Monday, March 31, 2008

Did You Vote Today?

If not, why not? You've only got four days left with the convenience of voting at any location.

If you are working Downtown, it couldn't be any easier than to go by the Harris County Administration Building located between Fannin and Main, with Congress as a cross-street. The rest of the locations are listed in the link to the right side of the screen.

Come on and get out there!

Guest Contributor

Since everybody seems to be having Guest Bloggers these days, I thought I would include the hard work of a reader who wishes to remain anonymous. He or she posted the following information:

You've been asking how many times Lykos was reversed. These are all the cases involving Lykos as a judge that come up in a search for "Lykos" in the Lexis "Texas State and Federal Cases" database. I didn't include cases where the appeal didn't involve a ruling that Lykos made or where the appellate court just said that a petitioner wasn't entitled to a writ of prohibition or mandamus. Neither did I include the three cases where Lykos was involved as appellate counsel (losing a request to prevent foster parents from adopting a girl, winning a discharge of her client from the hoosegow for not paying his child support, getting a property division and support order affirmed).

It's my opinion that most of the cases where she's affirmed are easy calls; the ones where she's reversed, she really gets it wrong.

Shelvin v. Lykos, 741 S.W.2d 178 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 1987) (orig. proceeding)
Lykos ordered that a prisoner suspected of sexual assault submit to having blood drawn for an HIV/STD test that the State claimed was needed to protect the victims, jailers, and other prisoners. Appellate court issued a writ of mandamus to nullify the order because Commissioner’s Court was the only body with the authority to order the test, not Lykos. Lykos, a district judge, didn’t have constitutional, statutory, or inherent power to order blood tests or disclose their results.

O’Connor v. Lykos, 960 S.W.2d 96 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 1997) (orig. proceeding)
Relator objected to Lykos’s sitting as a visiting family court judge. Appellate court vacated Lykos’s sanctions and temporary possession orders because (1) she was without power to issue other orders after she initially granted a new trial and (2) disqualification of an objected-to visiting judge is mandatory, so she didn’t have the power to overrule the relator's objection to her sitting as an assigned judge and proceed to trial.

Queen v. State, 842 S.W.2d 708 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 1992, no pet.)
Even though State agreed with defense counsel that defendant was entitled to bond, Lykos revoked defendant’s bond and denied a habeas corpus petition requesting that she reinstate it. Appellate court reversed and ordered Lykos to reinstate bond because defendant was constitutionally entitled to it. “The trial and appellate courts of Texas have no ‘inherent powers’ that permit them to ignore an express statutory or constitutional mandate. This fundamental tenet of our State’s jurisprudence does not evaporate when a particular judge of such a court has a concern that a particular individual, accused of a crime, represents a risk to the public safety.” Id. at 711.

Eldridge v. State, 713 S.W.2d 618 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 1987, no pet.)
Lykos violated defendant’s due process by proceeding to revocation hearing without defendant’s lawyer being present. (You know all about this one already.)

Wood v. State, 822 S.W.2d 213 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist] 1991), vacated at 828 S.W.2d 13 (Tex. Crim. App. 1992), on remand at 833 S.W.2d 753 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 1992, no pet.)
Lykos properly ruled that defendant’s statement to police was admissible and submitted proper instructions to the jury because one offense was a lesser-included offense and jury was instructed that it could find defendant guilty of only one of the offenses. (Interestingly, Lykos probated her five-year, $5000-fine sentence against a defendant who was convicted of aggravated assault after hitting a woman in the neck with a gun and then shooting her in the knee from his porch as she was leaving his house following an argument over a dented car.)

Many thanks to our guest contributor!

More on the Lowry-Lykos Campaign

It looks like I'm not the only one who found the moronic mailer sent out by Terry Lowry to be offensive. The much more politically savvy County Seat also had some interesting commentary on the now infamous "Link Letter" (not to mention some fantastic photo-shopping).

In addition, it sounds like Lowry and Lykos are two of a kind. Below is a brief snippet of his interview with Pat Lykos when she was on his radio show.

http://bigjolly.com/images/stories/audio/lowry_ethics.mp3

Sounds like Lykos and Lowry were a match made in Heaven.

For more of Big Jolly's article on the Lykos-Lowry connection, check out http://bigjolly.com/index.php/Politics/Gutter-Politics.html

NOTE: This is the first time I've tried a sound clip on the website, so if you have any problems with it, please let me know ASAP. My default audioplayer is ITunes, and it starts the beginning of a song in my music library before the clip finishes playing. You should be to hear Lykos' response at the end.

EARLY VOTING HAS NOW BEGUN!

Have you voted yet? Come on, early voting started thirty second ago, what are you waiting for?

Remember, you can vote in the Republican Primary as long as you did not vote in the Democratic Primary on March 4th. Even if you didn't vote at all, you can still vote in the Republican Primary.

You can vote in any polling location all week long (on Election Day, you have to go vote at the polling location assigned to your precinct, so this is much more convenient).

For a list of locations, check out the upper right-hand box of this page.

Now, get out there and vote!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Revelling in the Mud

Since we were all grade school age, we've all heard that old saying about how you should never wrestle with a pig, because all that happens is that you get dirty, and the pig enjoys it.

Not that Pat Lykos exactly ran a clean campaign prior to March 4th, but she is really proving herself to be the proverbial "pig" during the run off against Kelly Siegler.

I understand that Lykos needs something tangible to give to the voters that will somehow bridge the gap that Kelly holds over her. I mean, something has got to make up for the fact that Lykos has never tried a case as a lawyer, and she's running against the most skilled Prosecutor in the Country.

But, there are some things that just don't make sense to me.

Kelly Siegler's campaign signs are being vandalized and stolen all over the county. Half the time they are found cut up in pieces to assure that they can't be used or fixed. This doesn't just happen in one portion of the county, either. It also doesn't seem to be happening to any of the signs belonging to other candidates (including Lykos). I fail to see what type of message the Lykos campaign is trying to send with committing the offense of Criminal Mischief, but I guess her brand of politics is different than mine.

Lykos also aligned herself (by purchasing advertising) with neo-conservative aspiring radio talk show host, Terry Lowry who publishes a tabloid-style "voting guide". I got a copy of it in the mail, and I really wonder what target audience could take this guy seriously.

Lowry's website has him promoting himself as a "man of God", yet the things that he writes in his LinkLetter is stuff that would be more fitting on a bathroom wall.

I'm not going to give the Lowry-Lykos machine the free press of listing the absolute crap listed in their cheap little mailer, but suffice it to say that it was typical Lykos material. None of it touted any qualifications or talents that Lykos had that would convince a voter she was right for the job. It just listed a series of personal attacks on Kelly Siegler that had absolutely no bearing on her professional attributes.

Oh, and by the way Mr. Lowry, at least two out of the three things you accused Kelly of in your handout actually apply more aptly to Pat Lykos.

Now, I know that Pat Lykos paid a lot of good money for her advertising with Lowry's LinkLetter, so let's indulge her for a moment.

Everyone close your eyes for a minute and pretend for a second that every last bit of the mudslinging that Lowry-Lykos have done is true.

Just pretend with me for a second.

Okay, now open your eyes.

Yep, Kelly is still the most qualified candidate for D.A. by a mile.

And Lykos is still just revelling in the mud . . .

Contact Information

Okay, I've finally caved in and gotten myself an e-mail address if you want to send me an e-mail, and you don't want it published.

ahcl2008@gmail.com

And if you have only a short term memory, it's listed over on the right side of the postings.

The Importance of the Ertman-Pena Murders

This week the United States Supreme Court decided the case of Jose Ernesto Medellin, stating that the World Court has no binding authority over the United States' laws (specifically not over the laws of Texas). Ted Cruz, the Solicitor General of Texas wrote an opinion piece about the issue in the Chronicle today which illustrates the importance of the ruling.
(NOTE: Cruz's article has just got to be dismaying the hell out of the Chronicle's Jeff Cohen who had blasted the ruling earlier in the week for disingenuous reasons that his wife's agenda dictated).
By the way, where is Mark Bennett to accuse the Chronicle of fear-mongering, when you need him?

