Friday, February 29, 2008

Gil Fried

Gil Fried, the attorney at the center of the Pat Lykos yarmulke exclusion debate graciously took time out of his schedule to post a comment in one of my articles regarding the event. I thought it was important enough for its own post. Here's what he wrote:

This is Gil Fried writing from Connecticut. I am a professor in New Haven, CT and still work as an expert witness. I have been contacted by the media several times in the past couple weeks about Pat Lycos. I do not know what she said or what she did not say about the incident I had with her in court (over two days of testifying).
However, I can testify under oath that she forced me to remove my Yalmukah before testifying in her court (either testify without it or be held in contempt and would not be able to testify). In my opinion she was very mean about it and tried to imply that I was wearing it for show (she sited a case from New England involving a former priest who became a lawyer and wanted to practice in court wearing his collar)even when I indicated that I wear my head covering every day.
I felt she was trying to exercise her authority over the court and that she felt she could do whatever she wanted. When I told her that she had not heard the end of the issue (becuase I was going to file a complaint or contact the media) I think she said something like "bring it on," which was very unprofessional.I have not thought about her for years.
However, I feel the truth has to come out. If she stated that she denied someone the right to testify with that person wearing their religious clothing then she is telling the truth and I would be glad (I never heard an appology from her). If she is saying that it never happened then I have numerous witnesses and a file of material available for anyone interesting in seeing what happened.It should be noted that instead of suing her in federal court I worked with some friends at the ADL to pass a law in Texas that made what she did against the law. Now a party has to raise the issue of potential conflict (not a judge), they have to show there will be injustice if the person wears the religious item, and that the request to have someone take off the religious item has to be undertaken in the least restrictive manner as possible.
Gil Fried

Thank you, very much, Mr. Fried for writing in on this incredibly important issue, and thank you for your work in changing the law.

So, Mr. Bernstein from the Chronicle, are you interested in the story now?

Roving Reporter Reports from Reasonable Doubt

Many thanks to my Equally-Anonymous Roving Reporter who watched last night's Reasonable Doubt so she could report on what she saw Lykos talk about.

Here are the highlights:

1. Lykos danced around the issue of how she would handle the "crack pipe" question. She gave no solid answers, other than that she would still prosecute them.

2. In a merger of embracing her abrasiveness, and defending the astronomical amount of people she put on probation in her court, she justified it by saying that defendants would "rather go straight than deal with me".
(NOTE: By analogy, many prosecutors would rather "go defense" than work for her.)

3. She described how she would create a Victim Witness Division, and when told the Division already existed, she insisted hers would be different. She then went on to describe several things that are already in place as being the changes she would make.

4. She passed the buck to the defense bar as the ones who truly failed to do anything when she saw prosecutors making race based strikes. According to her, she offered to grant a Batson challenge, but the defense attorneys wouldn't accept them. (NOTE: This makes it official. Both the prosecution and the defense are racists. Thank God Pat Lykos is there!)

5. When questioned over this "being a litigator" business, she stated she had "lots of trials". By this standard, I'm a pilot, because I've had "lots of flights". This issue really pisses me off, by the way. YOU AREN'T A LITIGATOR, PAT!!!!!!!!! TRIAL ATTORNEYS ARE LITIGATORS!!!! YOU ARE A MID-LEVEL BUREAUCRAT WHO IS DYING TO BE ELECTED TO SOMETHING!!!

6. When asked about her policy on seeking the death penalty, Lykos stated she would just "reduce the number of capital murders committed" (NOTE: That's a real quote). Her plans for doing so? She plans to requisition a spandex suit, a Batmobile, and a Bat Light from Commissioner Gordon, so that she can directly battle crime on the city streets.

7. She blamed her poor performance on Judicial Bar Poll Ratings at a time when Judges McSpadden and Poe were receiving excellent reviews on the fact that she was a woman.
Let me tell you something, I know Judge Poe and Judge McSpadden, and you, Pat Lykos, are no Judge McSpadden or Judge Poe.
They were both real trial lawyers before becoming Judges, and they were qualified for their jobs.

And as a final thought, throughout it all, she refused to answer questions about the Yarmulke Issue, despite the fact that numerous calls came in about it.

I can't believe that Pat Lykos is even a consideration for voters. And no, it's not because she's a woman. It's because she doesn't have the experience, leadership skills, or intelligence to run the Office. She just wants to be elected to something.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

I missed it

Being a Direct TV subscriber, I wasn't able to catch Reasonable Doubt tonight, but I heard that Lykos didn't enjoy herself.

I heard she dodged the yarmulke question at every turn, and suggested creating "new" divisions within the D.A.'s Office - the only problem being that all the "new" Divisions she suggested creating have been in existence since the Holmes administration.

In related news, Lykos said she had recently established a new round device that would help vehicles move quicker, and she planned on calling it a "wheel".
(NOTE: The above line is satire)

In regards to the yarmulke question, my understanding is that she ultimately stated that she had never excluded a witness from testifying.

I wonder if California attorney Gil Fried would agree with that characterization.

But, I must confess that I missed the show, but for those of you who were able to watch it, please feel free to let me know your thoughts in the commentary.

Carol Vance's Endorsement

Former Harris County District Attorney Carol Vance (1966-1979) has endorsed Kelly Siegler.

“For 21 years, as an assistant district attorney, Kelly Siegler has successfully prosecuted some of Harris County’s toughest cases,” Vance said in a written statement. “During this time, she has held important administrative positions, including serving as the Chief of the Special Crimes Bureau, which handles difficult and complex matters.”

He also added: “Kelly has the integrity, the ability and the experience that is essential to run the office of District Attorney of Harris County.”

Kelly Siegler's Proposals

In Alan Bernstein's article today, he reports that Kelly Siegler identified a plan listing the first five things she would change within the D.A.'s Office if elected. (NOTE: That's two fair articles he's written on the race in two days. If he goes for a third, I'm nominating him for a Pulitzer).

Kelly proposes an Innocence Panel made up of prosecutors, defense attorneys, investigators, community leaders, and former judges to review claims of actual innocence. In addition to this step, she also proposed monthly public meetings, an increased emphasis into major fraud, a re-evaluation of the Office's hiring committee policies, and the creation of a specialized division of prosecutors to exclusively work on intoxication manslaughter cases.

In the meantime, Pat Lykos and Jim Leitner are calling for a Regional Crime Lab.

What's the difference between Kelly's ideas and the idea for a Regional Crime Lab?

Feasibility.

The proposals that Kelly makes are real things within the elected District Attorney's power to do They also address real needs within the District Attorney's Office that need to be fixed immediately.

The idea of a Regional Crime Lab is a great idea, but it isn't something within the unilateral power of the District Attorney to create. Certainly, an elected D.A. can lend their support to the creation of a lab, and lobby for it in the Legislatutre.

But ultimately, the D.A. has about as much power to create a crime lab as he or she would have to authorize the invasion of Cuba (NOTE: I'm not advocating the invasion of Cuba).

Lykos can keep on talking about the creation of a Regional Crime Lab, but she's really just playing to the voters, and not making a promise she can keep.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Pat Lykos on Reasonable Doubt

Pat Lykos is going to be on HCCLA's Reasonable Doubt on Thursday night, February 28th at 8 p.m. And I'm not sure if it is on Channel 17 or 19 (Mark, can you help me out on this?)

Its a call-in show (although the number changes from show to show for some reason, so I don't have the number available at the moment), so feel free to call in and ask her the tough questions. For example:

1. During Eldridge v. State, 731 sw2d 618, you revoked a Defendant's probation without a hearing and without his attorney being present. Could you explain how this is somehow not a massive civil rights violation?
2. Would you care to explain why you didn't let a witness wear a yarmulke in your court?
3. Did you ever apologize for it?
4. What's your criteria for deciding which of the Assistant District Attorneys you are going to fire?
5. Why were your Bar Poll Ratings always so low? (NOTE: When she says because she "didn't play favorites, proceed to Question # 6)
6. Then why were Judge Poe's ratings always so high?
7. Why is a 60 year old woman still getting written up on her evaluation because she can't get along with others (much like a grade schooler)?
8. If you observed the ADAs striking so many jurors based on race when you were on the bench, why is there no record anywhere of you ever calling them out on it?
9. Why do you refer to yourself as a "litigator" when you've never tried a case?
10. Have you ever gone by the street name of "Snookems"?

By the way, good luck getting a call in on the show. Lykos typically arranges for her friends to call in and throw her softball questions that she can answer in a politically stunning manner.

Alan Bernstein's Article Today

Today, for our four week anniversary, Alan Bernstein wrote me a fair article on the candidates and their personnel files. Alan, I just feel terrible, because I didn't get you anything. Please forgive me. The article is on the front page of the Chronicle, but I had a little bit of a harder time finding it on the website, so above is the link.

