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.