problems that a boycott could cause to one's profession.

I'm all for making your voice heard and protesting all day long if you want, but it would seem that the client should be consulted about whether or not they want to participate in the protest as well, before they spend another night in the HCJ.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Why I'm Concerned About Writing

In George Orwell's 1984, the author coined the term "Big Brother is watching you." At least, I always heard that's where the term came from, but in the interest of full disclosure, I never read the book. And it's always been my understanding that Big Brother was the government. (NOTE: I'm basing the remainder of my article on my above-listed understanding of the book. If my understanding is wrong, I'm really going to look like a dumb ass, here.)

Well, Big Brother is watching now, and the effects are being felt even by non-lawyers. In Peggy O'Hare's article this afternoon, she wrote the following statement:

In court papers filed Monday, (Lloyd) Kelley gave a list of people he plans to call to the witness stand, including Rosenthal; prosecutor and Republican DA candidate Kelly Siegler; Siegler's husband, Dr. Sam Siegler; Rosenthal's executive assistant Kerry Stevens; his chief investigator John Ray Harrison; his political consultant Allen Blakemore; and prosecutor Mike Trent.

Now correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't this lawsuit start over an issue with the Sheriff's Office? Now, I've got absolutely nothing to do with this law suit, and God knows I'm glad for that. I don't pretend to have the inner-understanding that the parties involved do (LOOSELY TRANSLATED: "Please nobody subpoena me."), but I'm having a hard time seeing how all these folks are getting roped into a case involving the Sheriff's Office, when none of them seem to work for the HCSO. Chuck subpoenaed? Maybe. But the rest? And can somebody explain to me how in HELL Sam Siegler got involved in this mess?

I just don't get it. I don't understand what the criteria is before your private matters become public.

And that scares me.

I'm hearing horror stories about more and more open records requests hitting the D.A.'s Office every day. Of course, the natural inclination is to say "Well, if they didn't write anything bad, then they don't have anything to worry about."

I guess, but do you remember when the Rosenthal e-mails were first posted on KHOU.com? I, like thousands of other people, clicked on the link that showed the e-mails, and I felt sick.

The first thing on there was a personal exchange between HCDA General Counsel Scott Durfee and (I believe) his wife. Were they discussing racism? No. Were they talking law? No. They were talking about a problem their child was having with another child in school. As husbands and wives talk, they discuss their opinion of some of the other kids in the class. Nothing racist or elitist, but clearly in terms that Mr. Durfee and his wife wouldn't have shared "with the rest of the class".

That's bullshit. I don't really know Scott Durfee, except in passing, but Good Lord, can you imagine how humiliating that must have been? Where's the media discretion in releasing that to the masses? And how did it get out there anyway? I just don't get it. That wasn't fair.

And what exactly is it about that law that lets Kelley get Sam Siegler's e-mails? I mean, I can see the stuff acquired through Rosenthal's account being fair game, but subpoenaing Siegler's stuff? And calling him into court as well? Whatever you believe about Kelly's husband from media reports, does that really sit well with the general public that personal e-mails are that up for grabs?

I know that Kelly Siegler put herself in the public spotlight when she decided to run for D.A., so I'm not expecting to find a wave of sympathy for her in regards to that, but damn, that woman has gone under some intense scrutiny that doesn't seem to have been focused on any of the other candidates. I'm not a political person, myself, and after watching all of the scrutiny she's gone under, I will never even think of running for office.

I'm not saying I'd even make a good candidate in a theoretical election, but think about this: how many excellent candidates do get run off from the idea of even running because they don't want their whole life under such scrutiny?

Even the prettiest picture doesn't look good under a microscope.

My concerns about posting aren't because I think the message isn't worth discussing. It's because I don't want the hell that seems to now come along with speaking your mind.

And by the way, it is just my mind that I'm speaking. My thoughts and beliefs in no way speak for criminal lawyers, whether they be defense or prosecution, or anybody else for that matter.

Letter to the Editor

In the lower portion of the letters to the editor section this morning, an attorney named Victoria Stein blasted the sentencing of the Baytown Rapist to 99 years in prison for the 5 aggravated sexual assaults of young men.

Her position is that he would have been better off with psychological and medical treatment.

Thank God she wasn't on that jury.

At this point, I'd rather use the psychological and medical treatment on the people he victimized.

Finally Somebody Speaks

I don't have time for a lengthy post, but I wanted to point out that in Brian Rogers' article today some of the DA leadership is finally getting some press about the toll the Rosenthal fallout is having on them. Good job to Luci Davidson and Denise Bradley for letting the community know what is happening behind the scene. That's good leadership, and it sounds like the Office could use some of that at the moment.

I hope that they don't get in trouble for speaking out.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Why I Write

After reading a lot of angry postings on this blog over the past couple of days, it's been very tempting to just shut down the entirety of this blog and let the media keep bashing the D.A.'s office day in and day out without anyone responding to it.

I've gotten responses on this blog from people stating that the State of Texas isn't entitled to a fair a jury trial, and I guess some people feel that the D.A.'s office isn't entitled to defend itself when its being called racist, sexist, and everything else under the sun.

I've been an ADA. Some folks think that I still am one. I'm not going to answer that question. I'm not trying to "dodge responsibility" as one blogger wrote. I just don't feel like having my name out there and dealing with the scrutiny into my private life as other people have over the past couple of weeks.

