As we enter into month 3 (of 48) of the Lykos Administration, the Gang Who Couldn't Shoot Straight (henceforth referred to in this post as "the Gang") continues to astound me with the ineptitude coming from the top of their food chain.
Now, before I go too far into this post, I want to acknowledge that this post will probably be of little to no interest to anyone other than Assistant D.A.s or ex-Assistant D.A.s, but if you are a taxpaying citizen of Harris County, it should actually interest you as well.
As the (voluntary) departures from the HCDA began last month, it was not surprising to see that the official reaction from the Lykos gang has been "no biggie". In the past few weeks, Sylvia Escobedo, Warren Diepraam, Michelle Mishoe, and Billy Skinner all decided to head for greener pastures. Now, Mishoe and Skinner were both relatively junior prosecutors, but the departure of Sylvia and Warren was an example of the Office losing two very senior Felony Chiefs (not to mention two very talented trial lawyers).
Despite the fact that the departures should have been considered a loss for the Office, Lykos and the Gang seemed to shrug it off under the theory that if they had warm bodies to fill the senior positions, it wasn't a big deal.
The problem, however, seems to have arisen that the Gang doesn't necessarily know what to do with the aforementioned "warm bodies".
Once Sylvia Escobedo had announced her impending departure, the Office took the unusual step of bringing Joe Vinas in as a co-chief in the 337th District Court along with Sylvia for her final week. I can honestly say that I have never heard of a court having two chiefs before.
To fill Joe Vinas' position at the Police Intake, the Office promoted Spence Graham from his position of Felony Two to the level of Chief at Police Intake. In promoting Spence to the position immediately, they left the Number Two spot in the 177th District Court vacant.
For those of you who aren't familiar with the Office, the position of Felony Two is probably the most difficult job there. The Two tries the murders, aggravated robberies, serious aggravated assaults, and all of the sexual abuse cases. It is a position that absolutely cannot be left unfilled for any amount of time -- not even for a week. So, to remedy this, the Office apparently temporarily had Ed McClees serving double duty as the Felony Two in both the 177th District Court, and in his old position of Felony Two in the 263rd. Given the workload that a Felony Two has, I'm not really sure how Ed pulled that off, even if it was only for a week.
While the Office acted quickly, and in my opinion, impetuously in rushing to promote everyone so quickly in the instance of Sylvia's departure, they have seemed to have taken the exact opposite approach when it came to replacing Warren Diepraam and Michelle Mishoe.
Warren Diepraam was the head of the Vehicular Crimes Section, which handled Intoxication Manslaughter and Intoxication Assault cases. Warren's last day was Friday, March 6th and he gave two weeks notice prior to then. As of this writing, the Office has yet to figure out who they want to replace Warren.
I guess we can all sit around and keep our fingers crossed that there aren't any Intoxication Manslaughters that happen in Harris County while Lykos and the Gang are sitting on their hands trying to figure out how to replace Warren.
In an even more egregious move, the Office has also failed to fill the position of Felony Three in the 262nd District Court which was vacated by Michelle Mishoe. With each felony court having to handle anywhere from 500 to 1000 pending cases at any given time, it is an absolute must that they be fully staffed at all times. The idea of running a court without a Felony Three is like trying to run a car without an engine.
The Felony Three in any court is responsible for pulling and screening all the cases for docket, making preliminary phone calls, and normally taking any and all pleas that a court has during the day. They are truly the "grunt soldiers" in the hierarchy of the D.A.'s Office, and how Lykos and the Gang think they could possibly leave that position vacant while they try to figure out what the hell to do with themselves is nothing short of astounding.
I was in the 262nd this morning on a case, and Chief Natalie Tise and Felony Two (presumably acting Three, as well) Jennifer Meriwether were outnumbered and getting bombarded by defense attorneys. To both ladies' credit, they moved swiftly and effectively through the docket, but the point is they shouldn't have had to. Quite frankly, most courts should have at least four prosecutors in them (rather than the standard number of three), and they definitely shouldn't be running with only two.
So, as to the title of this post, I really don't get what the hell is going on over on the 6th Floor of the CJC. Prior to his departure, Chuck Rosenthal had gotten approval for the addition of somewhere around 50 to 60 new prosecutors. I'm having a hard time making the logic fit as to why courts are running short and positions aren't being filled.
I have heard that part of the problem is that Lykos and Leitner screwed up the budget for the Office so quickly that they aren't hiring new prosecutors, which is creating the problems. Leitner's predecessor at First Assistant was 30+ year veteran Bert Graham, who for years under both Johnny Holmes, Chuck Rosenthal, and Ken Magidson was able to keep the budget balanced and the courts fully staffed. When Lykos informed him that his services would not be needed under her administration, Bert volunteered to help consult with them on how to keep things running.
Lykos and the Gang Who Couldn't Shoot Straight declined Bert's assistance. They were brilliant enough to go ahead without his help.
I'm betting my last dollar that they are probably kicking themselves for their arrogance now.
I fully understand that the vast majority of citizens who don't deal with the criminal justice system could probably care less which person is doing what job within the District Attorney's Office.
But I wonder what the excuse is going to be from Lykos when she starts running out of warm bodies to fill the positions.
It just makes no sense to me.