Although the ruling is a significant ruling by the Supreme Court on a national level, I think it is important to remember the significance that the murders of 14-year-old Jennifer Ertman and 16-year-old Elizabeth Pena on June 24, 1993 had locally. The case, to this day, is still one of the most shocking to have ever occurred in Harris County. The story of the two girls that stumbled upon a gang initiation, only to be raped and murdered horrified even the most seasoned of HPD's Homicide Detectives, not to mention the entire community.

In addition to Medellin, Peter Cantu, Derrick Sean O'Brien, Efrain Perez, and Raul Villarreal were all convicted and sentenced to death for the crimes. A sixth person, Venacio Medellin, was a juvenile at the time of the murders.

Derrick O'Brien was executed on July 11, 2006. Raul Villarreal and Efrain Perez had their sentences commuted to Life in prison when the Supreme Court ruled that 17-years-olds were too young to be executed. Medellin and Peter Cantu are still awaiting their execution dates.

By the way, Kelly Siegler was one of the prosecutors that tried Raul Villarreal and he initially received a death sentence. That changed with the Supreme Court's ruling about 17-year-old's being executed. I just mention that to illustrate that sometimes the Higher Courts change the law, and that doesn't mean that the trial court prosecutor violated any rules (as Pat Lykos likes to misrepresent).

What many people may not remember was the importance that the murders of Jennifer Ertman and Elizabeth Pena had on Victim Advocacy. Randy and Sandra Ertman, as well as Adolfo and Melissa Pena became the faces and social conscience of Crime Victims in Harris County, Texas. They attended every day of each trial. They were very open with the media about their grief.

They were very open with everyone about their anger.

They showed the world what it was to be a victim, but not a helpless victim.

Through their work, and the assistance of Andy Kahan, laws got changed. Laws that had an effect on how victims and their families were treated by the Texas Judicial System.

Victims can now make a "Victim Impact Statement" during trial, after sentencing has been decided. Victims' families can now attend the executions of the person responsible killing their loved one(s) in a capital murder.

I guess the reason that I bring this up is that with the Medellin case, there will be a lot of discussion over whether or not it was right. Death penatly opponents will call the ruling as something that further makes the United States look like an ogre in the eyes of the rest of the World.

Yada yada yada.

At the beginning of this case, two young girls lost their lives on a dark night at the hands of six violent, blood-thirsty gang members. That stunned even a street-wise town like Houston, Texas. In a county that sends the most people to Death Row, this case shocked everyone involved.

Sometimes it is just appropriate to remember that when we do talk about a Defendant's rights, that we never forget what happened to the victims while we do so.

From Our Humor Section . . .

Top 10 Reasons the Chronicle Endorsed Pat Lykos for D.A.

10. Despite years of chain smoking, she still has dazzling white teeth like the Osmonds.

9. The way her eyes twinkle before she calls other judges "f*ck face".

8. She makes Clarence Bradford look a little more competent.

7. Because dirty campaigning and baseless allegations sell papers, dammit!

6. Lykos stating the same meaningless things over and over again make Lisa Falkenberg's articles seem a little less repetitive and irrelevant, by comparison.

5. Drug Legalization Advocate Dean Becker wasn't running.

4. She reminds Chronicle editor Jeff Cohen of his great-grandmother.

3. Threats of "I'll get you, my pretties" during meeting with the Editorial Review Board.

2. She is rumored to be in possession of nude photographs of Alan Bernstein.

1. Every fifth time she cites "The Rule of Law", the Editorial Board gets a free pizza from Pizza Hut.

Chronic Inconsistency

Anybody who likes to start their Sunday morning with a little bit of stupidity from the Chronicle was given to a special treat this morning in their editorial section. Under the "We recommend" section, they do the two following endorsements:

• Judge, 174th Criminal District Court, Kevin Keating — A career prosecutor, Keating has a wealth of experience. He has appealed capital murder cases for the state to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court. He is an expert on forensic mental health issues that increasingly affect the course of justice.
• Harris County district attorney, Pat Lykos — A former state district judge and Houston police officer, Lykos is well-qualified to be the county's chief prosecutor. She promises to seek justice, not convictions regardless of guilt or innocence. An outsider, Lykos is better prepared than her opponent to restore ethics and judgment to the district attorney's office.


Alrighty then.

So, Kevin Keating would make a good Judge because he is a career prosecutor.
And Pat Lykos would make a good District Attorney because she is not a career prosecutor?

Am I the only person who sees the flaming stupidity in the Chronicle's rationale here?

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Defense Bar As Police

Rick Casey wrote a column earlier this week about the difference in sentences for disgraced ex-TSU president Priscilla Slade, and her (arguably less culpable) co-defendant, Quintin Wiggins. I think that the article brings up an interesting topic, although I think it makes an incorrect assessment in doing so.

Priscilla Slade, earlier this week, pled to a 10-year Deferred Adjudication with a significant amount of restitution. Her former chief financial officer, Wiggins, on the other hand, got ten years "to do" in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Casey acknowledges in his article that Wiggins had a criminal history (while Slade did not), and he even ventures that new District Attorney Ken Magdison may be a factor in plea deals without prison time (I'm not sure I agree with that premise much).

Casey, in my opinion, overlooks the biggest factor on why Slade was offered deferred adjudication: the case had already gone to trial and resulted in a hung jury after weeks and weeks of testimony. That may be a good topic for another day ("The Effect of a Hung Jury on Plea Bargain Negotiations"), but it's not what I want to address at the moment.

Casey writes:

The main difference: In hiring a defense attorney Wiggins went low-rent and Slade went name brand.

Slade had Mike DeGeurin. Wiggins had a lawyer that I'm not familiar with named L. Mickele Daniels.

Now, call me picky, but I'm always highly suspicious of our legal brethren that have the one letter initial at the start of their name. Casey is more than just suspicious, and he lists a series of grievances and concerns about Mr. Daniels.

I'm not going to address his competency to try the Wiggins case, because I wasn't there and I don't know what kind of job he did.

But as a broader, farther reaching topic, we all know that there are some attorneys that dwell in the CJC hallways that don't have any business being there. I'm not going to name any of their names, because I don't want them to sue me (and quite frankly, I would only be able to hire someone of their caliber to defend me). But, I do feel comfortable in pointing out the legendary C. Tom Zaratti as a classic example of exactly what I'm talking about.

NOTE: To those of you who aren't personally familiar with the CJC, none of the attorneys that I'm thinking about are allowed to do criminal appointments. They are much more likely to be roaming the hallways, soliciting clients, or using other unethical means to wrangle in the ill-advised.

They cause problems for both the defense and the prosecution. Believe it or not, prosecutors don't like trampling over a Defendant's rights just because they can. Prosecutors have to go above and beyond their usual duties and actually hold the hand of an incompetent defense attorney to make sure that a miscarriage of justice doesn't take place.

The Defense Attorneys hates what the incompetent attorneys do to destroy the reputation of the Defense Bar and the Criminal Justice System in general.

I can personally guarantee that every defense attorney and prosecutor that is reading this blog knows exactly who I'm talking about, too. (NOTE: But please don't post their names on the blog. Like I said, if one sues me, I'll have to hire one of the others to defend me!)

So, I guess the big question is, who should police the bad and incompetent attorneys?

Can anyone do something to stop them?

If so, what?

If "so" and "what" is identified, then who should be the ones who do it?

If the prosecutors do it, they will be labeled as "going after the defense attorney, because they just can't get the defendant".

If an individual defense attorney does it, he or she could be regarded as a traitor within their profession.

And is it all the Sound and the Fury signifying nothing? (Yes, I really like using that phrase).
Can a case be made? Can the State Bar do something? Will they do something?

Dare I say it (cue Superman theme song), Is this a job for HCCLA?

From the People Who Brought You "Fear"

Okay, I don't know how long this has been up on Bennett's website, but I just noticed this blurb he has in the upper right-hand corner:

Defending People is about protecting the people, one at a time, from the only viable threat to their liberty: their government.