My time at the Harris County District Attorney's Office is a time that I am proud of. I feel like I helped people that I had never met before on a daily basis. I did so on a completely race-neutral basis, and I have/will have finished it with a mind more open (and yet, saddened) to what life is like for people who have lived life much differently (and much less priviledged) than I have.

The ADAs who continue to work there are good people, and they all enter into that job with a youthful desire to "save the world" one case at a time. If the media and others are going to call them all racist and tell them that they all need to be fired, well, somebody needs to point out that this just isn't the case.

The defense bar of Harris County does an equally good job. They defend their clients rights, and I've never seen a defense attorney who believed in his client's innocence give up without a fight. I started this blog to defend both the prosecutors and the defense attorneys who go to work every day for much less money than they could ever make in the civil world. Trust me, I know what criminal defense attorneys make! And in Harris County, Texas, the term "court appointed attorney" should never be considered a dirty word.

I didn't really expect this blog to be of much interest to anybody other than those of us who practice at the CJC. And because of some of the outside attention, I may just take the blog down completely. That's still up for debate.

For those of you who've read and posted, just know that I started this as a sincere "thank you" to all of you for the jobs you do -- day in and day out.

In my opinion (to borrow from James Bond), nobody does it better.

Criticism

After re-reading my original (and what I didn't really think was controversial) post on African-American jurors, Batson, and the D.A.'s Office, I've come to realize that some of the wording on it didn't convey what I was trying to say in it.

I've updated it with a notation of what is updated. I never intended my words to convey the idea that ADAs exclude any group of people from juries. What I was trying to convey is that ADAs are conscious that the system historically has not treated certain groups of people fairly, and that causes concerns during the jury selection process.

What I was trying to illustrate was that this is a problem within the Criminal Justice System that was created by the Criminal Justice System. And that was all that I was trying to convey. ADAs are good people who are trying to help their community by seeing justice done.

If anyone was offended by what I wrote earlier, I'm truly sorry.

Writer's Block

I've started two posts today and then deleted them because I thought that they were stupid. I'm apparently suffering from Writer's Block.

Anybody got any topics they want to address?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Pat McCann's Questions

In his editorial piece today, Pat McCann wrote that the following questions are ones that need to be addressed by whoever becomes District Attorney in 2009. Before I list them, I do have to point out that I noticed he wrote:

"Republicans will have a contested primary with experienced candidates, Jim Leitner and Kelly Siegler, as well as Houston police Capt. Doug Perry and former Judge Pat Lykos."

Now, God knows that I'm no grammatical genius (just read these posts closely), but was Pat saying that Leitner and Siegler were the only "experienced" candidates? I think he was.

And I couldn't agree more.

Now, onto the questions he posed for the new D.A.:

1. Will the district attorney's office begin to work to find serious alternatives to help the mentally ill who wind up in district and county courts? My Answer: I can't see why not. The Andrea Yates case left a bad taste in the public's mouth because it looked like the D.A.'s office was ruthlessly pursuing a clearly mentally ill woman. I think this got spun a lot by the media and the issue as to whether or not she was legally insane was something much more debatable than the media did. Nevertheless, I think this is an issue to be resolved by the legislature, but I think that any good D.A. is going to back that something be done, and done quickly.

2. Will the district attorney's office continue to prosecute minor drug cases with such vehemence, clogging our dockets and wasting resources and jail space? Good question. My Answer: Show me a prosecutor who is trying a minor drug case with "vehemence" and I'll show you a rookie prosecutor. Those that have been prosecuting for a long time get tired of the infamous "crack pipe" cases, and don't know what to do with them anymore. Recent policy changes within the office have banned the use of 12.44(a) on the cases, which was at least some sort of consolation prize to those representing clients charged with them. But they are still accepting the charges like they were going out of style. One or the other has got to give before the docket becomes so unimaginable that there is a crisis created solely by the charging decisions. My suggestion on the residue cases? Class C, baby.

3. Will the new DA continue to support the serious and thorough review of the HPD lab fiasco? At this point, how could he or she not? This one is a "no brainer" for the candidates.

4. When will we see the return of genuine second chances for first-time offenders? This is the only place where I think Pat slips a little, because the question is over-broad. Should there be a second chance for first offenders on drug charges? Sure. Thefts? Absolutely? Aggravated Sexual Assault of Child or Murder? Well, let's hold on there a minute. It has been my experience that the ADA's will try to help keep a record clean if the Defendant is charged with a (more or less) minor offense, provided that the Defendant wants the same thing for himself. Too often, a Defendant will leap at the chance for a reduced amount of pen time rather than place accept a deferred adjudication with a chance to get something off of his record. Also, what, if any effect is there if the Defendant is 17 years old and has a lengthy and violent criminal history?

5. How often and when should the death penalty be sought, and at what cost? A valid question from a person who morally opposes the death penalty. I think the reality is that the change in legislation that resulted in life without the possibility of parole has led to a drastic reduction in the cases that the Office seeks the death penalty on. I think that for the Office to seek death on a Defendant now, the case has to be something that truly shocks the conscience, or the Defendant's criminal history has to be something that would scare the living crap out of the common citizen.

Great article, Pat.

How Did I miss This?

After a brief period of sulking over the Packers game, I decided to sit down and read the rest of today's Chronicle.

Somehow, I had managed to miss the large photograph of Chuck Rosenthal and the corresponding article by Jolanda Jones. In addition, I had also missed the opinion piece written by Pat McCann.