Here's the summary, it's a look into the personnel files of Jim Leitner, Pat Lykos, Doug Perry and Kelly Siegler (in that order).

Jim's file is the shortest, but probably the most glowing. It describes him as "an excellent trial lawyer who works long, productive hours", and it was written in the 1970s. I think its probably fair to describe Jim in the same way today.

Next is Lykos, who Bernstein notes received "subpar ratings" in her judicial bar poll ratings.

Um, yeah, that's one way of describing them. She attempts to justify that because she "didn't let the lawyers run the courtroom". Yeah, no judge does. It should be noted that at the same time period where Lykos was getting low bar poll ratings for refusing to "let the lawyers run the courtroom", Judge Ted Poe was on the bench. Judge Poe never let any lawyer run his courtroom, and he always got excellent judicial bar poll ratings.

Bernstein then lists some snippets from Lykos' evaluation in 2005 from her supervisor:

"A wise choice of language will go a long way toward winning staff and directors to her projects".

A below standard rating on her ability relating to team members and other county staff.

(NOTE: the supervisor hopefully notes that Lykos was "improving her manner of showing professional courtesy, teamwork and respect of support staff and peers").

Are you kidding me? This evaluation was written in 2005, and Lykos still hasn't learned how to play nice with others?!?! A 60-something-year-old woman who is still having to be told the childhood rule of "being nice to others"?!?!?

That's pathetic.

Anyway, on to Doug Perry, who was described as a "bumbler" when he first joined the force in 1981, and ultimately resigned and had to re-apply with the force.

I don't really know what else to add to that.

And then you have Kelly's.

Excellent evaluations. Letters from victims, law enforcement officers, and jurors commending her. There's an evaluation from former judge Joan Huffman (who was at the time Kelly's supervisor) commending Kelly for researching a Defendant's story and ultimately establishing his innocence.

She gets a few dings for making quick "value judgments" on people and speaking about it in "strong terms".

And in 1989, her supervisor, then-Division Chief Chuck Rosenthal listed Kelly could "use some improvements" when it came to her "legal knowledge".

Wow. Talk about irony, Chuck.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Crack Pipe Residue Question

One of the biggest issues facing the District Attorney's Office and criminal justice in Harris County is finding the appropriate way to deal with a Defendant charged with possessing a crack pipe that field-tests positive for cocaine residue.

Under the Penal Code, possession of any amount of cocaine (even if it is just residue) is a felony. For those amounts less than a gram, they are State Jail Felonies, punishable by 6 months to two years in a State Jail Facility (NOTE: Most defendants hate State Jail more than TDC, because the time must be served day-for-day, with no early release). If a person charged with a crack pipe case has prior felony convictions, that punishment range can be enhanced to a maximum of up to 10 years or even 20 years (depending on the types of priors).

Twenty years for a crack pipe? Does that sound excessive? Well, yeah.

And do you think there are lots and lots of these cases pending in every court? Absolutely. They are most definitely "docket cloggers".

So, what's the right thing to do with these cases?

A few years ago, the legislature changed the guidelines that a first offender was a mandatory probation. Not a bad idea, but it created a lot of issues that probably weren't anticipated in advance. Face facts, some defendants aren't good candidates for probation, and quite frankly, they don't want to be on probation. More often than not, these Defendants get probation and violate it within a few months with a new crack pipe case.

However, the mandatory probation, at least provides the opportunity (and I do stress "opportunity") for a Defendant to get some help with a substance abuse problem.

Another possible punishment is to plead the cases out to a $500 fine on a Class C-Possession of Drug Paraphernalia. That would be a quick and easy way to dispose of the case. The downside, however, is that a Defendant doesn't get any opportunities to get help. They just get recycled immediately back onto the street.

The question arises of what is the right thing to do?

Ideally, resources should be spent on rehabiliating drug users and making them productive members of society. However, this isn't a popular choice amongst those charged. The prevailing attitude in most holdovers that I've observed is "whatever gets me the hell out of jail fastest is what sounds best to me."

Add to the mix the fact that in many lower-income neighborhoods, crack addicts are an epidemic that have ruined places to live. I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that I've seen incidents where crack addicts have literally moved in to homes of elderly people (with the elderly people helpless to resist) just to turn the place into their personal dens for crack smoking.

So, what do you do?

A person spending twenty years in prison over a crack pipe is excessive, to say the least.

But people in every neighborhood have a right to be safe.

A person's life shouldn't be ruined over a simple crack pipe.

But there's no denying the carnage that crack use has caused in many neighborhoods.

What's the right answer?

Is there one?

Regarding Complaints . . .

Chuck Rosenthal testified today in the Ibarra case, as reported by the Houston Chronicle.

Chuck was confronted with the fact that the Ibarra brothers had lodged a complaint with him at the D.A.'s Office, and he (properly) forwarded the complaint to Joe Owmby, who is a Division Chief within the Civil Rights Bureau. According to testimony, Owmby investigated the complaint and determined it to not need further investigation.

This fact, I'm certain, has the conspiracy theorists (who seem to have found a home base gathering place on the Chronicle message boards) crying "foul".

Although Chuck has come under fire for many, many things in the past couple of months, one of the things he should be given credit for is that he did take the e-mail complaints that he received seriously. He also forwarded them to the appropriate members of his staff, regardless of his personal opinion of whether or not the complaints had merit.

Before you say to yourself "well, that's what he's supposed to do", take a minute to look at some of the things being written over on the Chronicle message boards. There are folks over there who seem to be writing 24/7 about some of the most bizarre ideas and conspiracy theories. One poster advocated that Kelly Siegler should be sexually assaulted. Another person advocated that all Assistant District Attorneys should spend three days in jail as part of their job training (Do you think this might affect the Office's job recruiting, by any chance?).

Now, imagine your e-mail address being flooded with e-mails like that. Yes, I know that we have all got plenty of comments to make about Chuck's e-mail inbox (if you have a joke about it that hasn't already been ridiculously overplayed, let me know). Chuck received e-mails from citizens who were concerned about the fact that their neighbors were aliens (from outer-space, not South America). Complaints that the government was reading their minds. People who were certain that people were plotting to kill them.

He did his best to respond to them, and often times that meant forwarding the e-mails down the chain of command.

But some problems just can't be solved. And problems that aren't solved, whether real or imaginary, lead to anger.

I'm not posting my thoughts on the worthiness of the Ibarra brothers' lawsuit, because, quite frankly, I don't know enough about it.

But from what I read in the Chronicle's article, Chuck did his part on the follow up.

This Time Next Week . . .

We are down to the wire in the election, and this time next week, all of the candidates will be gathered around a TV set watching the results come in at a painfully slow pace.

My only question is that with the massive amounts of early voting, will there be anybody left to actually cast a ballot on March 4th?

Monday, February 25, 2008

The "Anointed One"

Listening to Pat Lykos on Michael Berry's show tonight, she blamed her loss in the 2000 D.A.'s race on Johnny Holmes "anointing" Chuck Rosenthal to be his successor.

It wasn't the first time, I've heard it said that Mr. Holmes "anointed" Chuck. The Chronicle has referred to it by those terms, too.

I was around in 2000, and I kind of remember things differently than Lykos and the Chronicle.

I remember that Chuck announced his candidacy the day the Mr. Holmes announced he wouldn't run again. I also remember that soon after that, Mr. Holmes said something to the effect that he wasn't going to endorse anyone unless an unqualified candidate (I believe his term was "nincompoop") was running. As a matter of fact, I remember Mike Stafford even quipping about it during a debate.

Stafford (at one of the debates) laughed that Holmes ended up endorsing Chuck soon after he (Stafford) had entered the race, and he jokingly stated that he hoped he wasn't the "nincompoop" Holmes had in mind when he made the original statement.

Mr. Holmes didn't "anoint" Chuck for anything.

In fact, he didn't want to endorse anyone. He even told Jim Leitner that he wouldn't.

What changed Mr. Holmes' mind in 2000?

I don't know, but it came after Pat Lykos entered the race . . .

The Candidates on Michael Berry

All four Republican candidates for the D.A.'s Office were on Michael Berry's show tonight on 740 KTRH.

I think I'm starting to become exhausted with this campaign, because I swear I'm starting to hear the same thing over and over again from everybody. There were no real surprises.

Kelly had the benefit/curse of going first, so she got the first word in, but every candidate after her had the benefit of questioning what she said. All in all, it didn't go too badly for her.

Jim was next, and did a fine job. I was a little bit surprised listening to him, because he was very aggressive in alleging that the Office was racist.

Lykos started out by criticizing Michael Berry because he had previously had Kelly on the show, and not her. I was really going to try to be a little nicer to Pat this evening, but damn, she gives me so much material, that it's hard to walk away from. I mean, seriously, the first words out of your mouth and you're blasting your host?!

