Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Brian Rogers "Expose"

In what is clearly the "harshest" treatment of Pat Lykos by the Houston Chronicle, Brian Rogers wrote an article about the "two sides" of Pat Lykos.

Brian has been working on the story for some time now, and I'm glad to see that the fan club over at the Chron allowed it to actually be published. All in all, it is a pretty fair piece to Lykos, due in most part because they let her rebut (and by that I mean "spin") those negative things said about her.

I'm keenly aware that most fans of Lykos label me and the commenters who blast her as "malcontents" who are suffering from "sour grapes" and who are so bitter over our "reign of terror during the Rosenthal Administration" ending that we can't see that Pat is the second-coming. That's fine. But those who would argue that my motives in blasting the current Administration are somehow tainted never seem to actually rebut the facts and the message that I'm writing. They just throw in the random references to "Chucky" and figure that their point has been made.

And such is the world of politics.

But let's take a critical eye at Brian's article and address some of the things that Lykos has said in her response to some of the criticisms:

1. As Brian points out, "Prosecutors under Rosenthal had much wider latitude on decisions, especially on plea bargains. Shaving years off sentences, lowering felonies to misdemeanor charges . . . are daily decisions that used to be entrusted to line prosecutors . . ."

Lykos responds that "Justice should not be at the whim of any particular individual."

Okay, "at the whim?" Seriously? A prosecutor who has handled the case and worked it up who makes a judgment call on appropriate sentences is NOT doing it on a whim. They are going to be the most informed person employed by the District Attorney's Office about that case. Lykos' recent policy changes have set parameters that her "line prosecutors" know better than to work outside of. This has led to an increase in cases set for trial, which comes with the added side effect of clogging up dockets for months.

Not to mention that this policy of Lykos and the Gang Who Couldn't Shoot Straight is the equivalent of her giving the finger to her prosecutors in the trenches every day and saying that she doesn't trust their judgment to do the right thing. My suggestion is that maybe she should go work a docket one morning and actually handle a freaking case before she makes foolish blanket policy decisions that take the power away from the people who actually know what they are doing.

2. Brian makes mention of the departure of Donna Goode as an example of the numerous seasoned prosecutors that Lykos has run off from the office. Lykos responds that "the attrition rate is normal".

Um, yes, I suppose the attrition rate is normal if you were to compare it to Pickett's Charge. But other than that, the number of senior prosecutors leaving the office during her first two years of her Administration have been staggering. Life long prosecutors have fled. According to my unofficial numbers, around 60 prosecutors have left during her tenure.

That's roughly about 25% of the Assistant District Attorneys.

I'm sure the uninformed will again say this is a good "house cleaning" of the remnants of the Rosenthal Administration, but those who practice in Harris County know better. A seasoned prosecutor is the one most often to recognize a bad search or the lack of provability of a case. They are also the ones who will stand up and say a policy is bad for criminal justice. More importantly, they are the ones who know that a defendant with two prior pen trips that is caught with 1.1 grams of cocaine doesn't deserve 25 years.

The younger ones are usually the more over-zealous, hang 'em high prosecutors. I know that I was in my earlier days.

But the point is kind of moot, I suppose, since Lykos seems to be running everybody off on all levels of the Seniority Spectrum.

3. Lykos "heralds" herself for the major initiatives that she has put forward. Brian specifically cites the injunctions against Gang Members at Haverstock Hills and now lobbying for a new law to target "pill mills" that prescribe dangerous drugs for recreational use.

I actually find the Gang Member Injunction thing fairly interesting. Kim Ogg is spearheading that project and she'll be good at it. That move has worked in some other larger communities. I would point out, however, that I'm curious as to whether or not the District Attorney has the legal authority to go after them. As someone much smarter than me pointed out, only the County Attorney has the authority to initiate a law suit under the Texas Government Code (see Sec. 43.180 versus 45.201).

The pill mill thing is, again, political grandstanding. Doctors who provide wholesale drugs or prescriptions when not necessary are just as susceptible to be charged under the Obtaining Prescription Drugs by Fraud statute as parties as those who actually get the drugs. Perhaps, Lykos might want to familiarize herself with the laws already on the books before lobbying for new ones. However, Lykos coming up with "new" laws is nothing new for her.

4. Lykos created the controversial DIVERT program, which basically allows for pre-trial diversions for DWI cases. The law, as it currently stands, forbids even a deferred adjudication for an intoxication defense. Lykos has bypassed that law with her program, which was created for some rather iffy reasons.

Brian did a good job on following up on this particular issue by interviewing 25 year veteran and former Bureau Chief of the Appellate Division, Calvin Hartmann. Calvin correctly points out that what Lykos is doing isn't following the law or her duties as a prosecutor. Instead, she is unilaterally deciding which cases not to prosecute. This may make her a darling of the defense bar, but it isn't what she was elected to do.

5. Finally, Lykos points out to Brian that she thinks most people are happy at the office. She points out that if they aren't, they are surely members of "some of the old guard". Brian disappointingly gives her some credence on this issue by pointing out that her critics may not like her because she is "an outsider".

Technically, Ken Magidson was an "outsider" when he took the D.A.'s Office under his command. He had been gone for decades from Harris County, and none of us knew him. But Ken Magidson knew what he was doing as an elected D.A. He didn't politicize or pander. He did his job and the Office generally loved him.

Hell, I loved the guy, and he fired me!

I find it an interesting statistic that early on in the article Brian mentions that he interviewed 12 current prosecutors for the piece. He wraps it up by saying "two prosecutors said they like Lykos and complimented her on changing the office."

Wow. 2 out of 12. That's impressive.

But, of course, I'm sure that the other 76% of the prosecutors are just malcontents experiencing sour grapes.