Jolanda's article pretty much just reiterates what the media has been saying for two weeks: that the District Attorney's Office is racist. She cites different sentences for different people and states that the Office sentences Defendants harder if the Defendant is African-American. As her example, she cites a case involving Farrah Fawcett's son. I vaguely recall when that case was working its way through the 176th, but I don't recall its end result. She describes him having gotten pre-trial diversion, a rarely used type of probation that (if successfully completed) functions like a complete dismissal of a case. It requires both the District Attorney's Office's approval, as well as the Court's. I'm surprised that Brian Rains granted it in his court, given how much he dislikes probation in any form.

I do strongly dispute that I've ever seen someone getting higher recommendations on punishment based solely on their race. That's ridiculous. There are a lot of different factors that go into sentencing recommendations and race is NOT one of them. A persons' criminal history and the nature of the offense are the two primary factors. A victim's feelings regarding the offense is a secondary, although very important, factor in sentencing. In the case of Fawcett's son, I do recall that the victim of the forgery case was his grandfather, who wanted his grandson to learn a lesson, but not go to prison.

Although I think there are a lot of issues to be addressed within the District Attorney's Office, I'm downright angry at Jolanda's assertion that the Office sentences based solely on race.

As to Pat McCann's article, I think that this well-reasoned and well-written article shows why he has done such a good job of our Harris County Criminal Law ers Association. Mark Bennett is taking over in May, but he's got some big shoes to fill.

And no, the author of this blog is not Pat McCann.

This particular post is always running a little long, so I'm going to address Pat's list of questions in a separate blog.

A Horrible Injustice has just occurred . . .

The Packers lose at home?!?!??!?! Are you freaking kidding me?!?!?!?!

I'm boycotting the Super Bowl.

Not really.

Bracket System It Is

Okay, we're going to the bracket system. Please vote in all four brackets for the HHA. The winner of each bracket will go into the final poll. They are arranged by alphabetical order.

Voting deadline is January 25th at 7 p.m.

Well crap

We are experiencing technical difficulties again with the Hector Heathcoat Awards. Although the portion of the blog that let's me create a poll let's me plug in all 18 of the nominees names, for some reason, when I publish it, only the first four names pop up.

I'm trying to figure out how to handle this terrible crisis at the moment. I may just do four different polls and create a playoff system.

Unless somebody can come up with a better idea before I do that.

More after the Green Bay game.

Lakewood Church & Rick Casey

I woke up earlier than I usually would this Sunday morning in an attempt to watch the TV broadcast of Lakewood Church services that air at 10 a.m. I wanted to see what, if anything, was said about Kelly Siegler's comments. While I was waiting for the show, I took time to read Rick Casey's column which listed Kelly's comments as part of a three-part column bashing Republican disingenuity in our county officials.

I came to a conclusion: Backseat Drivers irritate me.

Casey's column cites the fact that the juror that Kelly struck off of her panel had listed that he was "in favor of capital punishment, except in a few cases where it may not be appropriate". Casey then argues by inference that Kelly would only want a juror who would be so strong on the death penalty that they would even give the death penalty where it was inappropriate.

For those of you out there who have worked on death penalty cases, you know that Casey is twisting things that he clearly doesn't know enough about. He's backseat driving just like his comrade Lisa Falkenberg likes to do in her articles.

Here's a pop-quiz for both Falkenberg and Casey:

1. In capital jury selection, what does the terminology "5/5", "1/1", or "4/3" mean?
2. Name one prosecutor or defense attorney who would accept a juror on a death capital based solely on their questionnaire, without interviewing them?
3. What keys on a court reporter's machine capture tone and inflection?

I've been involved with multiple capital murders over my career (NOTE: the term "involved" can mean a lot of different things, and I acknowledge that). I know that attorneys on both sides go through the numbers "5/5" through "1/1" first off before even reading a juror questionnaire. It isn't unusual at all for a questionnaire to not even be read at all, if they are a "5/5" and a "1/1". They usually become the victims of trades.

A prosecutor or a defense attorney would be absolutely incompetent if they accepted a person based on questionnaire only and didn't talk to the potential juror. I don't know how many of the seasoned attorneys are reading this blog, but I'd love to hear from you if you've tried a DP case. How many times has a juror that seemed to be a "2/2" ended up being a "5/5" or a "4/3" ended up being a "2/1" after individual voir dire? My point is that for those who have worked on these cases know that the questionnaire is often a good preview of what you are going to get when you speak to them, but it is (by no means) dispositive, is it?

Finally, a record is a flat recording of words. I've never read one that illustrated the tone of someone speaking while they were talking. It would be pretty damn funny if they did, because a record would read more like a romance novel.

Picture two situations:

#1 - A prosecutor asks the prospective juror "Can you consider the death penalty as an option in the appropriate case?" and the answer is an emphatic "Yes."

#2 - A prosecutor asks the prospective juror "Can you consider the death penalty as an option in the appropriate case?". The juror frowns and then takes a deep breath. Looks at the defendant, who is looking at him, and then looks down at their hands, before softly answering "Yes."

How do they both read in the record?

Q: Can you consider the death penalty as an option in the appropriate case?
A: Yes.

Until we get a transcript written by Danielle Steele, I don't know that you can properly catch the mood of what is going on through just a transcript.

After watching Lakewood Church this morning, I came away with a couple of conclusions.