Lykos also said something that really ticked me off. She claimed that prosecutors wilfully sponsored "false witnesses". That's a load of horse-pucky. Every lawyer who litigates (which, by the way, Lykos is now referring to herself as a litigator. What did she litigate?) knows that we call expert witnesses because they have to explain to the jury things we don't easily understand. I've done DNA cases, but I'll be damned if I understood the work that the witnesses did behind them. Although I could understand the DNA report, I couldn't have looked at a DNA Analysis and questioned the science behind it. For God's sake, that's why we CALL expert witnesses.

As usual, her argument was disingenuous.

And finally, poor old Doug Perry came on. The first question Berry asked him was "what separates you from the rest of the candidates?"

I half-expected his answer to be: "On average, about forty IQ points."

I know, that's mean, but from what I've been hearing lately, Mr. Perry hasn't exactly been the nicest guy on the campaign trail when the cameras aren't rolling.

Sorry Lloyd

Lloyd Kelley's lawsuit to remove Chuck Rosenthal and Sheriff Tommy Thomas got tossed out of court today.

Lloyd must have been really disappointed, too, since he made time to go to the hearing before going to attend HIS CLIENTS' case on the civil rights law suit.

Now, call me crazy, but if I was the Ibarra brothers, at some point I would be asking Lloyd what's more important to him, their case, or grand standing on behalf of his friend, Clarence Bradford.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Snookems

About two days ago, I got a post from an Anonymous poster who was very much pro-Lykos on my HCCLA Makes a Stand article. The writer signed their name off as "Snookems". Since I get so many Anonymous posters on this, I went ahead and began referring to her as Snookems, and I didn't really think much of it. I posted everything that Snookems was writing me.

Last night, I wrote another post entitled The Robert Eckels Question, and my buddy Snookems posts again insinuating that all the ADA's jobs are in jeopardy by stating "Employees at will". In other words, Lykos could fire whoever the hell she wanted to if she became DA, because Texas is an "at will" State, when it comes to employment.

I will freely admit to baiting Snookems, when I replied, asking her if she was speaking for the Lykos campaign and admitting that Lykos would, in fact, fire very experienced and talented ADAs for being political enemies. The response I got in response to my "baiting" was as follows:

Snookems doesn't speak on behalf of the Lykos campaign. Snookems has only met Lykos once, many years ago. Snookems did vote for Lykos over Chucky 8 years ago.Snookems was a big Kelly fan, until Snookems, who is fond of the pastor at Lakeside, read the Lakeside I and II transcripts, which really can't be explained away in terms of strategy. Snookems thought all prosecutors were officers of the court, and that when something was said in response to a batson hearing, those statements were under oath.Snookems got disappointed at this.Snookems is disappointed that Kelly cannot acknowledge the racism in the office. Who uses "code words" for things like a defense holdout on a jury? No one does.Snookems has concerns about arrogance and business as usual at the office. Snookems thinks a strong leader without the good old boy and girl ties is needed to straighten things up in that office.Sometimes, the best leader of a law enforcement organization is not liked, but is feared.
Snookems has been doing this a whole lot longer than you.

Now, here's where things get interesting.

See, I know Pat Lykos from many years ago. I doubt she remembers me.

But I remember her.

More importantly, I remember the way she talks.

When I read the response written by "Snookems", the first thing that went through my mind was: "Holy cow, Snookems is Pat Lykos."

Fully realizing that I can tend to be a bit of a conspiracy addict, I didn't post anything accusing dear Snookems. I just pondered it. I spoke to a couple of people, and they agreed it sounded exactly like Lykos.

Before I could write anything, however, RonInHouston posted his comments stating that he thought that it was Lykos. For the record, I have no idea about who Ron is, and we have never met in person. Just in the blawgosphere, as Bennett calls it.

Is it Lykos writing as "Snookems"? I can't answer that definitively, but my gut instinct is telling me that it is. That's based on my prior dealings with her and, quite frankly, just the way she speaks.

So, assuming that Snookems is Lykos, I have a few things to say regarding her post:

#1 - It's Lakewood Church, not Lakeside. Kelly made a statement about them that she has subsequently apologized for. When is your apology coming for not allowing that poor attorney to wear his yarmulke in court? Or are apologies beneath you?

#2 - Congratulations on reading up on Machiavelli with your "better to be feared than loved" statement. That may have played well to the folks in Renaissance Italy, but in today's atmosphere, it seems rather, um, Stalin-esque.

#3 - talking about yourself in the 3rd person is kind of pathetic.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Speaking of the Lykos Campaign

I'm hearing more and more reports that the Lykos Camp is becoming more disorganized and desparate as we grow closer to March 4th.

I first noticed her signs of irritability at the Harris County Republicans meeting the Monday before last. She was clearly not amused when Kelly Siegler got a rousing ovation when introduced at the meeting.

At the debate on Tuesday, she seemed frustrated and angry every time other candidates spoke (although she managed to smile if the questions were posed to her).

After the meeting, she had a disasterous meeting with the organization of Parents of Murdered Children, where angry members confronted her about her plans to fire numerous experienced and veteran prosecutors. It resulted in her chewing out a member of the District Attorney's staff for "spreading that rumor" (which I find amusing, since she's been telling people on the campaign trail about all the firings she would do).

A group of Kelly Siegler signs in Baytown were recently taken down and replaced by Lykos signs by her supporters (which I've always considered to be one of the more silly and stupid of dirty campaign stunts).

At a recent political event, she refused to speak until after the representative of the Siegler campaign had gone first (even though that wasn't the agreed upon order). Apparently, she didn't want anyone to follow up after her speech and point out (yet again) that what she said lacked all substance.

And I hear that her money is running a little low.

Oh well, at least her appearance on HCCLA's Reasonable Doubt next week won't cost her anything. I wonder if she will have her supporters call in with pre-written questions like she did when she unsuccessfully ran for Texas Attorney General in 1994?

And yes, my Angry Posting Friend, I know you are going to blast me about how biased I am. However, I'm not making these stories up. If anyone would like to chime in with their favorite Lykos stories, the "Comments" area is wide open.

Hopefully, somebody out there will get the message about her.

The Robert Eckels Question

One of the questions I asked in a post below was whether or not the $25,000 donation from the "Robert Eckels Committee" meant that Eckels led a committee to raise money for Lykos or does it mean that people who donated their money to Eckels had it turned over to Pat Lykos (with or without their consent).

Nobody answered the question on the blog, so I reluctantly did a little investigating (loosely read: I asked somebody smarter than me).

Here's the deal, the money given to Pat Lykos from Eckels was money collected for his campaign.

And that's perfectly legal. Apparently, a campaign can use its funds however it wants to - even for um, ahem, uh, legal fees.

So, if you were using the list of candidates "donations" as a gauge for their popularity with the voting masses, you may want to recalculate when it comes to Lykos. If you take out the $25,000 donation from him, Kelly Siegler is the leading Republican donation earner.

In other words, Lykos didn't garner $25 grand from a lot of people who liked her. She garned it from one man -- Robert Eckels, who apparently liked her enough to give her money that people had given him.

I wonder how that makes the people who gave the money to him feel.

Across Party Lines

I'm no political scientist, and I'm certainly not real big on researching statistics like GritsforBreakfast does on his website. That being said, I couldn't help but take notice of what Jim Leitner said at the debate on Tuesday, and what RonInHouston posted on an earlier post.

The Democratic early voters are out-voting the Republican early voters at a staggering pace.

There are several explanations as to why, and your guess is as good as mine as to which one (if not all of them) is a factor.

Here are some considerations:

1. The Democratic Presidential primary is hotly contested by two extremely dynamic candidates who have "rock star status". Amazingly, Texas has become a make-or-break state, which unusual for this late in the game on all the primaries. On the other hand, the Republican Presidential primary is all-but-decided, and John McCain isn't in any real danger of losing the State to Mike Huckabee. The bottom line is that Democrat voters are much more likely to feel both a sense of urgency and importance in their Presidential voting.

2. This week, the early voting has ended at 4:30 p.m. every day, and tomorrow is the first weekend day that it will be available. Perhaps more Republicans are waiting for off-work hours to vote? (NOTE: I predict that this weekend, the Republican voters are going to pick up A LOT of steam and get out there and vote. If they don't do it this weekend, the Republican candidates need to start REALLY sweating).

3. The Conspiracy Theory: I'm not advocating this one, but there is a possibility that some of the die hard Republicans are crossing party lines to vote in the Democrats' party in order to advocate for the weaker Democratic Candidate who will ultimately face McCain in November.

Either way, I don't think that our Republican Judges in the CJC should start packing up their offices just yet. We are only four days into early voting, and the peak times for it haven't gotten here quite yet.