Um, isn't he the one who has been blasting prosecutors for instilling fear in people?

I plan to fully investigate this, but right now, I'm hiding under my covers because the government is trying to get me.

Houston's R Club Endorses Kelly Siegler

Congratulations to Kelly Siegler for picking up the prestigous endorsement from Houston's R Club, adding to growing list of crime victims, police officers, and Republican leaders from around Harris County who want an experienced prosecutor to lead the Harris County District Attorney's Office.

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Rosenthal Contempt Order

I just got done reading the Rosenthal contempt order, courtesy of the Chronicle. For those of you who relied heavily on Cliff's Notes during high school and college, the portion where Judge Hoyt is really blasting Chuck is between pages 15-18 for the most part.

I think it is also noteworthy that Judge Hoyt clears 1st Assistant Bert Graham of any wrong-doing in the opening pages.

Strangely enough, despite Pat Lykos' numerous insinuations, I don't see Kelly Siegler's name even mentioned in it.

Although Hoyt dismisses Chuck's numerous excuses for his actions, the opinion does paint a pretty interesting picture of a man who was losing control of his rational judgment the more things spun out of control.

When this story first broke, I had some ambivalence about how I felt about Chuck Rosenthal.

Personally, the man was always kind to me. Based upon my personal (albeit limited) experiences with him, I have nothing bad to say about him.

But as I read Judge Hoyt's Contempt Order, I felt my face turning red. Not really out of anger, but out of embarrassment of Chuck.

Chuck was somebody that the Harris County District Attorney's Office did a lot of things for. The Office, as a whole, was always very kind to Chuck Rosenthal.

Before he became the elected D.A., it forgave his lapses in judgment (from fire crackers in the stairwell to other things).

When he threw his name in the race as the only person from the Office to run to replace Johnny Holmes, the Office rallied around him to support him. They did it in 2000 and again in 2004.

But when all the chips started to fall at the end of the last year, Chuck never even extended his Office the courtesy of letting them know a lawsuit was pending. He never let them know that the sh*t was about to hit the fan when the e-mails between him and Kerry were revealed.

And when it became obvious that he had put the entire Office's reputation in the toilet through his own personal actions, he refused to step down, or even explain himself to his prosecutors. When the racial e-mails surfaced, he never apologized for them.

He told the Republican leadership that he wasn't quitting, when they unanimously asked him to. He told them that they hadn't done anything to help him get elected.

Chuck basically turned his back on and alienated everyone who had been loyal to him in the first place. He did to every last one of the ADAs who served under him. From Bert Graham all the way to the greenest Misdemeanor Three.

And as I felt my face turning red reading his Contempt Order, I realized that none of those ADAs deserve one bit of the "taint" that Chuck Rosenthal has cast upon them. Not Bert Graham. Not the greenest Three. And not Kelly Siegler.

If anything, the prosecutors that served under Chuck Rosenthal have more reason to be angry with the man than anyone. Chuck is gone. Its the ones left behind that have to keep getting blasted in his aftermath.

The ADAs have to wipe off the mud that Pat Lykos and the Chronicle continue to throw, The ADAs are the ones getting comments written about them in the Chronicle blogs calling for them all to be fired or imprisoned.

And the ADAs are the ones who, on a daily basis, have to stand in front of a jury comprised of the general public that Chuck alienated. ADAs are the ones who receive the jokes at their Office's expense. The insults. The distrust.

Chuck just disappeared leaving the people who once followed him bewildered and betrayed.

The man destroyed the name of so much that so many prosecutors held sacred. ADAs are supposed to be the guys and girls in the white hats. Now, through no action of their own (yet egged on by a political opportunist and others who take joy in their "come uppance") they are the ones that have to show that they aren't bad people.

My ambivalence about how I feel about Chuck Rosenthal is gone now.

Rosenthal Held in Contempt

Channel 11 is reporting that Chuck Rosenthal has been held in contempt and fined $18,900. For reasons that I have to admit that I don't completely understand, General Counsel Scott Durfee is responsible for $5,000 of it.

Federal Judge Kenneth Hoyt wrote that he did not accept Chuck's "over medicated" explanation that Chuck came up with at the last minute.

More news on this as it develops.

My opinion right now: it's appropriate.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Rusty Hardin's Endorsement

Rusty Hardin endorsed Kelly Siegler today for District Attorney. He issued the following statement:

"I think Kelly Siegler would make an outstanding District Attorney. I have known Kelly for 22 years. Her ability, tenacity and experience far exceed that of any other candidate. In this critical time for the criminal justice system in Harris County, I think it is very important that the county's chief law enforcement official be an experienced prosecutor with a distinct sense of fairness. Kelly Siegler is that person."

Condolences

My condolences go out to Loretta Muldrow, who learned her brother passed away today. I don't many of the details, but I'm very sorry for her loss.

Mark Bennett and Jury Nullification

Mark Bennett is clearly branching out on his website. A day or so ago, he actually had an official "Guest Blogger" who did a piece on Jury Nullification from a prosecutor's point of view. However, let Guest Bloggers beware, because Mark posted today, bashing the Guest Blogger's position.

The Guest Blogger's Position was that jurors who participate in jury nullification are violating the law, and an article in Time magazine shows that the authors of The Wire are guilty under the Law of Parties because they solicited and encouraged jury nullification.

My position is that the writers of The Wire should be prosecuted.

Not because of their encouraging and soliciting jury nullification, but because they killed off Omar.

Okay, seriously, my thoughts on jury nullification are probably more in tune with Mark's Guest Blogger than with Mark.

Paul Simon sang that there were 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover. Well, there are more than 50 ways to find a person Not Guilty, and jury nullification should not be one of them.

Under the law, a prosecutor must prove his or her case beyond a reasonable doubt. The highest burden of proof within the legal system. Jurors are provided with every element of a case, any discrepancy, or any doubt to hang their hat on, if they want to sign the verdict sheet saying that a Defendant is not guilty of a crime. No detective or investigator from the D.A.'s Office will come and investigate the reasoning of a jury for a not guilty.

Their deliberations are secret and sacred.

Mark and many of his commenters are up in arms over the Guest Blogger's post (I think largely because he suggested that The Wire producers are criminals), and Mark argues that jury nullification is part of the law.

To quote Mark, "I couldn't disagree more".

Jury nullification seems like a lovely idea as a way to "send a message" if you disagree with the War on Drugs, doesn't it?

But jury nullification is, at it's root, saying "throw the law and the evidence out the window and do what you feel is right". The Guest Blogger cited the 1960s acquittals of men responsible for Civil Rights violations and murders and lynchings as example of nullification gone wrong. For some reason, this argument was given light treatment by Mark.

In my opinion, the Guest Blogger hit the nail on the head.

Now, we all know that type of nullification isn't going to happen in today's day and age (one would hope), but what about some other examples?

What if a jury went back to deliberate and decided to nullify the 5th Amendment?

Would Mark be comfortable with jurors saying: "You know, that 5th Amendment started out as a good idea, but in a case like this, it's a bunch of crap. If I was charged with sexually assaulting a child, I'd say something. My conscience tells me that since he didn't take the stand, he probably did it."

Because, let's be intellectually honest here, kids. Nullification for the goose means nullification for the gander (or prosecutor, as the case may be).

The bottom line is that advocating for nullification is advocating for abandoning the (gasp, to quote Lykos) "Rule of Law". It would be just swell if it is to one side's benefit, but it's probably going to really upset the other. I know that the System that we all practice under may not be perfect, but it is the best one we've got.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

What Exactly Does Lykos Have to Offer?

Alan Bernstein is back in his original duties of acting as Pat Lykos' unofficial campaign manager with his post on his little blog today. He points out that Kelly Siegler has "changed her answer" about whether or not racism existed in the Office.

I don't have the energy to address that issue tonight. I will try to get to it over the weekend (and trust me, I've got a lot to say about that issue).

What I found interesting was Pat Lykos' comment about it:

Lykos said to the racism question: "You would have to be deaf or blind not to realize that there was that element among a certain segment at the district attorney's office."