#1 - Pastor Joel Osteen may be just about the best public speaker that I've ever watched.
#2 - the show made me feel good and it made me feel optimistic and good about my fellow man.
#3 - these feelings conflicted very much with my usual jaded personality.
#4 - I'd be concerned over whether or not this was the type of outlook I'd want on a DP jury.

Folks, the people of Lakewood are good people. Probably better people than I am. I'd gladly have them on the vast majority of my juries.

I just don't know how I would feel about putting them on a death penalty case. I'm much less ambiguous about whether or not I'd put Rick Casey on.

Sorry dude.

Ouch. Backlash.

It's always nice to wake up on a crisp, cool Sunday morning to a little criticism. I got an e-mail from "Anonymous" stating the following:

"This isn't much of a blog. You delete comments you don't agree with or deem inflammatory. What use is it having a blog on Harris County CJ if you don't discuss this subject. I mean, has there ever been a worst media interview or denial than that given by Trent a few weeks ago? Really now, Trent has a very lame excuse for the use of the word canadian. Very sad, really, and a black eye to all fair Texas prosecutors."

I cleared up a couple of issues in Anonymous' statement during the comments portion of the article he posted to, but I would like to make sure that if you are reading and posting, then I'm going to post your comment. The only case that I've come up with where I wouldn't do it is if it is naming folks that you think are the author of this blog. As I stated in my last post, I don't want anybody getting an open-records request put on them just because they are wrongly associated with being me.

That being said, I'm not responsible for the Internet. I tried to be responsible for it when it was in it's early teens, but it's just too damn rebellious.

Sometimes comments disappear in cyber-space. I've had it happen to me on a blogger.com website when I tried to post to Mark Bennett's website. They just disappeared. That's why it's always good to save your comments before sending. If you are having problems, please let me know.

Now, that being said, my Anonymous poster would like to discuss the Mike Trent response to the Canadian e-mail scandal, so let's discuss it.

For those of us who have dealt with Mike at the courthouse, well, he's can be a bit different. One of the things he certainly isn't, however, is stupid. He wrote a very lengthy explanation to the e-mail on Mark's website under the title of "A Prosecutor's Reply", which (if I did this hyper-link thingy correctly) you can read here. It obviously is more in depth than anything seen on TV, and I think it's worth discussing.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

And it begins . . .

Alright, I've been doing this post for a little over a week now, and I've just been waiting for somebody to go ahead and throw out the first name over who they thought I was.

I also thought of at least five different people who would probably be accused of being the author when I started this blog.

In anticipation of this moment, I had already planned a course of action on it, whether the "Guesser" be right or wrong in who they guessed.

My plan: Delete the comment.

Chicken-shit of me, you ask? Perhaps.

But let me explain my reasoning. I prefer to be Anonymous, most definitely. Or at least as anonymous as I can be around such a gossip-laden place as the CJC. Also, if you got it wrong and threw the wrong name out there, I wouldn't want that person caused any potential problems for the things that I'm writing.

I certainly don't want to earn anybody an open-records request on their computer account.

So you can keep guessing, and I'll keep deleting. I'm never going to confirm or deny any person that is listed as a possible suspect. Sorry if this pisses anybody off, but that's just the way it's got to be.

Like I said in my "Who Am I" post, I'm trying to provoke thought and discussion here. Not play a guessing game on who I am.

So, I'm asking you to keep your speculation off the internet.

As to the "Anonymous" poster who made his or her guess, you based it on my list of nominees for the HHA. I work in the courthouse almost every day of the week. I think I probably know 95% of the prosecutors and about 85% of the defense bar. My personal nominees were based on people I've watched in trial or have been in trial against. Not for any other reason. I think they are all good nominees.

African-American Jurors, Batson, and the D.A.'s Office

On a serious note, a lot of things have been brought up lately regarding whether or not the D.A.'s office is systematically striking African-American jurors from panels. Alvin Nunnery in his Fox 26 interview regarding the "Canadian" e-mail alluded to the idea that there is an attitude within the D.A.'s Office (even going back to when he was a prosecutor) that an African-American juror is somehow "incapable" of serving on a jury as a fair juror.

It is an interesting debate, and I'm not going to enter it. As far as I'm concerned, if you believe that the D.A.'s office is racist, there is nothing that I can say on this blog that will change your mind of that. I'm also pretty sure that I won't be changing anybody's mind on the issues of the death penalty, abortion, or the fact that the Dallas Cowboys aren't really "America's Team".

But I would like to throw this out for your consideration, and I hope there is a frank discussion over it.

Proposition # 1 - In every criminal trial, both the Defendant and the State are entitled to a fair trial. That means that no juror should be seated that already has a bias or prejudice that could affect the State or the Defense's case. If you don't agree with that principle, then this post is probably going to be meaningless to you.

Proposition # 2 - an effective attorney should seek out those biases or prejudices when during jury selection, and make sure that those jurors are struck for cause (and if that fails, exercise a peremptory). If you don't agree with that principle, then you aren't an attorney.

Proposition # 3 - Historically, the Criminal Justice System has been extremely unfair and unkind (to put it mildly) to African-Americans. If you don't agree with that principle, you clearly live in a cave and aren't familiar with American History.

I'm a white male. I can remember multiple occasions as a kid where I was walking in the street where a sidewalk was provided when a police car drove by without stopping. I wasn't stopped. I wasn't searched. Nobody ever stopped my car because it looked like I was "didn't belong" in the neighborhood where I was driving. When I get pulled over for speeding, the officer (or more commonly the DPS trooper) never asks me if he can search my car.