It doesn't necesarrily mean a sweep in November.

Besides, if the Republicans can manage to get a good candidate on the ballot for District Attorney, Clarence Bradford will become the poster child for arguing that straight-ticket voting would be a really bad idea.

There are also a lot of Democratic candidates who are wildly unqualified for the judicial benches that they are seeking (loosely read "Lloyd Oliver"). Hopefully the faithful Dems will seriously consider what they are voting for if they vote straight-ticket in November.

Commentating

I still haven't figured out what the issue is with my comments coming through. I'm supposed to get e-mail notifications every time I get a new comment on a page. I can approve the comment over the e-mail. In addition to that, I can also approve the comments if I log onto the "Comment Moderation" Page of the website.

For some reason, there are e-mails showing up in the Comment Moderation page that I'm not getting e-mail notifications for.

What does this mean to you? Probably nothing.

Just consider it my long-winded explanation of why some of the comments you are posting are taking a long time to show up on the website.

Sorry about that.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Deputy Harry Thielepape

Harris County Constable Precinct 6 Deputy Harry Thielepape died yesterday from injuries he sustained during a gunbattle with a suspect several weeks ago.

I had met Deputy Thielepape at D.A. intake on several occasions, although I can't say that I knew him well. In my opinion, he was a dedicated and very active police officer who was doing every thing he could to help his community.

My heart goes out to his family, friends, and his fellow Deputy Constables at Precinct Six.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

HCCLA Makes a Stand

The Chronicle is reporting that the Harris County Criminal Lawyer's Association has sent a letter to Governor Perry requesting that a Special Prosecutor be assigned to investigate Chuck Rosenthal; and that he go ahead and appoint Chuck's replacement.

Although I like the principled ideals behind the request, I'm not too optimistic about Perry paying any attention to it. Especially not in regards to a quick appointment for the replacement.

My prediction is that Perry will ultimately appoint the winner of the Republican Primary after it is decided, so that person can run against Clarence Bradford, as an incumbant. There's no political incentive for him to do otherwise, actually. It doesn't benefit him. It doesn't benefit the Republican Party.

And Bert has been the "acting D.A." for three days now, and he has still yet to accidentally burn down the building. He's a steady hand who can hold things together until the governor gets around to making an appointment.

Another reason I'm not optimistic about the Governor moving too quickly on an appointment is my memory of how long the 228th, the 183rd, and the 178th sat open without him appointing anyone.

As to the issue of the Special Prosecutor to look into Rosenthal's actions, that's a little different. I'm not certain that the governor was the right person to send that particular request to.

It seems to me (if memory serves me), that the District Court judges have always been the one who appointed a special prosecutor if an Assistant District Attorney was accused of criminal wrongdoing. Why would that be different if it was the elected?

I'm just curious.

Lykos and Law Enforcement

Alan Bernstein reminded me in his article covering the debate this morning about how Lykos shunned the endorsement of Law Enforcement so she could say that justice plays no favorites (or some similar sounding political blah-blah slogan).

And yet, she then turns around and continuously refers to the District Attorney's position as the "Top Law Enforcement Position in the County". If you didn't watch the debate, trust me, she made that reference repeatedly.

Is there a gap in logic here? She doesn't want the backing of law enforcement because she doesn't want to have the appearance of favoring law enforcement, yet she refers to the position she seeks as the Top Law Enforcement Position. Well, if that's the case, wouldn't she want the endorsement of the police agencies that she will, uh, be "on top of"? (NOTE: Yes, I know the use of the phrase "on top of" will open the door to comments about Kelly Siegler's demonstration during the Susan Wright trial. Go ahead.)

Pat Lykos worked for HPD and thus in law enforcement.

Their lack of endorsements for her might just illustrate that cops liked her in law enforcement about as well as attorneys liked her around the courthouse.

And as to her "not wanting their endorsement"?

Ever heard the fable about the sour grapes?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Overall Impressions from the Debate

Overall, I think the debate went well, and I think it really separated the pretenders from the contenders. The format of it was good and well-organized. The substantive answers won out over the political B.S.

I thought (as mentioned below) that Perry was out of his league.

I thought that Pat Lykos seemed like she was barely keeping a lid on her anger, which she was feeling for some reason. Her cheap shots at Kelly were petty and stupid. Not to mention that they've been overplayed at this point. And I think Kelly checkmated Lykos when she said that she (Kelly) acknowledged and apologized for her mistakes. (That reminds me, Bernstein, it's our three week anniversary!) To her credit, Lykos only said the meaningless phrase "rule of law" twice.

She was still all fluff, and no substance, and she radiated the genuine warmth of a rattlesnake sunning itself on a rock.

I know I'm a Kelly fan, but I have to admit that I thought Jim Leitner really shined tonight. He had good substantive answers, and I thought his candor in admitting the "no peremptories" rule being a mistake went over well with the audience.

I thought Kelly did great too, especially considering how the entire design of the debate was bashing the past sins of the D.A.'s office. Almost every question dealt with a failing from the Rosenthal administration, and by implication, the questions very much appeared to be attacking Kelly.

Throughout it all, I think Kelly did an excellent job of responding to the questions without getting hostile at them being asked. She kept on message that she is the most qualified of the candidates, regardless of Chuck's sins. I also think the fact that none of the other candidates posed any questions to her spoke volumes.

If the voters can get past the taint that Rosenthal has put on the D.A.'s Office, Kelly would be the no-brainer winner. The job ahead of her is tougher, but it is made tougher through Chuck's actions.

Aside from Lykos' snide remarks, the debate stayed on the issues.

Two Real Candidates

In my opinion, only two real candidates took the stage this evening at the Debate: Jim Leitner and Kelly Siegler.

Perry and Lykos shouldn't even be real considerations.

Consider this:

When a brand new Misdemeanor Three, fresh out of law school tries their first criminal case, they will then have more trial experience as a prosecutor than either Lykos or Perry.

Hell, some of the interns even have more experience than Lykos and Perry.

Am I the only one seeing the significance of that?

I mean, seriously, a freaking intern with more trial experience than the elected D.A?!

I plan to fight crime vigorously . . . as long as I'm awake

When asked what mistakes they made during the campaign, Leitner brought a lot of good-natured laughs by addressing his "no peremptory challenges" bombshell. Luckily you didn't throw out that "no cross-examination allowed" policy, Jim. Just kidding.

The really humorous moment to me occurred when Lykos was called upon to address her mistake.

In true political fashion, Lykos wouldn't acknowledge any mistakes on her part other than, gosh- darnit, just working too dang hard.

Bless her heart. She then went on to elaborate that sometimes she and her staff sometimes worked as late as . . . (gasp) . . . 9 p.m!

For those prosecutors who have routinely worked late into the night, taken call-outs to crime scenes in the middle of the night, or worked those God-forsaken midnight to eight intake shifts, the idea of making sure you were closed for business at 9 p.m. is hysterical.

Come on, Pat. Don't you know that crime never sleeps?!

Are you really campaigning on the slogan that you vow to be more lazy in the future?

That's awesome. Can the ADAs in your theoretical regime look forward to "nap time" under your reign?

One of my earlier posters when this blog first started addressed the issue of Lykos' age as a consideration. At the time, I didn't really think much of it.

Now, I'm kind of reconsidering.

If you're scared, say you're scared

I found it interesting tonight that when given the opportunity to ask questions of the other candidates, that Perry, Lykos, and Leitner all elected not to ask any questions of Kelly Siegler.

Given Kelly's trial skills, that was probably a wise move. At least Jim explained that he thought he had been picking on Kelly too much lately.

Lykos preferred to make thinly (and I mean "thinly") veiled potshots at Kelly in her answers to other questions, but didn't quite have the cojones to ask her a question directly.

Doug Perry

It's getting more and more difficult to write about Captain Perry without being mean.

The poor guy is just in waaaaaaaaaay over his head.

His catch phrase tonight was repeatedly referring to himself as having been "in the trenches". As a matter of fact, he referenced it so much, I was beginning to think he was a World War I veteran. Other than that, he had no substantive answers to real questions.

Captain Perry seems like a nice man, but he just doesn't seem to understand how the job of District Attorney works.

Still, when it came to just general charisma, he did beat Lykos.

The Debate

Wow. So much to talk about. Rather than write my usual mile-long posting, I think I'll divide it up into segments to talk about different aspects of the debate that I found interesting and/or amusing.

But before I do that, congratulations to Earl Musick and all the members of HCCLA who put on this worthwhile event. It went well and was extremely informative.

Great job HCCLA!

Important Reminders

REMINDER # 1 - EARLY VOTING BEGINS TODAY. No matter who you want to vote for, get on out there and do it.