Um, okay, Patsy. What in the hell would you know about what went on within the Harris County D.A.'s Office? I mean, let's be honest here:

22 Criminal District Court Judges out of a total of 22, as well as 15 County Criminal Court at Law Judges out of a total of 15 don't allow you to sit as a visiting judge in their courtroom. You've been de facto BANNED from sitting in any criminal court in Harris County, Texas. So, seriously, what in the hell do you know about what went on in the D.A.'s Office?

You have absolutely NOTHING new to offer the position of District Attorney, other than quenching your insatiable thirst to be elected to something. You are completely disengenuous with the voters, offering to "create" positions within the Office that have been in existence for at least a decade. Your inter-personal skills when you were on the bench led to, at least, nine different court coordinators being fired or quitting rather than work for you.

The only thing you can base a platform on is to deconstruct Kelly Siegler and the rest of the Assistant District Attorneys. You have nothing positive to offer, only negative.

Maybe, just maybe, if you ever offered something where you were standing on your own merit, I would take your candidacy somewhat seriously.

As it stands now, you are no different than a meaner version of Clarence Bradford.

Kelly Siegler's Opponent: Apathy

For once the Chronicle ran an article today that I finally agreed with completely.

With the runoff coming on April 8th, the prudent and wise voter will be voting early. The article goes on to say that there will be less places available for voting, so check out your polling places early. Voting during the early voting time period will give you more flexibility on where and when you can go.

If you are like me, you may be a procrastinator. Now would be a really good time to get rid of that bad habit.

Yes, Kelly beat Lykos in the March 4th election to the tune of about 10,000 votes.

But thinking that means you don't have to get up off your keister and go vote again is what Lykos is banking on. Lykos came in behind Kelly in the early voting numbers and on the votes cast on March 4th.

Where Lykos actually edged Kelly was on the absentee and mail-in voting. You can guarantee that all those folks that sent in their ballots through the mail for March 4th election have already handed their April 8th ballot over to their postman.

To counter-act that, Kelly's supporters need to get up and out and go vote.

And they need to encourage their friends and family members to do the same.

Remind them that early voting starts next Monday. If they don't know where they are going, look it up for them and tell them. Remind them to go on vote on Monday. Check back with them on Wednesday to make sure they voted. Start yelling at them if they still haven't done it by Thursday. Call them again on Friday. If they miss early voting, tell them you'll never speak to them again if they don't vote on April 8th.

Folks, getting a message out and voting (and encouraging others to vote) is a small price to pay for good government. That becomes even more true when you are dealing with a position as important as the District Attorney of Harris County, Texas..

The choice couldn't be more clear in this race. Kelly Siegler is the most qualified candidate by miles and miles. She is the State's greatest trial lawyer, and Harris County actually has the opportunity to be represented by the best prosecutor in the World. Pat Lykos pales by comparison - a mid-level bureaucrat with a mean streak and no trial experience.

Kelly's biggest opponent is apathy, embodied in people who don't get back out there to vote.

Don't let a travesty happen here.

Do everything you can.

Even if it annoys your friends.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A Prelude of Things to Come?

Lisa Falkenberg's column today was her third in an apparent three-part series of saying the exact same thing -- that Harris County needs a Public Defender's Office. This time, the article, in addition to saying the exact same thing, had quotes!

Quotes from people!

Quotes from people in politics!

Other than that, it was nothing new.

As I've mentioned before, I don't really give a rat's behind whether or not we get one, although I don't think it would be beneficial for defendants.

What was interesting to me was how the Chronicle is already starting to turn its back on its endorsee Pat Lykos in favor of the, uh, wisdom of Clarence Bradford. Check out this quote regarding Lykos' response to the idea:

"It's going to take some considerable thought," said Lykos. "We certainly can't go on the way we are. And I certainly don't have a visceral rejection of it by any stretch."
She paused.
"That doesn't make sense, what I just said, does it?"


Well, no, it doesn't, Pat, but that's never really slowed you down before.

I'm just kind of surprised that the Chronicle is already pointing out Pat's dumb moments in an effort to make Bradford's generically meaningless statement seem more intelligent:

"There has been a tendency to accept the principle of locking everybody up and throwing away the key is the answer," Bradford said. "That has failed."

Um, yeah, this from the guy who brought you the Crime Lab Scandal and the K-Mart Raid.

And, as a side note, wouldn't Bradford be a more appropriate choice for the Elected Public Defender, rather than District Attorney? Think about it. He could argue "You should never convict on this shoddy evidence. It came from the HPD Crime Lab. Who would know that better than me?"

And people said that Ron and I were crazy when we said that the Chronicle is conspiring to get Lykos the Republican nomination because she would be easier for Bradford to beat . . .

The Bottom Line: Vote Safe. Vote Siegler.

Where Experience Matters

A Galveston County jury today convicted Joshua Joyce Mauldin of the first degree felony of Injury to a Child Causing Serious Bodily Injury, rejecting defense claims that the Defendant was not guilty by reason of insanity.

Congratulations on a job well-done by prosecutor Xochitl Vandiver.

Prosecuting an "insanity case" is a tricky proposition, even though the burden of proof is on the defense to show beyond a preponderance of the evidence that a defendant is legally insane. It takes experience and intelligence to be able to try a case like this, as you deal with psychologists, psychiatrists, medical doctors, and other experts.

Not to mention it takes the intestinal fortitude to stomach such horrific acts to a small child.

I just can't help but think that if something horrific like this ever happened to my child, that I would want a career prosecutor on the case -- someone who has been inspired their entire life to try a case like this.

I would want someone who answered the calling to be a prosecutor.

Not just somebody who answered the calling to be elected to something.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Kelly Siegler's New TV Ad

Kelly Siegler's new television ad is out.

Fear Factor

Mark Bennett has done a post about something mentioned in the Alan Bernstein article on Kelly Siegler where Kelly had written in her notes at Baby Prosecutor's School "make jury afraid".

I'm going to skip the part of my argument where I point out that the phrasing is open to interpretation and was just a note she made as part of her lecture on closing arguments.
NOTE: Kelly also wrote in the same notes "Make jury proud", meaning to make the jurors proud of you (the prosecutor) for the job you've done on behalf of the State of Texas.

Let's just assume for the sake of the argument that Kelly made a part of her lecture pointing out that sometimes a prosecutor should make a jury afraid during closing arguments.

What's so wrong with that?

A jury is called in to, first, make a decision over guilt or innocence, and then decide what is the appropriate punishment.

Some cases call for them to feel fear.

My personal belief is that when it comes to assessing punishment for a person who has been convicted of a crime that the jury should have a complete understanding of all factors involved. They should know what a victim went through. They should know the things that mitigate a Defendant's actions.

And when the case calls for it, they should damn well feel fear if fear is called for.

There should be moderation in all things, of course. Arguing that the guy who possessed a crack pipe is "coming to get you" would be ridiculous. But arguing that the person who sticks a gun in a stranger's face is a scary menace to the public is quite logical, if you ask me.

Mark argues that prosecutors are all "motivated by fear" and that they are "scared of the world".

I think he missed the boat with that argument.

Most prosecutors that I know are more motivated by anger than they are fear.

Anger that a person steals things rather than pays for them.
Anger that a person would sell crack on a corner rather than try to get a lawful job.
Anger that a kid with a gun views the world as their personal ATM machine.
Anger that a drunk driver puts the rest of the world at risk when they choose to drive.
Anger that life is so cheap to some people.
Anger that a person will hurt or sexually abuse a child.

Out of every defendant I've ever prosecuted, I don't think there have been more than a handful that I would say that I was personally scared of.

But I think I've been angry about the actions of almost all of them.

For those cases where I have felt fear of a defendant and the actions he or she did, you can bet your rear end that I tried to make the jury understand that fear and to factor it into their decisions when assessing a proper punishment.

And for that, I make no apologies.

Maybe that's just part of the D.A.'s Office "culture of arrogance".

Or maybe it's just part of representing the State of Texas.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Kimberly Ann White & Negative Campaigning

With the possible exception of the 174th Republican Race, most political races get nasty at some point or another. Some more so than others.