Prosecutors are very much aware of the fact that probably every African-American member of a jury panel has been treated like crap at some point during his or her life by a member of law enforcement, or perhaps even a District Attorney's office.

It is just the Historical Shame of the Criminal Justice System, and it is a shame that cannot be erased.

Does it mean that all cops are racists? Of course not.

Does it mean that all D.A.'s are racists? Of course not.

But a jury trial in a criminal case is most often the deciding of fact around a particular incident and whether or not a Defendant is the factually and legally responsible for it.

It is not a referendum on whether or not racism exists in the criminal justice system.

A potential juror who is going to let their bad experience with law enforcement shape their verdict shouldn't be on a jury, regardless of their race. I think prosecutors are very aware of the fact that in dealing with an African-American potential juror. It isn't a concern over whether or not that juror is "incapable" of serving (as Alvin listed). It's more a matter of whether or not the law enforcement through its own bad actions, has ruined this juror's perception of the System as a whole. Does that make sense?

In other words, if a prosecutor is wary of an African-American potential juror, its going to be because that the prosecutor knows the lengthy history of wrongs committed against African-Americans by law enforcement. That prosecutor doesn't want it to affect his case.

UPDATE: After reading some of the scathing posts and notes relating to the post, I realized that I didn't really clarify what I meant in the last paragraph. I've updated what I badly stated in the original article with an additional paragraph.

I was trying to explain in this article that no prosecutor thinks that an African-American juror is "incapable" of serving, as Alvin accused all prosecutors of being. The unfortunate reality is that some times the experiences suffered by some people is to the degree that they can't be fair. What I was trying to justify in the article was the asking of questions regarding that previous mistreatment, and it should in no way be read as advocating the excluding of anyone from a jury who is qualified and fair.

The Hector Heathcoat Primaries

The nominees for the Hector Heathcoat Award for the Defense Attorney are rolling in, and I'm glad to see a lot of the names on the list. I threw it to an open nomination process, because God knows that I would inadvertently leave someone off the list if I didn't.

Mark Bennett mentioned the Awards ceremony on website. He pointed out that the HCCLA also gives an Award to their criminal defense attorney of the year. And trust me, as the creator of the Hector Heathcoat Awards, I'll be the first to tell you that the HCCLA Award is a helluva lot more meaningful than the HHA. Congratulations to Vivian, by the way!

Consider the Hector Heathcoat Awards the same as the "People's Choice Awards" in comparison to the Academy Awards. They are here for fun, and anybody can vote on them (even the dreaded prosecutors).

Mark also threw down the gauntlet by posting: "But still, AHCL, don't leave the decision up to the fickleness of internet democracy. Have some backbone. Accept nominations and then make the decision yourself."

Now, where's the fun in that? I'll let the fickle public speak, and I will do a little commentary on the side, as a commentary. I'm all about making everybody happy -- even Mark.

Keep the nominees coming in. The deadline is seven o'clock on Sunday night. Or whenever I get around to it.

Mack Arnold Update

I've been hearing updates on Mack from different folks around the courthouse, and none of it sounds very promising. Apparently Mack has suffered a series of strokes, some most recently as Thursday. I've heard he has some partial paralysis and is drifting in and out of being able to talk to people. Attorneys are now being assigned to take over his appointed cases.

Mack inspires a great deal of fondness from both sides of the Bar, and the thought of him not coming around anymore is just damn depressing.

Anybody have any thoughts on organizing some people to help out? I think there are a lot of things we can probably do.

Of course, when Mack gets well and finds out that any of thought he needed some help, he will probably kick all of our asses.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Hector Heathcoat Awards

Okay, you've got to reach back into some serious nostalgia to recognize the name Hector Heathcoat. If you know the name, then you are a true cartoon addicts from the 1960s and 1970s. For those of you who don't recognize the name, Hector was the "unsung hero" of all of American history according to the cartoons. The one that sticks out in mind was him being the guy under George Washington's boat when the original G.W. was crossing the Delaware. Poor Hector was plugging a leak in the boat with his thumb, while under the boat.

But I digress.

The Hector Heathcoat Award is dedicated to the "Unsung Heroes" of the CJC. We are starting out with two categories - the unsung defense attorney and the unsung prosecutor. Sure, Rusty Hardin and Dick DeGuerin and Kelly Siegler all get a lot of attention as being great attorneys, but who are the ones the we know are also great attorneys that don't get near the recognition in the media that they deserve.

Here's the drill. I'm asking each of you to post your top three "unsung" attorneys. We are going to do DEFENSE attorneys this week, so I'm asking you to name your top three "unsung" defense attorneys. Dick and Rusty are disqualified, because they are both, um, "well-sung". I know that there are some great appellate/writ attorneys out there, but what I'm looking for here are the trial attorneys. If y'all want to suggest some other categories down the road, I'm all for it.

Nominate your peers. Nominate your adversaries. Just nominate. Every name that is listed is going to be placed in the poll on Sunday evening, and the voting will then begin. My plan is to let it run for a week (next week, we'll nominate prosecutors).

I know that there are a lot of people who post under "Anonymous", and that's cool. Nominate as much as you want to.

I'm going to throw out my three nominees (in alphabetical order):

Don Becker. Brian Coyne. Pete Justin.

Let the nominations begin . . .

The Unofficial Election Update

For those of you who are new to the blog, if you scroll all the way down, I have my unofficial poll on who should win the D.A. election in November. If you haven't voted yet, please do.