REMINDER # 2 - THE D.A. CANDIDATES DEBATE TONIGHT - The HCCLA will be sponsoring a debate at South Texas tonight (I think it's at 6:30, but I'm not 100% on that). If you can't make it, KHOU.com should be airing a live webcast of it. Sadly, they couldn't find time to air it on TV.

Is that you, Lisa?

Lisa Falkenberg wrote a column today that was actually sympathetic to the ADAs left at the Office in the wake of the Rosenthal resignation.

I'm stunned and thankful.

And by the way, you looked lovely in your staff photo this morning.

Sorry Lloyd

According to an article in the Chronicle today, Chuck Rosenthal's abrupt departure last Friday was part of a deal he had cut with the AG's office on Thursday. Not, as previously claimed, caused by the lawsuit filed that morning by Lloyd Kelley.

Sorry, Lloyd. You can do your rooster-strut next time.

I guess you aren't quite as damn important as you think you are.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Canadian E-mail Response

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To me, that is irresponsible journalism.

It's also cowardice.

The Custodian

Today is Day One for the ADAs in the post-Chuck Rosenthal D.A.'s Office. I know that it's been pointed out that under the Texas Constitution that Chuck still holds the title until a replacement is appointed, but I kind of doubt he will walk back onto the 6th floor today and yell "I was kidding!".

So, the focus of the gossip will now shift from "when will he resign" to "who is going to replace him as custodian and when?".

Good question, and I'd be lying if I told you I had even the slightest idea what is going to happen with that.

It's a political world and the Governor is head of Texas politics. He'll pick the successor. I think I would be pretty naive to think that the Governor will remain immune from politics in making his decision.

I'm sure that Ed Emmett will have a say in it, and he's expressed his willingness to give his advice. Gee, think he'd recommend Lykos? He'd probably like her out of his office.

If the Governor is playing above the political fray, he'll refrain from appointing somebody who has a dog in this political hunt. That means not appointing Leitner, Perry, Siegler, Bradford (ha!), or Pat Lykos. Especially not Pat Lykos.

The idea of Lykos coming in at this time sends a chill down the spine of every last ADA who supports someone other than Lykos (which by last count was, uh, all of them). Lykos has a reputation of being mean and vindictive, and those caught campaigning on off-work hours will still face her wrath. What if she decides to fire somebody that the new D.A. wouldn't want fired?

I think the Governor would be more prudent to leave Bert Graham in control of the Office. He has great managerial skills. He's non-controversial. He's devoted his entire life to the Office and has the respect of the people under him. It gives no political boost to any of the candidates.

And more importantly, leaving him there will give the ADAs a sense of stability that has been lacking for the past six weeks in the Office.

Trust me, Mr. Governor Sir, it's the right thing to do. And it's the right thing to do because it isn't political.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

To Defend or Not to Defend?

"How do you live with yourself?" "How do you sleep at night?" "You need to ask God for forgiveness."

It was about four or five years ago when I got all of these questions hurled at me by several people, along with the intimidating "death glares" that they were all giving me.

Now, what had I done that was so horrible?

I was a prosecutor, and I had just gotten a life sentence from a jury on a man who had systematically raped his daughter over a lengthy period of time (which had started about the week he had gotten out of prison for a similar charge, by the way). Although there were meds in the case, and the jury had no problem believing the Complainant, her family had stood by the Defendant.

The girl ended up in foster care.

It was a sad case, and I was feeling pretty damn good about the verdict, to tell you the truth.

And then I ran into the Defendant's family in the hallway. They all had their things to say.

I had a couple of choices available to me:

1. I could try to justify my actions to them, although they would never listen to me.
2. I could apologize to them, even though I knew that the son-of-a-bitch deserved every last minute of a life sentence.
3. I could completely ignore them, and walk with my head down to the elevator.
4. I could have screamed at them all for being lousy pieces-of-crap who had turned their back on a little girl while her own ex-convict father was raping her on a weekly basis.
OR
5. I could look them all in the eye as I confidently walked to the elevator, without responding to a damn word they said.

What do you think was the best course of action?

Since I had so much fun with my earlier Parable this month, consider this my "Analogy".

What's the best course of action for Kelly Siegler on the campaign trail? What should she do when people tell her she works too hard to get a conviction? What should she do when people say that the D.A.'s Office is full of racists? What should she do when she knows that her detractors aren't interested in a damn word she has to say (they just want to scream out their irritations with her)?

I would submit to you that in my situation, the choice of # 5 was a no-brainer.

In politics, the answer isn't quite so clear.

Rick Casey's Column

I enjoyed Rick Casey's column in today's Chronicle. He's been taking a more even-handed approach in his writings during the Rosenthal-crisis than Lisa Falkenberg and Alan Bernstein, so his "intellectual honesty" is way up in my book, especially compared to Lisa and Alan.

There were some things that I think are worth pointing out.

1. Jolanda Jones will never miss an opportunity to call a press conference. Those of us who have worked with her around the courthouse know that she has never let a lack of knowledge about a subject slow her down from speaking like an authority.

Seriously, Jo, you are going to call a media conference in the middle of a Federal proceeding just so you can accuse Rosenthal of hiring Ron Lewis because Lewis is African-American? How racist is that? The guy went to Princeton and Harvard and was a member of Baker-Botts. I'm pretty sure that your own resume wouldn't hold a candle to Mr. Lewis'.

2. Casey is dubious over the possibility that Chuck truly has (or has ever had) a problem with prescription substance abuse.

I tend to agree with him, here. Chuck has always been a loose cannon throughout his career in some varying degrees. I don't think the drugs can really explain all of his erratic behavior. I think the article that came out a few weeks ago is the one that hit the nail on the head when it talked about Chuck's lack of judgment (or the "J word", as they cleverly called it). I don't think that was drug-induced.

3. I'm going to be bothered all day over the grammar of the article - "What drugs were he taking?" or should it have been "What drugs was he taking?".

Neither one sounds right. This is going to drive me crazy.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Houston Bar Association Qualifications Polls

The HBA released its results yesterday from the Judicial Candidate Qualification Poll. All of the results are interesting, as always, and I encourage you to read them all BEFORE voting.

Obviously, I'm most interested in the D.A.'s race, so here are those results. I've listed them in ascending order of the candidates who received the most well qualified votes.

5.Poor Doug Perry - didn't fare so well. 499 voters said he was not qualified. 67 voters said he was qualified. Only 18 voters said he was well qualified for the job of District Attorney.

4. Pat Lykos - yep, she got edged out by even Bradford on this. 527 voters said she was not qualified (damn, that's even more than Perry). 363 voters said she was qualified. 291 voters said she was well qualified for the job of District Attorney.

3. Clarence Bradford - the only Dem in the race had 537 voters who said he was not qualified (the most "not qualified" votes of any other candidate). 170 voters said he was qualified. 296 voters said he was "well qualified". (In a related story, local attorney Lloyd Kelley voted 295 times in this poll. Just kidding.)

2. Jim Leitner - the respect for Jim showed in this poll. Only 182 voters said that Jim was not qualified to be D.A. (which is the lowest amount of people who said that about any of the candidates). 342 voters said that he was qualified. And 380 voters said that Jim was well qualified for the job.

1. Kelly Siegler - Kelly had 525 voters that said she was not qualified (a high number, but not as high as either Lykos or Bradford). 284 voters who said she was qualified. And 475 voters who said she was well qualified. That's 95 votes higher than the next highest candidate.


Republican voters, are you starting to get an idea of what the legal community thinks of Pat Lykos yet?

So Now What?

A little over 24 hours have passed since Chuck Rosenthal's sudden resignation on Friday. I have to admit that last night, I was still trying to process the meaning of it all on the Big Picture of the State of the CJC.

This morning, I read the articles and the usual blather on the Chronicle blogs. I read all of the candidates reactions, and the reactions of County Officials.

And then I realized, that Rosenthal's resignation yesterday doesn't really change all that much.

So, for the record, the following 10 things remain unchanged by Chuck's departure:

1. Alan Bernstein still isn't running the yarmulke story in the Chronicle.

2. Lloyd Kelley is still a pompous jackass who is pretending to care about his clients when, in fact, he is just trying to usher Clarence Bradford into office. (NOTE: I really liked what attorney John O'Neill said in the Chronicle: "We believe Lloyd Kelley is simply trying to take over public offices that he and his party could never win in a free election." )

3. The usual batch of moronic posts on the Chronicle website will never stop.

4. Pat Lykos still thinks dropping meaningless phrases like "the rule of law" will somehow make her seem qualified to hold the job of DA.

5. Doug Perry is still wearing his trademark hat.

6. Clarence Bradford is still remaining quiet as the Republican candidates attack each other.

7. Jim Leitner still doesn't have the name familiarity that he needs to win the nomination.

8. Kelly Siegler's detractors will still try to link her to the mythical "inner-circle" of Chuck Rosenthal, even though his prescription pain killer revelation seems to indicate he was listening to no one.