I've been chastised before by people who's opinion I respect (Big Jolly from Lone Star Times, for instance) that when we focus on the negative, all of our candidate's positive attributes get lost in the wash.

Big Jolly's point is well taken. And I'm absolutely guilty of listing a lot of negative things about Pat Lykos in this campaign. My defense to that, however, is that the negative things that I've listed were genuine things regarding her job performance as a judge and as an employee for the County Judge that I, personally, found relevant to what kind of job she would do as a potential District Attorney.

I think it is worth noting that when this race involved four candidates, I didn't sling any mud at either Jim Leitner or Doug Perry (other than saying that I didn't feel Perry was qualified for the job).

It is very difficult not to throw mud when you are being pelted by mud and rocks from all around you, and at the risk of sounding like "she started it", that mud has largely come from the Lykos campaign. Lykos and her supporters have gone above and beyond the call of duty to minimize the great disparity in experience between Kelly and Pat by attacking everything from Kelly's personal life to trying to associate Kelly as "Chuck Rosenthal in a skirt".

The temptation to point out the numerous instances of Lykos' lack of judgment has been too much to resist.

This weekend, however, the Lykos Campaign has sunk to a new low in the form of one Kimberly Ann White.

Ms. White started her Easter weekend by blanketing my blog, Mark Bennett's blog, and the HCCLA blog (I've heard) with an e-mail encouraging people to look into Kelly's personal life, and then took the extraordinary step of listing Kelly's home address in her posts. I elected not to post her irrelevant and dirty e-mail at all on this blog. Mark elected to blank out Kelly's home address, but did print the remainder of her e-mail.

Whether you like prosecutors or not, I think you would all agree that prosecutors who try violent offenders do have a reason to be concerned about their privacy and safety to a large degree. Kelly has two young daughters and her own safety to be concerned about. A person who would go to the low step of attempting to post a prosecutor's home address is inviting violence into that home, and the act of doing so is beyond despicable.

Although Ms. White's behavior is several steps below even what the typical party line has been from the Lykos campaign, it speaks volumes as to how her campaign has been run.

I strongly encourage Pat Lykos to denounce Ms. White's atrocious behavior on behalf of her campaign.

I know that when it comes to experience and skill that you don't hold a candle to Kelly Siegler, Pat, but at some point, you've got to stand for something. A candidate's personal life, other than some extreme exceptions, has no relevance to a campaign like this, and God knows you've run in enough races to know that.

You really should stop this, Pat. It's gotten too far out of control.

NOTE: It was very tempting to list Ms. White's e-mail address and encourage my readers to let her know what you thought about her obscene tactics, but in an effort to not sink to her level, I've refrained from doing so.

Testing Something Out

With Mark Bennett's tutleage, I'm trying to learn how to embed a video image on the website. I figured this was a worthwhile video clip to start with.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

"Us" versus "Them" - a Parable

An older prosecutor was sitting on a park bench, reading about a scandal involving his office, when an older defense attorney walked by.

"That story makes your office look bad," the defense attorney tells the prosecutor. The prosecutor nods, grimly.

"I've been warning people about that guy for years," the attorney continues. "I knew he would be an embarrassment."

The prosecutor says nothing, having no argument.

"It wasn't just him, either," the defense attorney says. "It was an Office-wide problem."

"Your office should have acknowledged its mistakes sooner," he goes on. "You are all over-zealous. You don't care about the truth. You have this culture of arrogance. You all look moronic with your 'war on drugs'. You are a bunch of liars and jack-booted thugs. You are unreasonable and unflexible, and I hope that a new D.A. fires you all."

"Well," the prosecutor said, "you know, you aren't all that pleasant to deal with sometimes, either."

The defense attorney frowns and shakes his head.

"See," he said. "It's that type of 'us versus them' attitude that creates this whole problem."

Hell Freezes Over

I'm a little emotional right now.

Alan Bernstein finally broke the Pat Lykos yarmulke story and wrote some other ones as well in his on-line article today. I was so inspired that I actually created a Chron poster ID and had to congratulate him on his article.

I'm just speechless.

NOTE: If the past history is any indicator, Alan will probably do something to ruin the moment with his next article.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Mark Bennett's Political Analysis

Do any of you remember the Stephen King book "Christine"? An average high school kid buys a '57 Plymouth Fury that is possessed, and suddenly his behavior starts changing? He becomes darker. More angry. More morose. There's lots of other stuff in the book, but that was one of the side affects mentioned in the novel.

I can't help but be reminded of "Christine" after seeing Mark Bennett's change in behavior since he got his website powered by a new blogging company.

He's darker. More angry. More morose.

Mark has dropped his happy, go-lucky, anarchist-may-care attitude toward the election that he had prior to the new website design, and has been coming out pretty hard-core against Kelly Siegler and those who would support her. The tone of the banter between us has gotten much more testy.

In his March 19th article, entitled "Three Opinions" he seeks to debunk the "myth" that "no one at the courthouse" supports Pat Lykos.

Not that there's anything wrong with him debunking the myth, but his tone in it is a bit indignant. He cites five people polled, and describes them generally, and lists that 4-1 that they support Lykos over Kelly. He acknowledges it isn't scientific.

Where he starts getting mean is in the comments.
-he argues that Kelly Siegler "bought" Steven Hotze's support.
-he states he thinks its "fair" for Kelly to pay for Chuck's sins (obviously not thinking that "mere presence" applies when it comes to politics).
-he notes that posters on his website are very savvy, except for those that come to him from this website, citing them as being "a bit dim". (Now, granted, he and Anon C got into a nasty little war of words during the comments, so I can understand him being angry about that).
-and he insinuates that the prosecutors support Kelly solely based on fear of losing their jobs.

Mark seems to be channeling his frustration that he feels towards the Office (in general) and pushing it all onto Kelly. Mark is many, many things, but he's certainly no dummy.

Mark can have gripes with Kelly over the bench warrant issue that he also posted at length on. But I fail to see how he can equate that to the multitude of things that Lykos has done at the expense of honesty, judicial temperament, and Civil Rights.

Did Kelly offend the Lakewood Church congregation? Yes. And she apologized and has subsequently eaten large amount of crow over it.
Did Kelly imprison a group of TSU students who had done nothing wrong? No, but Lykos sure did.

Did Kelly use the term "jew" as verb? Yes, and she apologized for it back in the 1980s when it originally happened. She was even commended by Mark for an apology going a long way.
Did she refuse to let a man testify while wearing a yarmulke? Nope. Again, that was Lykos.

Did Kelly lie under oath during a Motion to Recuse hearing? Um, no.
Did Lykos lie under oath during a Motion to Recuse hearing? She sure as (scatological term) did.

Did Kelly ever violate a Defendant's right to an attorney? Nope.
Did Lykos ever violate a Defendant's right to an attorney? Yep. She revoked his probation and sent him to jail with no hearing, too.

Did Lykos ever treat violent offenders as if what they had done was no big deal? Yep, and it got two Louisiana cops shot in the process.
Did Kelly ever treat violent offenders as if what they had done was no big deal?
If you gotta ask that question, then you really don't know Kelly Siegler.

Mark, I know you think that ADAs live in a culture of arrogance. But don't non-lawyers say that about all attorneys? I know that you butt heads with prosecutors on a daily basis and that plenty (if not all) of them get aggravating. I know you disagree with some of the methodology that prosecutors (including Kelly) exercise sometimes.

But do you really find Lykos and Kelly to be on the same page when it comes to who offends you?

I know it probably offends every last one of your ACLU sensibilities to say it, but a prosecutor is by far and away the most qualified to hold this job in this race.

One last thing, and then I'll go back to reading "Christine".

The prosecutors in the D.A.'s Office who support Kelly Siegler don't do it out of some "fear of losing their jobs". They do it because Kelly is the best trial lawyer that they've ever seen. They've watched her passion for the job. Her skill at the job.

They want to be as talented as her. They want the respect that she has earned from her fellow prosecutors from around the country.