I'm very pleased to see that the two most qualified (in my opinion) candidates are the ones leading the pack. That means that the people who are reading and voting on this blog are people who know what they are talking about, and that's what I was hoping for. I'm very happy about the posts that we are getting on the website, and I hope they keep up. I'm trying to be as diligent as I can about responding to all posts, but if I inadvertently miss one, just let me know.

There was little news today on the election front, other than a fluff piece in the Chronicle about the candidate forum yesterday at the Spaghetti Warehouse. The article didn't have much substance to it, but some of the posts (which I'm morbidly addicted to reading) had some interesting stuff.

The most interesting post had to be by someone under the title of "Helpful", who wrote:

"Captain Perry's personal outreach program with the public is legendary among those who know him. I venture to say that he would bring a whole new definition to the term "public servant" as a result. If you're looking for a candidate willing to try new things, he should be at the top of your list. ;)"

I know what "Helpful" was writing about. Do you?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Classy

The four Republican candidates met today at the Spaghetti Warehouse for a Republican function. It wasn't all that contentious, from what I hear.

Unfortunately for Kelly Siegler, she put her parking money in the wrong slot at the pay lot, and came out to find her car booted. That's never a good day for anybody, and it's also the reason I never park in those damn things.

In a move showing true political savvy and class, Candidate Mark Perry's wife took a picture.

Wow. I don't know how the Siegler campaign can survive that kind of bad P.R.

Nice, Mrs. P. Really nice.

Who Am I?

I received a sudden and unexpected increase in people posting on my blog today. I finally figured it out when I realized that Mark Bennett had made a posting to this blog on his own blog at http://www.bennettandbennett.com/blog/ I appreciate the link up, but I couldn't help but notice that somebody posting as "robert guest" posted the following:

I can't take any anonymous blogger seriously. If this ADA is so proud of his blog, come out and clam it.I wonder if gov't computers are being used to promulgate this PR stunt. Maybe it's the Siegler campaign. Open records anyone?

Wow. Whatever happened to Freedom of Speech?

I have to admit to being taken aback a little bit by this posting, because I didn't realize that anything that I had posted would incite so much anger. I'm all about healing rifts here folks, so let me take a shot at addressing some of "robert guest"'s issues with the blog.

Issue # 1 - he assumes I'm "so proud" of my blog. Folks, this blog is just to generate a little thought and discussion between the people who work in the Harris County Criminal Courthouse. I'm not sure if "pride" really plays into it. Please note that I didn't name the blog "My Kick Ass Blog that Shows I'm Right and that You are Wrong".

Issue # 2 - he assumes I'm an A.D.A. Maybe. Maybe not. I've got reasons for not wanting to say who I am or whether or not I'm with the prosecution or with the defense. Who knows? Maybe I've done both. Clearly, if you've read what I'm writing, I have a level of affection for the D.A.'s Office that maybe does border on pride. But, I don't think that's unusual for a lot of the "Alumni" from the Office. One of the principle reasons that I don't want to reveal who I am is that I'm afraid it will tain the discussion, and taint it severely. I don't want this to be a "Defense Blog" that prosecutors are railing against. I don't want it to be a "Prosecutor Blog" that defense attorneys are railing against.

Issue # 3 - no government computers are being used on this web site. I can only give you my word on that. I guess you could do an open records request if you would like, but I think you'd probably have to get in line at the moment. And you'd be sorely disappointed with the results.

Issue # 4 - if you look at the times I post, and respond to those comments written, they are done well after working hours. When I started this blog, I vowed it wasn't going to interfere with my work, and it won't. I do it all on my home computer. It's kind of a checks and balances system, because God knows that this blogging stuff is addictive.

I doubt that this blog will be quite as cerebral as Mr. Bennett's, but I hope we can do some useful discussing.

And as a final note, I'd like to say that I hope that there is some quelling of animosity on this blog. I will say that I do think that Harris County is what it is because of excellent defense attorneys and excellent prosecutors. The bottom line is that we all make each other better, and I think as a collective group we are all the best criminal attorneys in the nation (and thus, the world). A prosecutor who has gone to trial against people like Dick DeGuerin or Rusty Hardin (and a list of others that is too long to write here) has something to say for himself or herself. I think the same is true for defense attorneys who have tried cases against Kelly Siegler, Ted Wilson, Lyn McClellan or Johnny Holmes (and a host of others on a long list).

I think when we blast the system as it exists, we diminish ourselves and the important work that we all do every day.

Techincal Difficulties Apparently Solved

I think I got it fixed. Everything good and bad should now be posted. I had to take comment moderation off on my settings. I'm a little concerned about doing that because it opens it up for anybody to say anything, but I'm hoping everybody involved can keep some civility to the discussions.

I'm not responsible for the comments that people leave.

I'm Currently Experiencing Technical Difficulties

Okay, so I'm new to this whole blogging thing, and I've clearly screwed something up. I want people to be able to post their comments (good and bad) freely, but I've clearly selected something that doesn't allow that. I'm getting your comments, and I really appreciate them (good and bad).

I'm working on figuring it out. Mr. Bennett, if you've got any technical advice, please let me know.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Irony

A couple of years ago, Pastor Joel Osteen's aunt, Johnnie Daniels was brutally murdered in her home. The Homicide Division of the Harris County Sheriff's Office investigated and ultimately were able to link Edric Carmichael to the crime, and capital murder charges against him are now pending in the 228th District Court of Harris County, Texas.