9. Kelly Siegler still has the most skill and experience to run the Office (yeah yeah yeah, I'm biased).

10. Crimes are still being committed. Prosecutors are still prosecuting the Defendants. Defense attorneys still defend them. Life goes on.



Looks like the only real difference is that Chuck is now remaining silent on the issue from the comfort of his own home, rather than on the 6th Floor of the CJC.

And the Finalists Are

Congratulations to Terese Buese, Rob Freyer, Kevin Keating, Michele Saterelli Oncken, and Ted Wilson for making it into the finals on the Hector Heathcoat Awards for Prosecutors. Good luck to you all. Voting ends on Friday at 8 p.m.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Good is Oft Interred with Their Bones

In case you missed it, Chuck Rosenthal resigned today.

Somewhere, Lloyd Kelley is dancing a spiteful and tasteless jig.

Mark Bennett is already having a mini-celebration on his blog, and given the events of the past two months, I can't say that I blame him or the general public for their feelings. Chuck's resignation was overdue, and every day he stayed in office after the revelations of December 27th was a day too long.

He had told his staff that the idea of him having a problem with pain killers was insane, and then he tells the world the contrary in his letter of resignation.

That being said, I take no joy in his resignation. To me, Chuck's resignation today is very much akin to every time I tried a case and heard a jury pronounce sentence. I would be satisfied and happy that justice had been done, but I took no pleasure in the ruin of a person's life.

Justice can leave you feeling ambivalent at time.

I don't believe in absolutes.

No person is completely good. No person is completely evil.

In the blogs and postings I've read over the past two months, I've read people in a frenzy over Chuck's actions. One poster on the Chronicle's website said something along the line of "the worst person Chuck ever prosecuted can't be as bad as him."

That's ludicrous.

Chuck did very bad things. He left an Office that he led for seven years in utter chaos and shambles. He left a distrust between the general public and the Criminal Justice System that will take years, if not decades, to repair.

But does that make him worse than a people who have killed children? I think not.

History won't be kind to Chuck Rosenthal.

But in his 30 years in public service, he wasn't all bad. He prosecuted some very bad and very dangerous people. In some ways, he made this community safer, albeit through one case at a time. The oft told legend of what Johnny Holmes once said about Chuck when asked why he didn't fire him was that Holmes stated: "He keeps doing the wrong thing, but for the right reasons."

I don't know if that story was true or not.

There is the tale of Chuck working with homicide detectives on a case where a suspect was in custody, but a possibility still existed that a kidnapped child was still alive. Chuck supposedly sent in Homicide Detectives to pose as the suspect's lawyers in an attempt to determine if the child could still be found alive -- an unquestionably illegal and unethical decision on his part.

And he knew that when he did it. He also knew the consequences for it would be most probable termination from the Office and disbarrment.

But he sent them in with the hopes of saving a life, anyway.

You can make your own call about whether or not that action was good or evil.

Don't get me wrong. Chuck's resignation today was a relief, and a hope that things can now begin to get back to normal (even though there is a long road ahead of us).

But, I can't help thinking of that one portion of Mark Antony's oration:

The evil that men do lives after them
The good is oft interred with their bones.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Republican Voters, Please Listen

The 2008 election is going to potentially be the most interesting one since the fabled "Republican Sweep" of the 1980s. Democrats across this county are giddy over the possibility that Harris County will become a Democratic stronghold just like Dallas did in the 2006 election.

The presidential election (which normally is a boost to the Republican Party, at least in Harris County) is controversial within the party as the more conservative Republicans feel somewhat tepid about a moderate like John McCain. The Democrats will have one of two Presidential candidates who literally have "rock star status" with the general electorate, and the potential for straight ticket voting for the Dems is running extremely high.

So call me crazy, but I think the best thing that could happen for the Republican Party right now is Kelly Siegler.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know I'm biased. I recognize Kelly as the best prosecutor in the history of Harris County, Texas, and I'm an admitted fan and admirer of her work.

But my bias doesn't mean I'm wrong.

The highest profile race locally in November will undoubtedly be the race for District Attorney. And ironically, the weakest candidate that the Democrats will put forth in any race is Clarence Bradford, running for that exact spot.

Bradford is unqualified and utterly incompetent for the position.

On the polar opposite end of that spectrum is Kelly Siegler. Whether you have found all the stories that the Chronicle loves churning out against her to be damning or not, there can be no doubt that Kelly Siegler knows what she is doing and can run the office.

More importantly to the Republican Party, Kelly in a head-to-head competition against Bradford will show all those voters who may be "on the fence" that the Republicans have fielded a candidate that the Democrats can't come close to matching. My prediction is that Bradford will probably not even agree to a debate against her because of the incredible mismatch on knowledge of the law, debate skills, and just general charisma.

My point is that although the "Republican Leadership" may think that Pat Lykos would be a lovely candidate, she won't hold a candle compared to Candidate Siegler when the fight for November begins.

If Pat Lykos is the Republican candidate come November, the Democrats will actually have an opposing candidate on similar footing as their own: one who has never been a prosecutor; one who has a lot of ideas that sound great on paper; and one who has no substance to back her style.

I don't think that this wild theory of mine is all that original.

If you've been reading this blog regularly, you probably are well aware of the fact that Alan Bernstein has been burying a story about Pat Lykos forbidding a Jewish witness from wearing his yarmulke in court while testifying.

Now, consider that.

When was the last time you knew of a media outlet passing up the opportunity to do a little muck-raking? Aren't you kind of curious as to why? It occurred to me today that Bernstein isn't "burying" this story.

He's waiting on it.

The Chronicle has endorsed Pat Lykos, and they are sitting there with their fingers crossed, praying that she wins the Republican primary. If things go according to plan, Lykos wins the primary and then faces Bradford.

My prediction: Alan Bernstein will then suddenly decide the yarmulke story is newsworthy.

Why? So that it can counter-balance against the scandals that Bradford accumulated during his disgraceful reign as police chief.

Can you count them all? The DNA Lab Scandal? The K-Mart Scandal? The perjury scandal? The Exit Pay Raise Scandal?

The Dems are salivating over the idea of Lykos as the Republican nominee.

The Chronicle may endorse her now, but by November, they will gladly point out that she got the lowest ratings as a Judge when on the bench. She made an anti-Semitic decision against a witness that she never apoligized for. And, just like Clarence Bradford, she's never prosecuted a criminal case.

Why else would they have changed their mind from 2000 when Jim Leitner was their endorsement? Because Jim is more qualified than Lykos, and thus infinitely more qualified than Bradford.

Lykos is the Chronicle's choice right now, but by November, she will be their Anti-Christ.

Republicans, you guys are getting played like a fiddle right now. The Chronicle is run by an editor who has an anti-death penalty agenda that makes Bradford their ideal candidate.

If you want a candidate in November who will absolutely expose Bradford for the incompetent candidate that he is, you need Kelly.

Her campaign is picking up steam exponentially. She is working from dawn till dusk to meet the voters, and the people she's talking to are loving her. The local Republican Party leadership may be looking at her with a wary eye, but she is doing more for the Party than any other local candidate in the race right now.

She is vastly more qualified than anyone else in the race, and she has the charisma to translate to the voters. Instead of looking at her with a wary eye, Republicans should be rallying around her.

She may just be the best thing going for you in November.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Return of the "Runaway" Grand Jury

I just came across this article on the Chronicle's website which says that 6 of the former members of the so-called "Runaway" Grand Jury that heard the David Medina case have filed a law suit.

Interesting.

Where did they file the suit? Who is the suit against? The whole thing seems very strange.

Apparently their demands are that they 1) be allowed to talk about the evidence they heard; and 2) be allowed to speak to whatever new grand jury is empanelled to hear the case.

As to issue #1, I'm very curious as to whether or not they actually are bound by the grand jury's rules of secrecy, now that it has been revealed that it was improperly empanelled. It would seem to me (and this is just me arm-chair quarterbacking here) that if they weren't properly sworn in, then they weren't really a grand jury under the law after their initial term expired. If that's the case, do the rules of secrecy still apply? I don't know what the law officially says on the issue, and I've got too much going on right now to go look it up.

So, Smarter People Than Me, please let me know the answer to that question and get back to us.

As to issue #2, I don't think that anybody can demand that they be seen by a grand jury. From my experience, the Grand Jurors who are sitting on the case are the only people who can decide whether or not they want to hear from a witness. The prosecutors can't make them listen to their witnesses. The defense attorneys can't make them listen to their clients. The Grand Jurors make the call, and I would be rather surprised if any grand jury would want to hear from members of the original grand jury. I could be wrong about that, though.

But for the meantime, I have to agree with Terry Yates when he says "I don't think it's [the lawsuit's] worth the paper its printed on."