The prosecutors want Kelly to be their leader, because they want to follow her. We all have our mentors and people we look up to, Mark. It shouldn't be too much of a stretch of the imagination for you to see that Kelly is that mentor to a great many prosecutors.

Whatever else you want to write is fair game, Mark, but if I were you, I'd let the prosecutors speak for themselves when it comes to why they support Kelly Siegler.

The First Changes

As detailed in Brian Rogers' article in the Chronicle today, Ken Magidson started out his first full day on the job with some minor changes.

Probably the one of the most interest to those who have enjoyed the dirty details of the Rosenthal e-mail scandal was the demotion of Kerry Stevens from the position of executive secretary.

In addition, Magidson clarified within the Operations Manual about the use of the phone and computers for personal use. He also started a policy that if an HCDA employee receives an offensive, racist, or sexist e-mail that it must be reported to his or her supervisor and an e-mail must be sent to the "sender" of the offending e-mail, requesting they no longer send offensive e-mails to the HCDA employee. At first, that seemed to me like a bit of overkill, but the more I thought about it, it definitely will help government employees "cover their asses" should another e-mail scandal break out.

From a practical standpoint, I don't think that the ADAs have sent anything from their computers that wasn't business related or, at least, totally appropriate since they had their eyes opened wide by the Rosenthal scandal.

As a public service announcement, if you have a friend who works at the HCDA Office, that friend will greatly appreciate it if YOU DON'T SEND THEM ANY INAPPROPRIATE E-MAILS TO THEIR BUSINESS ACCOUNT.

And yes, that includes you, Grandma.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Today's Chronicle Agenda

For the third time in the week, the Chronicle has run an opinion piece on the need for a Public Defender's Office in Harris County. It's amazing to me that a story that is against their pro-Lykos agenda doesn't get published at all, but something that they want gets run three freaking times in a week! The Chronicle certainly has a special way of being annoying, doesn't it?

In an unrelated story, there is no article, but just a brief snippet with a photograph in the lower right corner of the City & State section about the swearing in of Kenneth Magidson. I guess the fact that it would be a positive and non-scandalous story about the District Attorney's Office probably made it non-newsworthy to Jeff Cohen and crew.

Back to the editorial, I would suggest reading the comments in the on-line version of it. A poster under the name of "Helpful" points out, much more eloquently than I can, his or her views against a PDs Office.

As I've said before, most ADAs don't really care who they are facing in a trial. However, the Chronicle, Senator Ellis, and Barry Scheck's tact in chasing after getting a PD's Office annoys me.

First of all, nobody is citing any specific cases where a Defendant got screwed over because of a court appointed attorney.

Second, the reputations of some of the most skilled defense attorneys in the Nation are being slandered by Ellis, Scheck, and Cohen. Indigent Harris County defendants have the opportunity to have some of the best attorneys in the world representing them for free, and Ellis, Scheck and Cohen are basically sitting in Ivory Towers and telling them that they aren't good enough.

Third, no one has yet to list a case where a defense attorney asked for additional funds for investigations and couldn't get them.

Fourth, the Chronicle cites things that could happen as if they are happening:

All too often, the jurists' wishes count for more than their commitment to defend their clients to the best of their ability.
The system is easy to manipulate in favor of particular lawyers who might be friends or political contributors.
An attorney who displeases a judge can be removed from the appointment list.

On behalf of the judges and defense attorneys who take appointments, please allow me to tell the Chronicle that you can kiss their butts with lines like those.

The Holy Trinity of Cohen, Scheck, and Ellis seem to just be scratching their heads and thinking, if so many people are being convicted in Harris County and sentenced to prison, there must be something wrong with the system. It must be racist. The D.A.'s must be overaggressive. The defense must be incompetent.

Or it could be, that we live in a major metropolitan area and there is a ton of crime and therefore, there are a ton of people being punished. Maybe, just maybe, a lot of these defendants are getting sentenced to prison sentences because, oh, I don't know, maybe they actually did what they're accused of.

One last parting thought.

The editorial starts off with the following line:

Harris County is the only major metropolitan area in the country without a public defender system to represent indigent defendants.

Ah, under that theory, isn't the Chronicle the only major metropolitan newspaper to never win a Pulitzer Prize?

Maybe under that theory, we should scrap them, too.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Swearing In Ceremony

Kenneth Magidson was sworn in today at the Jury Assembly Building at 4:30 during a fairly short ceremony, attended by those ADAs and Investigators who aren't on Spring Break with their families, as well as several county officials.

Bert Graham appeared relieved as he handed over control to the Assistant U.S. Attorney. District Court Judge Don Stricklin gave a brief speech, acknowledging that the D.A.'s Office had received a series of "body blows" to its reputation over the past 90 days, and he stated that Mr. Magidson was the right person for the job.

Magidson was then sworn in and gave a brief speech. He made no bombastic statements and promised no sweeping changes. He simply stated that the mission of the office was to seek justice for everyone and to do the right thing. He encouraged any of the ADAs who didn't know what the "right thing was" to come talk to him.

The ADAs and Investigators were then re-sworn in to their jobs.

Chuck Rosenthal's name was never mentioned.

And life went on at the CJC . . .

Lykos' Radio Ad

I heard Pat Lykos' radio ad today for the first time.

She continues her strategy of offering nothing appealing about herself, but just taking potshots at the clearly more qualified Kelly Siegler.

Lykos has another voice doing the talking for the majority of the commercial, so I guess, technically, it isn't actually Lykos misleading the public this time.

The ad yammers on about the Rosenthal Administration, and refers to Kelly as Rosenthal's "Top Lieutenant".

Um, that's not true. Bert Graham, as First Assistant, would have been Chuck's "Top Lieutenant", but I think we've clearly established by now that Lykos isn't really all that big on acknowledging the facts.

For those of you interested in the truth, Kelly has been the Bureau Chief of Special Crimes for a couple of years now. She handles things like Cold Cases, Major Fraud, and the extremely violent offenders. It's the elite branch of trial lawyers within the Office, kind of like the legal equivalent of the Navy SEALS.

Lykos (through her spokesman) then states that Kelly admitted "tainted" evidence that got a murder case reversed.

That's about as disingenuous of a statement that a desperate candidate can make, because Lykos is relying on the general voting community being unfamiliar with legal procedure to make it sound as if Kelly engaged in some sort of misconduct, which she clearly didn't.

For those unfamiliar with criminal procedure, in almost every criminal case where a Defendant's statement (commonly referred to as a "confession") is intended to be admitted as evidence, there will be a hearing to determine the admissibility of that statement. The State of Texas (in this case, Kelly) has to put on evidence outside the presence of the jury to a judge, and show that procedure was followed. The defense will then argue that the statement is inadmissible.

Ultimately, it is the trial judge who decides whether or not that statement is admissible.

In the case that Lykos is attempting to mislead the public about, the trial court ruled that the statement was admissible. The jury heard it. The jury convicted.

Upon appellate review, the Higher Courts decided that the trial court had erred, and they reversed the case. That's not entirely unusual, because, as I've pointed out before, the Appellate Courts change their rulings and modify the shape of laws on a daily basis. It doesn't mean that anybody did anything wrong. Courts just overrule each other on occasion.

When the trial court admitted the Defendant's confession, the Judge did so based on her findings on the facts and the law.

The judge wasn't stupid.

Lykos is just hoping that the voters are.

A New Era Begins Today

Today will officially begin the New (and relatively short) Era of District Attorney Kenneth Magidson.

Magidson will officially be sworn in as the Harris County District Attorney today at 4:30 p.m. at the Jury Assembly Room on Congress. Shortly thereafter, all the Assistant District Attorneys will also have to be re-sworn in under their new leader.

Guess Who Is Back

The Chronicle is reporting that Lloyd Kelley is requesting $4.4 million for his legal fees from representing the Ibarra Brothers in their lawsuit.