The Special Crimes prosecutor who worked with the Sheriff's Department in filing charges against Carmichael: Kelly Siegler

The Defense Attorney representing Carmichael: Loretta Muldrow.

For those of you who don't know, Loretta was one of the attorneys on the Guidry case where Kelly made her statement about Lakewood Church.

It would be ironic, if it wasn't such a sad case.

Gone Fishing

QUESTION: So what do you get when you're a member of the media with an open records request for Kelly Siegler's e-mails?

ANSWER: Nothing inappropriate.

FOLLOW-UP QUESTION: What do you get when you try fishing through Rob Freyer's e-mails?

ANSWER: Nothing inappropriate.

I'm waiting for the media to host a breaking news alert to announce this news. Maybe it can be buried next to the story of Rick Casey admitting he got all his facts wrong when he was blasting Sam Siegler for the e-mails he allegedly sent to Rosenthal.

Four prosecutors walk into a judicial race . . .

It kind of sounds like the start of a bad bar joke, but, believe it or not, there are some other interesting things going on at the courthouse besides stories of Chuck Rosenthal scandals.

The Honorable George Godwin has chosen not to run for re-election in the 174th District Court, leaving an open field of contenders to replace him. I've got to admit a personal bias here. I'm a huge fan of Judge Godwin, and whoever does get the bench has got some pretty big shoes to fill. In my opinion, he's one of the last great judges who gave Harris County some of the character that we are famous or infamous for.

On the Democratic side, former-judge Ruben Guerrero is running against perpetual candidate Lloyd Oliver. Lloyd seems to run for something every election, usually targeting the most junior of judges as his opponent. Thus far, he's done about as well as Dick DeGuerin trying a case against Kelly Siegler (sorry, couldn't help one last jab that with analogy). The only thing more appetizing to Lloyd than a rookie incumbent is wide-open field, obviously. Breathe easy, Judge Bridgewater. Breathe easy.

But on the Republican side, four assistant District Attorneys are all competing against each other for the nomination (in alphabetical order so that it doesn't appear that I'm picking favorites):

John Jocher - Chief of the 209th District Court, and an all around nice guy. He's got the temperament to be a very formidable opponent in any election.
Kevin Keating - Appellate prosecutor who is highly respected by his peers for his intelligence and knowledge of the law. He's the guy the trial lawyers call when they have a question about the law.
Bill Moore - Chief of the 232nd District Court, and also a very nice guy. Bill spent a lot of time in the Special Crimes division before returning to the trial division a few years back.
Terrance Windham - Chief of the 314th District Court, which is a Juvenile District Court. Terrance, I believe is the only candidate to have ever run for higher office before. He's a former military man who does a good job of inspiring loyalty in the "troops" he supervises.

All of the prosecutors that I've talked to genuinely like all four of the candidates, and appear a little torn at the moment about who to support for the position. Look for the A.D.A.'s to remain awkwardly quiet about this race until after the primary has settled the issue for them.

Gee, if only the D.A.'s office had something to distract them from this race to help alleviate the awkwardness . . . .

UPDATE: Marky Mark Bennett on his website has made his official endorsement.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Dick versus Kelly -- again

It wouldn't shock me entirely to see Dick DeGuerin contributing a large amount of money to the Kelly Siegler campaign. Why do I say something so patently ridiculous? Because he's running out of time to win "the big one" against her, if she doesn't win the D.A.'s office (and presumably leaves the office after that).

I keep having this vision of Apollo Creed trying to talk Rocky Balboa out of retirement for a rematch.

Dick's latest attempt to defeat his diminutive arch-nemesis met with failure yet again today in the Motion for New Trial for David Temple. Dick really seemed to think he had Kelly this time, when he called her to the stand in a feeble attempt to get her to confess to some sort of prosecutorial misconduct. In his opening arguments, Dick argued that Kelly had the audacity to insinuate facts while asking questions that were inadmissible. And I mean, come on here, we know Dick would never try to do something like that on his own. However, watching Dick act indignant on television was pretty damn funny.

Chron.com is finally giving Kelly some good press, which just goes to show you that when you let the woman get down to the business of doing her job, she's pretty freaking good at it.

For the record, this makes the score: Dick -- Zero. Kelly -- oh, hell, I lost count.

Oops.

Obviously nobody (other than Lloyd Kelley) knew about the e-mail scandal that would fall upon the D.A.'s office on December 27th of last year. As I've mentioned earlier, what was shaping up to be the most interesting race of the season was going to be the one for the 176th District Court. Judge Brian Rains has held that bench for longer than I care to remember, and I think prosecutors and defense attorneys alike had grown extremely weary of Rains' blatantly rude and hostile attitude toward all parties involved. And that's not to mention his extremely questionable policy of being as resistant to granting probations as he possibly could be . . .

Shawna Reagin was the first to declare that she would run against the unpopular Judge, and she announced as a Democrat. Her candidacy was extremely well received by her peers in the defense bar, who all rushed to sign the petition for her candidacy.

Fast forward to January 2, 2008, when Jim Leitner signs up as a Republican candidate for District Attorney. Again, this was also well-received by lots of people, especially the Defense Bar.

But here comes the "uh oh".

When the people signed Reagin's petition for her candidacy, they became barred from voting in the Republican Primary.

They can root for Jim Leitner in spirit, but they can't vote for him unless he makes it into the general election in November.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Racism in the D.A.'s Office?