Technical Difficulties -- yet again

Something strange is going on with my comments today for some reason. I usually get a notification on my e-mail when a comment is made on the website. Today, my e-mail box was sadly empty, leaving me to fill my day playing Sudoko.

However, when I checked on the website this evening, I had a bucket load of comments waiting for moderation that had been sitting there all day. And then Anon C, posted something and retracted it, and then reposted it with corrections, and then it disappeared again.

Guys, if you are posting, and it isn't showing up, I'm sorry! I haven't screened anything out since Northside's epic Parable 2.0. I don't know what is going on.

In a related story, my spell check is no longer working on my postings. Get ready to have some fun with that.

Maybe all of this is related to those UFO sightings out in Stephenville.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Endorsements

As early voting is only a week away, I realized that some of my readers (if not the entire world) was probably waiting breathlessly for my endorsements in the criminal courthouse races.

This will be a shock to most of you loyal readers, but I strongly recommend Kelly Siegler for D.A. I think a lot of Jim Leitner, but frankly, I think he does the community more of a service as a defense attorney, zealously and skillfully advocating for those accused of crimes. Kelly has taken a lot of lumps in the six weeks that she's been a candidate here. She knows the problems the Office has gone through. She knows what needs to be changed, and she will change it. I think that those people both prosecution and defense who know her personally know that she is the best candidate for the job. Even if the Chronicle is afraid that she'll be just too damn good at the job.

Now, once you've picked yourselves up off the floor after that shocker, let me move on.

In the 174th Judicial Race between John Jocher, Bill Moore, Kevin Keating, Terrance Windham . . . I'm not picking.
These four guys have got so much honor and class amongst them that I wouldn't dare insult three of them by saying that one was better. This primary between the four candidates is what all political races should be. They are all extremely qualified and any one of them would make this community proud. I wish they had "fanned out" a little bit into some other races, rather than running against each other. This is truly a case of "may the best man win". Good luck to all of you.
(NOTE: I do find it wildly amusing that the Chronicle will have no choice but to recommend an Assistant D.A. in this primary race. I'm sure that the editorial staff is beside themselves.)

In the 176th Judical Race, there is no issue in picking who I recommend.

The race is between Michele Saterelli Oncken and incumbent Brian Rains.

Judge Rains has been on the bench ever since I've been a lawyer. And ever since I've been a lawyer he has had the reputation of being one of the rudest and most unkind judges on the bench since . . . well, Pat Lykos.

He claims that Michele Oncken is running against him "because I made her husband mad."

If only it was that simple, Judge Rains. The fact is that you've upset everybody.

The rudeness from this bench has gone well beyond the boundaries of being a "tough judge", and into the range of just absurd vindictiveness. The fact that a person is a jerk to both sides of the bar doesn't make that person any less of a jerk.

Throughout the years, Rains has steadfastly refused to put people on probation. When probations were agreed to, he would passive-aggressively agree to the probation, but throw in 180 days in the Harris County Jail as a condition (thus nullifying the point of giving probation). He has sworn he considers the full range of punishment on any PSI hearing, but all attorneys know that it just isn't true.

Rains' refusal to consider the full range of punishment has led to more recusal hearings than any other judge that I'm personally aware of. One hearing even had the unlikely alliance of the District Attorney's Office and Dick DeGuerin.

His questionable bond decisions have led to at least two tragic murders committed by people out on bond in his court. His impatience with the pace of a trial has led to at least one capital murder conviction being reversed.

Michele Oncken was the Chief in his court for a year or two. Normally, the Chief/Judge relationship is one of some sort of fondness (or at least mutual respect). The fact that she is running against a Judge where she was previously a chief says a lot, in and of itself. She's been a Chief prosecutor for at least five years now, including stints in Capital Writs, District Court, and now in Juvenile. She certainly has the background for the job.

Sorry, Judge Rains, but its definitely time for you to go. Nobody deserves to be treated the way that you treat people.

Copy That

Ron in Houston asked me this morning (as he did Mark Bennett) my opinion of Lisa Falkenberg's article today about Kelly Siegler and her idea about the copying program. That's a two part question. Mark Bennett made fun of me a couple of weeks ago for using "faint praise", so I guess my thoughts on Falkenberg's article is something akin to that.

At this point, I guess that I'm just surprised that the Chronicle isn't posting a daily column entitled "Guess What Those Sh*theads Did Now!" about the D.A.'s office. So, in the big scheme of things, I think its okay.

The idea that Kelly has come up with about allowing Defense Attorneys to copy offense reports is actually one that is extremely signfigant, even if it has been a long time coming. The amount of time that it will save for both the defense and the prosecution is potentially limitless. Diligent and hard-working members of the defense bar will no longer have to spend hours on end at the D.A.'s office taking notes. Trials won't be delayed as while the defense has to quickly review a copy of the report. Cases will even get to trial faster because such a major portion of the prep work will now be taken care of, literally, at the push of a button.

And for the record, I never really got the whole prohibition against taking down things "word for word", but I've been admonished about not doing that, myself, so I know it's true. That's just silly.

So, my position on the policy? I think it's fantastic.

I think there will need to be some kinks to be ironed out if the policy is put in place, and the Dick DeGuerin quotes illustrates one of those points.

Technically, the offense report is work product, under the Rules. The State isn't required to allow the defense to see it. Where Dick got his nose out-of-joint about this issue was over the Temple trial. Dick and Kelly go together like oil and water. He grieved her. She was upset. She didn't trust him. She closed the file to him.

So my first question that would need to be ironed out is: Will it remain within the prosecutor's discretion if he wants to close a file to a defense attorney (even if that includes not allowing the copying)?

My second question would be: Who is responsible for making sure the defense attorney is up-to-date on having the latest supplements? Right now, all of the courts are running well over 700 cases. If prosecutors are responsible for keeping tabs on the latest supplements and then notifying the defense attorney that they need to get a copy of the latest supplement, the situation will quickly become unmanageable.

I think the answers to these questions are all solved with some thinking, and should in no way diminish the Great Idea that it is. I do think there are going to be some details to iron out.

Any other issues you guys can think of that might pop up, and ways to solve them? I'm sure I'm missing plenty.

Monday, February 11, 2008

It's Day 13, Alan Bernstein

IN THE SPIRIT OF VALENTINE'S DAY:

Tomorrow is a big day for you and me, Alan.

Tomorrow will be the two-week anniversary of the date that I first asked you when you were going to run the Yarmulke story on Pat Lykos.

Still no story. And not a word out of you about where you've been or why you haven't run it!

Have you been blogging with somebody else?!?! Is it Pat Lykos?!?!?

You know, if this relationship is going to work out, we're both going to have to work on it.

I just don't feel like you are giving 100% of yourself.

Sincerely yours,
AHCL

Calling B.S. on KHOU.com

KHOU.com ran a story on it's website today that ran under the title "Is Local DA Courting Trouble?" It's a preview for a story that is going to run on Channel 11 tonight. (NOTE: After the story runs, that link may not show the same thing that it currently shows).

If you read the preamble of the story, it addresses a "local DA's office" that is using asset forfeiture funds to host parties where booze is served.

Nowhere in the story does it indicate which county they are talking about. Given the current climate, I would gather that probably 99.9% of the viewers just assumed it was the Harris County District Attorney's Office.

However, there's a problem with that, because it isn't the Harris County D.A.'s Office. Those of us who have spent time at the CJC recognize that the brief snippets of the D.A.'s Office in focus can clearly recognize that it isn't Harris County.

Shame on Jeremy Rogalski for deliberately promulgating this assumption. Would it have really ruined the surprise of the story to just name the county that they were investigating?

Doesn't Harris County already have enough problems?

Northside Lykos Meltdown

I think I was pretty clear the other day when I said I was having to moderate comments based on some National Enquirer-esque postings, and that I wasn't happy about that. The reason I wasn't happy about it is that it causes problems with my ability to check the comments and clear them for posting. That's especially true if the posting is extremely lengthy.

Also, the Moderation element of the blog sometimes is erratic about letting me know when a new post comes through. I had some problems clearing posts today from JAGJO with a helpful link to the Ethics Website. One of Michael's posts didn't pop up until just now, although the comment indicates it was sent around mid-afternoon.

In addition, I also received a very lengthy post from a poster named "Northside". Northside had posted his/her own version of the Parable that I did last weekend. To say it was lengthy would be an understatement. Frankly, it made War and Peace seem like a light read. It was very pro-Lykos, stating in part:

In the end, the newspaper recommended Pat as the CEO. Her maturity, and lack of ties to the ruling eschelon of the airline meant she could make some profound changes. This recommendation was made in spite of the fact that some airline pilots claimed that any pilot with more than five years experience would quit if Pat became CEO.There is a tremendous amount of support for Pat among the shareholders and the customers, because they think the airline needs a disciplinarian and not a pilot to correct many problems, both actual and perceived.