I think the county should consider three questions before paying Lloyd anything more:

1. Is it fair for you to be getting almost three times what your clients had to split between the two of them?

2. Did you bill your fees for all your press conferences calling for Chuck Rosenthal and Tommy Thomas' ouster?

AND

3. Shouldn't these bills really be paid by Clarence Bradford's campaign fund?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Politics versus Experience - A Hypothetical

On Channel 13 last night, political consultant Alan Blakemore pointed out that Pat Lykos attacking Kelly Siegler through Chuck Rosenthal's record was probably the wise political move for Lykos, because it distracts away from the fact that Kelly has vastly more qualifications and experience than the politically savvy Lykos.

It may be good for Lykos, but it's certainly bad for the voters and the citizens of the county that Lykos seeks to represent. Lykos keeps uttering the phrase "Rule of Law", "Rule of Law", "Rule of Law" all day long. Ask yourself this, would you vote for a Presidential candidate who just stated "I'm going to make America better", but then could provide no meaningful ideas of how to do so?

Why do the Assistant D.A.s currently working at the Office become queasy at the idea of Lykos becoming the D.A? Well, on top of the fact that she and her people keep referring to the hard-working ADAs as a "bunch of drunks", they also know the value of having a leader who knows what in the hell she is doing. I know that Mark Bennett has stated that the idea of an inexperienced leader like Lykos or Bradford appeals to the "anarchist" inside of him, but the members of the Defense Bar should be every bit as concerned as the Prosecutors (and I believe that they are).

Consider the following hypothetical situation:

A high-profile capital murder case occurs in Harris County, Texas. After several weeks of investigation the police make an arrest in the case.
Political Reaction-the elected D.A. automatically claims that she will try the case herself, knowing the voters will love it. She makes several bold predictions in her press conference, accepting her accolades.
Experienced Reaction-the elected D.A. sees if the case will land in a court with a capable and experienced prosecutor to handle it.

The same case starts to develop some problems with it, leading to it not looking like a sure-fire win anymore.
Political Reaction-the elected D.A. decides she won't be trying the case after all. She quietly stops making court appearances on the case, and dodges question about it, as if somebody were asking her about a yarmulke, or something.
Experienced Reaction-works with the prosecutors handling the case to determine the nature of the problems with the case, and if they are fixable, or if the problems point to actual innocence.

The problems with the case, do, in fact, turn out to point toward actual innocence. The prosecutors on the case come to the elected D.A. to tell her that they believe the wrong person is charged with the high-profile crime.
Political Reaction-realizing the bold predictions that she made at arrest are still ringing in the public's ears, she tells the prosecutors not to make a fool of her, and to proceed with the case. When the prosecutor expresses concerns, she tells them "perhaps you don't like your job as much as I thought you did".
Experienced Reaction-after carefully reviewing the case with the prosecutor, calls in the victim's family for a conference, where everything is explained to them. The case is then dismissed. She then stands beside her prosecutor when the media demands answers. She tells the investigating agency to keep working on finding the right person.

NOTE: The last portion of the hypothetical doesn't apply for an experienced reaction, because has already been dismissed in that scenario.

The case proceeds to trial, and the Defendant is (hopefully!) found not guilty.
Political Reaction (Best Case Scenario) - she fires the prosecutor for losing the case and embarrassing the Office. She never acknowledges that the wrong person was accused, and closes the door to the police ever tracking down the real person responsible.
Political Reaction (Worst Case Scenario) - an innocent person gets convicted.

Is this an alarmist hypothetical? Sure it is, but let's say that we aren't talking about a capital murder. Let's say we're talking about something of a lesser scale. A theft. An assault. A burglary of a habitation.

Do the same judgments not come into play?

The Harris County Lab

Channel 11's Shern-Min Chow reported yesterday on the Harris County Crime Lab that comprises the Harris County Medical Examiner's Office, as well as its own DNA lab. This time, there was no scandal involving a State-based laboratory. This article compliments the Medical Examiner's Office and the lab.

For those of us who have dealt with the Medical Examiner's Office on homicide cases or other cases involving a fatality, we have known for quite some time that there are some real "All-Stars" that work for the Medical Examiner's Office. Their level of professionalism, integrity, diligence, and reliability is quite impressive.

It was nice of Shern-Min Chow to give them some well-deserved recognition.

It's worth noting that in all of the DNA scandals caused by the HPD Lab, that Harris County's Lab never ran into the same problems.

Then again, Clarence Bradford wasn't ever the head of the Harris County Lab.

The Pasadena Debate

Okay, I'm clearly falling down on the job here. Not only did I fail to attend the debate between Kelly Siegler and Pat Lykos last night in Pasadena, I wasn't even aware of it until yesterday afternoon.

I saw a brief snippet on the news, and it was pretty much the same thing. The first words out of Lykos' mouth was "Rule of Law", which I believe means "I have no idea how to try a case" in Latin.

NOTE: If you elected to play a drinking game and took a sip of alcohol every time Lykos said "Rule of Law", you would now officially have cirrhosis.

Kelly's camera time was limited in the brief news segment that I saw, so I don't know how the overall tone of the debate went. If you attended the debate, or can find a link to it at one of the news websites, please let me know in the comments!

Monday, March 17, 2008

One Act Play

Channel 13 reported today about the "sharpening of the attack" between remaining Republican candidates for District Attorney, Pat Lykos and Kelly Siegler. They then aired the story, which mostly consisted of Pat Lykos talking about the "Rosenthal-Siegler Administration".

You know, its funny, I don't ever recall anybody calling it the Rosenthal-Siegler Administration before Kelly threw her name in to run. Yet, Lykos seems to want to run the term into the ground.

Lykos' attempts to link Kelly to Chuck are nothing more than an insubstantial ploy to get voters to overlook Kelly's overwhelming qualifications to hold the job.

Kelly has been a prosecutor for almost 22 years. She is widely regarded as the greatest prosecutor in the State, if not the Country. She has tried numerous capital murder trials and knows the in-depth work that trying those cases takes. Kelly is also a leader that the rest of the Assistant District Attorneys are willing to follow.

Lykos' main source of argument is to just try to keep linking Kelly with Chuck, which is really no argument at all. If Lykos were to apply her "Rule of Law" to campaigning, she would most assuredly draw an objection for "Relevance".

Not that it will slow Pat down, however.

Keeping in mind, that this is the same Pat Lykos who, ironically, called Kelly a "one act play".

Copy Cat!

Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace started keeping track of the days the Barack Obama has failed to be on his show, under the title of "The Obama Watch". Wallace is apparently hoping that keeping track of the days will entice the Senator to come on the show.

You know, if it didn't work on Bernstein, I don't know why Wallace thinks it will work on Obama.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Lykos' Blatant Lie (AKA You can't say "Lykos" without saying "Lie")

For those of you who attended or read about the February 19, 2008 debate between the D.A. Candidates, perhaps you remember Pat Lykos responding to a question from Jim Leitner about why no police unions or retired police officer unions had endorsed her, even though she was a former cop.

The Chronicle article by Alan Bernstein described it at the time as:

Lykos, a Houston police officer more than 25 years ago, said she has refrained from seeking campaign support from officers and police organizations because the next district attorney must be immune from any charges of favoritism when prosecuting misconduct cases against law enforcement.

At the time, I described her saying that she didn't seek the endorsements because of "sour grapes".

As it turns out, it wasn't sour grapes, it was just a blatant lie.

This memo from the Houston Police Retired Officers Association (HPROA) shows that Lykos did, in fact, seek an endorsement from them, unsuccessfully.

Under the Board Meeting Minutes from January 10, 2008 under the sub-heading of "President's Comments - Jack Miller" is the following note:

*Pat Lykos is running for Harris County DA and is seeking an endorsement from the HPROA. Discussion by J. DeFoor, Rayne, Turbeville, Ashby, Elkin and Bostock. No action taken.

"No action taken" indicates that the endorsement request was denied.

So, let's look at the timeline on this real quick:

January 10, 2008 - Lykos goes to HPROA seeking an endorsement and is turned down.
February 19, 2008 - during a live webcast debate, flatly denies ever having sought out an endorsement from them.

Lykos has some severe issues with honesty, if she will blatantly lie even when the cameras are rolling.

It still just stuns me that her website has her saying that "her word is her bond".