I opened today's Houston Chronicle this morning and nearly died of shock. For the first time since December 27th, something that the D.A.'s Office had dropped the ball on wasn't the front page news.
But after the week that the Office has had, I guess they (at a minimum) deserved Sunday off. It seems like the media has finally given up on anything happening with Chuck Rosenthal. I guess he is firmly planted in his office and he ain't coming out. The new focus of the media seems to be part of a one-two punch: Kelly Siegler's "nuts and screwballs" comment about Lakewood Church, and the "Canadians" e-mail sent by Assistant D.A. Mike Trent. The poor ADAs seem almost punch-drunk after the bad publicity that they've had all week.
I don't really know that there is more that can be said about either of these two stories, because they both pretty much speak for themselves.
What I do find interesting is that the source of both stories seem to track back to defense attorney, Alvin Nunnery. He appeared on the Fox 26 news story about the Canadians e-mail and said the Office needed to be cleaned from "the inside and out" and that such a cleaning could not be done by someone from within the Office (a slam at Siegler's candidacy). What many don't realize, however, is that Nunnery was directly involved in the case that spawned the "nuts and screwballs" comment from Siegler, as well.

Is there a personal vendetta that Nunnery has for Siegler?

Well, maybe.

It seems that at some point during the Guidry trial, Alvin got cross-ways with Siegler and her co-counsel, Luci Davidson. This altercation led to him recusing himself from involvement in the trial, and apparently some degree of anger and/or embarrassment for him. I'm guessing that revenge is a dish best served, but damn, it sure is effective. Nunnery may single-handedly sink the whole D.A.'s office. I wonder if he realized how many people's lives would be affected by these news releases.
Is there racism running rampant in the D.A.'s office? Not that I've seen, but then again, I'm not African-American, either. I can't imagine in this day and age that any government institution would be blatantly and outwardly racist and expect to get away with it. Say what you want to about the ADAs, but they aren't dumb. Well, the vast majority of them aren't.

More on this later.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Candidate Leitner and the ADAs

The candidacy of Jim Leitner was an interesting story in the days leading up to the filing deadline.

Remember back two weeks ago and we were all young and naive, thinking Rosenthal was only guilty of sending romantic e-mails to his secretary? Boy, how things change. After the Republicans had officially asked Chuck to resign, and he had officially told them to kiss his butt, there was apparently quite a bit of wide-spread panic with the D.A.'s Office. Assistant District Attorneys seemed to quickly grasp what their boss did not, and that was that Chuck Rosenthal wasn't going to be the elected D.A. come January 1, 2009.

What the ADA's also realized was that nobody from their Office would dare to announce a candidacy as long as Chuck was steadfastly refusing to withdraw his name from the ballot. Their position was unenviable, because none of them were too comfortable with the idea of working for Clarence Bradford. And the person whose name came to all of their minds was Jim Leitner's. Any prosecutor who had been around the Office for over five years knew Jim and respected him. Now, they were looking for Jim to save them and their office.

I don't know how many ADAs called or contacted Jim in some way, but somehow he ended up heeding the call, and put his name into contention. Defense attorneys and prosecutors alike cheered!

Five minutes later, Rosenthal withdrew from the race, thus opening the door for Kelly Siegler to run. Now, the ADAs were internally conflicted. They knew that Jim had stood up for them in a time of need (when nobody else could), but Kelly Siegler is demi-God to the prosecutors. The prosecutors are always going to back somebody from inside the Office when given the choice, but Jim Leitner has earned a special place in their heart. Most of the prosecutors that I've talked to support Kelly wholeheartedly, but will also tell you that they would gladly work under a Leitner Administration as well.

The fly in the ointment came two days later when political opportunist and the Republican "It" Girl, Pat Lykos decided that she needed to run for something. Folks, make no mistake about it, Jared Woodfil and the local leadership of the Republican Party want Pat Lykos to win. To them, Jim is a "no name", and Kelly is too tainted by her boss' administration to be a real contender. I think prosecutors and defense attorneys alike all dread the term "District Attorney Pat Lykos".

So, what's my point? Jim and Kelly are both good candidates, and we all know that. Kelly has an edge with name recognition through her high profile trials lately. I would humbly suggest that we all, individually, pick one of them or the other and support them wholeheartedly. In other words, whether you support Jim or Kelly, get the word out that whoever ends up the candidate, it shouldn't be Lykos.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The latest news from the D.A. Race

There was relatively little news or developments in the DA office e-mail scandal today.

Kelly Siegler apologized to Lakewood Church for her comments during a trial. That was kind of a "no brainer".

Alvin Nunnery is apparently fading a lot of heat from the ADA's for his comment on Fox 26 News last night about the office needing to be cleaned "from the inside out". I understand being outraged at about the e-mails, but is it really fair to all the ADAs who had nothing to do with them? Seems kind of like an overbroad statement to me, Alvin.

Mack Arnold

For those of you who may not know, Mack Arnold has been in the hospital after suffering a series of strokes. Those of you who know Mack know that he is one of the most stubborn and crumudgeony wonderful people that has ever graced the halls of Criminal Justice Center. It's my understanding that his daughter is coming in from out of the country to help him out.

One of the things that I love the most about our small little community of attorneys at the CJC is that we are all kind of a make-shift family.

I know that Mack would never ask for (or probably accept) any type of assistance, but I hope that won't keep those of us who know and love him from offering (and maybe insisting upon him taking) our help.

At the very least, keep him in your prayers. Get well soon, Mack!