Well, apparently, I wasn't fast enough on the draw in posting Northside's "Parable".

By the end of the day, I received this posting from the Lykos Devotee:

Life is really going to suck for you when Judge Lykos becomes DA.
Will you quit too, because the fever with which you run this unpaid political ad will no doubt do a blowback.
Thanks for using my parable. A far more realistic parable than the one you used.
Help Help, the sky is falling.

Wow.

Hmm. A short temper and a thirst for revenge against people that displease her.

Looks like Northside picked the right candidate to support!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

"Counting Scalps"

In today's political climate, isn't the term "counting scalps" offensive to Native Americans? That's the term that Pat Lykos used in her meeting with the Chronicle's editorial board meeting, but I guess it falls under the a safe-haven of non-offensive language in their eyes. Of course, there's not much that Lykos can do wrong in the Chronicle's eyes.

Don't worry, I'm not doing the politically correct dance here. I just wanted to address what Lykos was attacking when she made the statement:

"We need a change in the leadership there. It shouldn't be about counting scalps [number of convictions]. It has to be about the rule of law and quality of justice."

Damn, the more I read about what Lykos says, the more I see what an empty suit is. What the hell does that sentence mean? Quality of Justice? Rule of Law? Huh?

I guess these are convenient "throw down" terms when you don't know what in the hell you are talking about, right Judge? Are you seriously advocating not enforcing the laws that you would be elected to enforce if this county is foolish enough to listen to the Chronicle?

Here's the bottom line.

If a prosecutor is going to take a case to trial, they better damn well believe that the Defendant they are trying is guilty. And they better believe that because the evidence shows them that. There are too many cases out there to be going to trial on cases where the State doesn't think the guy or gal did what's alleged.

That being said, once a prosecutor believes in their hearts that a Defendant is guilty of something and that the evidence will show that, then there is nothing wrong with the prosecutor doing his or her best within the Rules of Evidence, Criminal Procedure, and Ethics to prove that case to a jury. That even includes dragging a king-size bed into a courtroom, folks.

Call me crazy, but I still believe in the jury system (and I've dealt with some wild ones in my time). If the defense and the community disagrees with the prosecutors point of view, then I still have faith that a jury is going to do the right thing.

My point is, I don't think we should fault prosecutors for trying hard on cases that we disagree with them on. I mean, argue with them all you want over the facts of the case, but calling them, um, "scalp hunters" for believing in their cases and trying hard on them is "hating both the player and the game".

Can prosecutors get over-zealous on their cases? Absolutely. I can remember from my own experience when I was a baby prosecutor who ended up in the Justice of the Peace Division. I was bound and determined to make those no-seatbelt-wearing-bastards pay!! (NOTE: Please read into that statement that I'm making of fun of my own over-zealousness as a baby prosecutor and not as a serious statement about non-seatbelt-wearers).

If prosecutors are making recommendations on cases that are too high, then call them out on it for being too hard-core. But don't fault them for trying a case that the law mandates is a crime.

And certainly don't demean their jobs, their duties, and their integrity by calling them "scalp hunters", Judge Lykos. That's just crappy politicking.

And that's just one of the many reasons that nobody who knows you within the CJC wants you as the elected District Attorney.

That was shocking. Yawn.

After consistently burying the Yarmulke story on Pat Lykos, it should be of little to no surprise that Alan Bernstein and his crew at the Chronicle would endorse the career politician in today's editorial section.

Now, I'm not stupid enough to have thought that Kelly Siegler was ever going to get the endorsement from this wildly liberal editorial board (remember that the Editor is married to ferocious anti-death penalty advocate Katherine Kase), but Lykos over Leitner?!?!?

I just don't get the love affair that Bernstein and Crew are having with Lykos at the moment.

Back in 2000, when Chuck Rosenthal was running against Mike Stafford, Pat Lykos, and Jim Leitner, the Chronicle endorsed Leitner. Fast forward 8 years, and again you have Leitner and Lykos in the same race.

What's happened in the past 8 years, Chronicle that made you change your mind?

I think that Jim has continued trying cases out the wazoo (thus, gaining even more trial experience and knowledge of how things work in the CJC).

Lykos, on the other hand, has been sitting over in Ed Emmett's Office gathering bureaucratic dust. True, she goes and sits as a visiting judge one day of the month in other counties (NOTE: No sitting criminal District or County Court Judge in Harris County will have her sit for them anymore).

But other than that, where did Lykos "make up the ground" that Leitner had on her in 2008? It certainly wasn't through additional experience within the Criminal Justice System.

The only skill that she's polished in the past eight years is political pandering.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

I Have a Question.

I'm not being sarcastic. I really do have a question.

I was looking at the campaign contributions that ran as a separate column in this article about Chuck Rosenthal, and I was confused.

Now, I'm not a math enthusiast by any stretch of the imagination, but I added up the information provided about Kelly's finances:

$50,000.00 - loan from Sam Siegler
$34,575.00 - in contributions
- $23,686.00 - in expenses
$60,889.00 - remaining (the Chronicle listed 60,888, but maybe they aren't good at math either).

That all adds up.

But looking at Pat Lykos' stats, I'm confused. Please understand me, I am NOT trying to stir up anything or accuse anybody of anything. I'm just confused and would like for somebody to explain something to me.

$25,000.00 - donation from the Robert Eckels Committee (more on that in a minute).
$49,225.00 - in contributions.
$16,916.00 - in expenses
$57,309.00 remaining.

Now, here's where I'm confused. The Chronicle lists her as having $39,420 remaining.

I mean, I'm bad at math, but am I that bad at math?

So, I went back and thought maybe the $25 grand from the Eckels committee was factored in as part of the contributions. That got me a little bit closer, but now I was under what she had listed as a remainder. I came up with $32,309.00

What am I missing here?

And while I'm on the topic, what does it mean that she received a $25,000 donation from the "Robert Eckels Committee"?

Does that mean she got it from a group of people who wanted to give her money, led by Robert Eckels?

Or does it mean that a group of people donated money to Robert Eckels' campaign, and he turned around and gave it to Lykos?

If it is the former and not the latter, obviously there's nothing wrong with that.

But if it's the latter, what are the rules on that? I'm sure it's legal, but it seems that would rather suck on principle. If I were to work hard and donate my money to Robert Eckels for his campaign and he turned around and gave it to Pat Lykos, I'd be pretty pissed.

Especially if I was somebody who didn't support Lykos.

Surely I'm missing something here.

(NOTE: I'm really being sincere in trying to make it clear that I'm not making any type of allegations here. I literally have no idea how election law works. I would just like to know. If somebody can explain it to me [like Alan Bernstein, for example], I'll print a post explaining it.)

The Nominess Are In

The nominees are in for the Hector Heathcoat Award for Prosecutors. Just like for the Defense Bar poll (has anyone told Skip that he won yet?), we are doing the bracket system.

Voting within the bracket system ends Friday at 8:00 p.m.

Friday, February 8, 2008

A Parable

A pilot named Chuck was 7 hours into a Trans-Atlantic flight, piloting a 747. The ride had been incredibly bumpy with lots of turbulence, and many of the passengers on the 747 had lost faith in Chuck's ability to pilot.

Suddenly, after an extremely rough patch of turbulence, Chuck was incapacited.

Panic-stricken, the flight attendant, Jared, asked if any of the passengers knew how to fly a plane. Three passengers raised their hands (a fourth one named Doug, was in the restroom for the purposes of this story).

The first passenger, Kelly, said "I've been flying planes for 22 years, and I'm considered to be the best pilot in the country." The passengers mumbled about themselves. A reporter in First Class told everyone he had heard that she had referred to the people on Aisle Three as "screwballs and nuts", and also noted that when she went through flight school she had used the word "Jew" as a verb. Someone also pointed out that she must be a close friend of Pilot Chuck.

The second passenger, Jim, said "I've been flying planes for a long time, too, although it's been quite some time since I've flown a 747. I think most people would consider me a good pilot. And to prove what a good pilot I am, I will fly blindfolded for at least 3 hours." The passengers again mumble about themselves, and wonder why on earth a good pilot would think that flying blindfolded for 3 hours would somehow help them.

The third passenger, Pat Lykos, stands up and flashes her smile. "Friends," she says. "I have never flown a plane in my life, but I've watched them take off and land hundreds of times! As a matter of fact, I think that we need to change things! And even though I've never flown a plane, and I have no idea how to do so, I think that all of you have a right to a plane that will land the way you want it to. You don't have to return your seats to the upright position! You don't have to put up your trays! You don't even have to fasten your seatbelts!" The plane erupts with wild applause.

And Pilot Pat Lykos promptly crashes the plane into the ocean.