A Public Defenders Office

Not much in today's Chronicle regarding Life at the CJC, except for an editorial article written by Rodney Ellis and Barry Scheck calling for the creation of a Public Defenders Office. I already addressed the issue in this article for the Lone Star Times earlier this week, so I'm not feeling like writing it up again.

The bottom line is that most prosecutors couldn't care less if the person that they are facing on a case was appointed, retained, or part of a Public Defenders Office. So, I guess it could be fair to say that I don't really oppose it, other than I think its unnecessary.

I think that the current attorneys who do appointed work do a good job, and I don't envision folks like I listed in the Lone Star Times article going to work for a government agency.

I guess, to me, it's like nailing in a tack with a sledgehammer.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The New Guy

I'm sure it is quite the unusual feeling for all parties involved when the "new guy" at a large organization just happens to be the "new boss", as well.

That's what Kenneth Magidson and the Assistant Harris County District Attorneys are experiencing now that it is all official that Magidson will be taking over.

My understanding is that Magidson walked the floors of the Office, meeting all of the ADA's before his 4 o'clock press conference with local media. It was an appreciated gesture, I'm sure.

It also means that over half the office has now spent more "face time" with Magidson than they ever did with the normally aloof Chuck Rosenthal.

At this writing, the Chronicle has yet to post the contents of his press conference. However, I just saw him on Fox 26, and what he said sounded good. He, of course, wants to restore faith in the Office and the Criminal Justice System, but he also moderated his comments so that they didn't scare the living daylights out of the Assistant D.A.'s that he's supervising.

He seemed comfortable and confident in his new role, and stated his pride in his job description without seeming arrogant (in my opinion).

NOTE TO CHRONICLE: I didn't pick up on his "Northern" accent that you all mentioned a couple of days ago in a highly relevant moment.

Good luck with the new job, New Guy!

Commenting Problems

I got a technical complaint from a reader about troubles he was having with "Firefox" and reading the other comments before posting a response.

I have to plead total ignorance to what Firefox is. I'm sorry.

When I write a comment in response, the message box is about two inches wide by four inches wide, and I have difficulty reading it myself. If I plan on a detailed response, I open up another window so that I can review the comments in one, and respond to them on another.

I don't know how to fix it, but I will gladly take any technical advice.

Please Help Mack Arnold

Mark Bennett is posting on his blog about a trust fund recently created for our friend and favorite Curmudgeon with a Heart of Gold, Mack Arnold.

He needs our help.

Here's the information from Mark's Blog, in case you missed it over there:

Yesterday Mack Arnold’s daughter Angela and HCCLA President Pat McCann opened bank accounts for the “Mack Arnold Trust”.

Pat writes:

As you may know, Mack was felled by a stroke recently, and will be a long time in recovery. To my knowledge he has no medical insurance and as anyone who has dealt with a catastrophic illness or injury knows, even if you do it never covers enough. His daughter wished to express her thanks to all who have sent their kind wishes, but I am asking you all to dig a bit and please consider donating to the trust so that we can help defray at least some of his expenses. If you can help, please make out the checks to “The Mack Arnold Trust.” While Angela is busy finishing up school out of state, I will make deposits to the account.

Mail them to me or stop me in the hallways and write the check out then. Let’s show folks that we take care of our own here.

Pat’s address is: 909 Texas Ave, Ste 205, Houston, Texas 77002 713-223-3805

Thanks for the update on Mack, Mark. And thanks for setting this up, Pat.

The Lykos PR Man: Alan Bernstein

If the phone rings around your house some time over the weekend, Alan Dearest, you might not want to answer it. It just might be the college where you got your journalism degree asking you to return it.

What has started out as a joke over your refusal to run the Gil Fried yarmulke story has now developed into you becoming the de facto PR person for the Lykos campaign. After reading the "article" you ran this morning, I think you pretty much put the last nail in the coffin that contains your "journalistic integrity".

Its gotten to the point that the term "journalistic integrity" seems like an oxymoron if you use it in the same sentence with the Chronicle. (As a side note to the Chronicle: Nice job on running the story about Deputy Craig Miller's blood alcohol level as your headline so his family and kids couldn't avoid seeing it. Would that article not have been just as newsworthy a little further down the page?)

Now, back to you, Alan Dearest. For months now, this website and others have been bringing to your attention legitimate stories regarding Pat Lykos. At least they were legitimate to your newspaper back when it still had some integrity. Articles regarding her violations of civil rights, her lying under oath, her temper, and her bad judgment. All of these articles were stories that your newspaper wrote in the 1980s and 1990s.

All of these articles deal with legitimate topics that would effect Pat Lykos' ability (or lack thereof) to be the District Attorney. They are stories that matter to a race of the D.A.'s Office importance. Yet, you have consistently ignored them for months now.

However, if Pat Lykos calls you because she would like to spend her afternoon attacking Kelly over news that has been overplayed throughout the whole campaign already or has no relevance to job ability, you rush to write it faster than you can say "what yarmulke story?" Does Lykos have you on her speed dial, Alan? And by the way, she's lying to your face when she tells you about the cussing. Honesty isn't exactly her strong-suit.

I'm sure that you and Jeff Cohen have these big delusions of grandeur that when 2008 comes to a close the Chronicle will finally get that elusive Pulitzer for its part in "taking down the D.A.'s office" (even though Channel 11 was the one who actually broke all the stories). That story wouldn't have quite the ring to it for you if Kelly got elected, would it?

I know, that as a journalist, you probably like to consider yourself as some sort of hero to the community. A fair-minded, completely neutral intellectual exposing the underbelly of the Big City. Something along those lines, right?

Maybe you were a long time ago, but you certainly aren't anymore.

I'm not telling you what to write, by the way. I'm just telling you that your credibility is shot.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Lykos Gets Desperate

I just watched Pat Lykos desperate cry for help on Fox 26.

Lykos called a press conference today, not to tout anything worthwhile about herself (because, let's face facts, that well ain't all that deep), but just to blast Kelly Siegler.

Wow.

That's just pathetic.

During her press conference, Lykos criticized Kelly Siegler over two things:

1. Over a video tape of Kelly teaching a law school and stating that it shouldn't bother a prosecutor if something gets objected to, because the information has already been aired in front of a jury.

Now, let's see. Who had that tape when we last looked?

I believe that would be one Mr. Dick DeGuerin (AKA Sore Loser of the Year). So, I guess in his little snit of anger over having his ass handed to him by Kelly during the David Temple trial, Dick decided to turn the tape over to the Lykos campaign. That's not all that shocking given the great lengths that Dickie has gone through to try to somehow justify his loss to someone that he considers beneath him.

What is shocking is that Lykos would embrace it so much.

For those of you who don't remember last year's trial, David Temple was an extremely challenging "cold case" that Kelly Siegler tried. He murdered his eight-month pregnant wife by shooting her in the head with a shotgun.

2. That Kelly's working relationship with members of the Harris County Sheriff's Office led her to admit an "inadmissible" tape on the Fratta case.

Um, okay, you would think that a "judge" (no matter how poor of an excuse for one) would realize that the Courts of Appeals change quite often on different issues. There was a hearing on the confession and the trial court judge admitted it. Sometimes the Courts of Appeals modify their rulings based on different laws and readings of the law.

It doesn't mean some sort of misconduct, as Lykos gleefully implies. It just means their was a shift in the law. If their weren't shifts in the law, we'd still be dealing with the laws that we had in 1776.

The case law shifted around the Guidry and Fratta cases. They weren't clearly settled issues, like, say, the Right to an Attorney.

For those of you who don't remember the Fratta case, she was a young woman who was murdered by a hitman that her husband hired to kill her. Kelly got the death penalty for both the shooter and the man who hired her.

Am I the only person who finds it just mildly disturbing that Pat Lykos is running to side with people who murdered innocent women to find her mud to sling at Kelly Siegler? On cases where Kelly did nothing wrong, Lykos gladly stepped over the bodies of those two women and an unborn child just to attack her opponent in the race.

That really is sociopathic.

Not to mention despicable.

You should be ashamed of yourself, Pat.