14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Murray, she doesn't even get credit for her "Haverstock Hills" idea. The idea of going after thugs and gangs civilly like Bexar County had done was discussed many times before Lykos. Ask Caroline Dozier. But it was decided that it wasn't worth the effort or the cost for the little return when prosecuting them for committing a CRIME was the issue. Ask yourself, why the need for Kim Ogg? Can her own prosecutors not handle it? And is Kim being paid when the budget crunch is so tight there now? Yet another lame attempt to pretend SHE came up with such a great idea. Please.

Anonymous said...

Until the Medina issue is dealt with Lykos cannot expect an easy re-election. And until she gets rid of Greenwood and begins taking the issue of Police Misconduct seriously, she can expect trouble at the polls.

The way in which we impanel grand juries in this county also needs to be changed. Who ever heard of having to complete an application, having it notarized, then sending it in along with the recommendations of previous grand jurors just to be considered for a position as a grand juror? Absolutely incredible!

BLACK INK said...

Well you have to give Brian Rogers credit for raising some very troubling issues and not settling for being a Lykos lap dog on this piece.

Pat Lykos now has a very poor performance record that is getting more and more difficult to spin each day; it will not stand up to public scrutiny come election time.

Any competent leader should be done with purging, "dead wood, corruption and incompetence" within the first 100 days of office....the folks bailing now are a reflection of the Lykos administration's own corruption and incompetence.

In another year there will be no competent senior prosecutor left to prosecute.
That will be a direct reflection of the Lykos legacy which defies spin.

The oblivious blue hair's, "business as usual" will not overcome a qualified Republican progressive candidate in 2012.

Rebuilding the decimation at the Harris County DA's Office will be a daunting task for the new DA in 2012......for all of our sakes I hope we get it right next time.

Anonymous said...

The junior prosecutors can not properly evaluate cases and it seems that most trial dockets are backing up because they are afraid to dismiss cases that can't be proven. They can't have whims discretion. Lykos is actually helping defendants.

Anonymous said...

Good for Brian. The timing of the article is telling. Days after the election....

Anonymous said...

Assuming, arguendo, that Lykos has included me as one of her myopic critics, to clear the air, I would note that I, like many senior citiznens, am farsighted and not myopic. I would like, however, to address two additional points, based on the article, but not presented on this blog. In my opinion Lykos cares but a scintilla about justice unless it gives genesis to a news conference. Justice is neither the issue in the DWI (DIVERT) matter nor in the prosecution of small amounts of drug unless justice be defined in the terms of generation of income to the Harris County coffers. As a taxpayer, I should be happy, but that is not what justice is about. I suspect that the County "Fathers" are probably content, however, with any program generating "tax" money in this economy.. If Lykos could reduce all felonies to fine offenses with no incarceration costs to the County, that also would probably be palatable as well. Secondly, Lykos describes the office as the "county's No. 1 law enforcement agency...our job is to prevent crime....We're here to protect...." Say what? Setting aside that the Sheriff's Department and HPD, among others, might vehemently disagree with this claim, I would encourage Lykos and her minions to read the duties that the Texas Constitutiom, the Government Code, and the Code of Criminal Procedure impose and/or proscribe for the office. I believe that there is a distinct disconnect here.
Calvin Hartmann

Anonymous said...

How about some numbers? A lot of this is just based on "what people think." For instance, how many juvenile offenders have been diverted. The article says this new policy saves a bunch of money -exactly how? I am glad to see not so many juveniles are prosecuted for doing just stupid kid stuff, by the way.

On the mental health caseload - how many people are helped? What is the end result?

On Haverstock - how many people were arrested?

You get the idea - and it doesn't just apply to the DA's Office.

It is one thing to announce programs and "think" you're doing well - even with the best intentions. It is quite another to actually prove your programs worked - where is that proof?

Just Sayin' said...

Murray,
It looks like Eric Holder has adopted the Pat Lykos philosophy of prosecution: "Lose at all Costs".

Just Sayin'

Anonymous said...

Murray,

Why don't you put an accent on that é in exposé? It lets the reader know that Brian Rogers wrote an article exposing someone instead of making us think that he has exposed himself.

Don't be afraid of the fancy e, this isn't a TAMU student publication after all. ; )

Anonymous said...

She's solved global warming, made peace in the Middle East, answered that age ol' question of "taste great vs. less filling"....what else is there for Pat Lykos to do?

A Harris County Lawyer said...

Anon 9:53,

I wish I knew how to put that accent mark over the e, but I don't know how on my computer. I didn't mean to lead anyone to believe that Brian was exposing himself, but if they did . . . well, sex sells.

Anonymous said...

I am not an attorney; I am an investigator with a Harris County law enforcement agency. I can say, without question, that I have never seen such low moral within the Harris County D.A.'s office. This is not a case of sour grapes; it’s a case of poor leadership by someone who was incompetent long before she was ever elected to office. She is a good politician but that is where she skill level stops. She wasn’t much of a detective years ago in HPD, believe me I know and she was a terrible judge. All I can do is hope the remaining good, fair and veteran prosecutors with the D.A.'s office hang in there.

Anonymous said...

Murray, you are a brilliant writer and litigator but a very sore loser. The DA's office still has talented veteran prosecutors and some of the newer ones are shaping up to be pretty talented. Lykos makes some good decisions and some bad but she is mentally present and accountable. What you view as a major crisis the rest of us see as a new DA with a different style.

Anonymous said...

Harris county is one of the most corrupt systems in This country with mass scale financial discrimination.
You are not innocent till proven guilty in Harris county. You are guilty until you pay for your innocence. Sad that it is this way but how else would parasites feed there families if they could not feed of the working class.