Thursday, May 27, 2010

Antoher Chiefly Departure

Tomorrow marks the last day on the job for 185th District Court Chief, Kristin Guiney.

Kristin, a 9 year veteran of the D.A.'s Office, is yet another tremendous loss for the County. Coming in as a pre-commit during the Summer of 2001, she established herself first as leader within her "starting class", and subsequently as a leader within the Office, as a whole.

Managing her duties in the Trial Bureau, Kristin became known as a highly skilled prosecutor in front of juries. She combined the legal knowledge to do research on complex issues without constantly pestering the Appellate Division (something I was very guilty of during my time there), and also maintaining a down-to-Earth and very common-sense approach in trying her cases. She was not only respected by her peers, but also by the "higher ups" in the Office.

Kristin was the kind of prosecutor that the Office needed.

Not only did she do an outstanding job in the duties assigned to her as a prosecutor, she sought out ways to make the Office better. When specialized projects needed analysis, she was the first person who volunteered.

Okay, well, maybe once or twice she got "volunteered" for a project by someone who was being lazy named Murray, but you get the point. She studied other D.A. Offices around the country to make requests for more personnel within the HCDA, and her work resulted in an impressive display to the Commissioner's Court that got the Office's budget substantially raised for many more (much needed) prosecutors.

She was the kind of person who wore the title of Public Servant proudly, and she embodied everything one would hope in a government lawyer. She was hard-working, honest, and talented. The work she did for the Office was out of a genuine love for the place that she worked.

So, it is very bittersweet to see Guiney headed out into private practice.

It's a tremendous loss to the Office and the County, but we all know she did more than her fair share for that general public during her tenure.

I wish her the very best of luck.

And for those prosecutors that may be facing Guiney in the future, make sure you cross your "t"s, dot your "i"s and are very, very prepared.

Because you can bet your ass that Guiney will be.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Black Ink's Article on Bert Graham

Black Ink has written a very nice (and well-deserved) article comending former-First Assistant District Attorney Bert Graham for his years of service with the Office. If you haven't read it yet, you can check it out here.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Just an Idea

Co-written by Tyler Flood.


Well, it doesn't look like the Fire Marshal's Office or anybody else in control of safety, order, or reason at the CJC is going to be doing anything to help the nightmarish situation that occurs at the elevator banks every weekday morning.

Here's a view from last week at the bank:






And here:

I've been saying somebody would get hurt with all the crowding, and someone finally did. Attorney Mary Moore got one hell of a bruise on her arm by a defendant slamming his way into an elevator that was already filled to capacity. According to Mary, the defendant was unapologetic, but pointed out he couldn't be late for court.




The Commissioner's Court and the Fire Marshals aren't doing too much investigating in the mornings because they are most likely terrified of what the results of that investigation would show:

That the Harris County Criminal Justice Center is a poorly designed and poorly created multi-million dollar building that requires drastic structural changes to make it safe for the public. That would cost millions of dollars that the County just doesn't have to spend right now -- not to mention the havoc that would be created while construction to fix the problems was taking place.

They need about four more elevators on each side of the building and a floor plan that doesn't create the insane bottleneck that we all know and love every morning.

Or, we could re-evaluate some docket scheduling matters that might help it as well.

Why do Harris County Criminal Courts at law make all people on bond come to court every 2-3 weeks? Why don’t the courts give the defendant’s lawyers enough time to investigate the case and then come back to court when they are ready to do something on the case, like plead or go to trial?

This is completely unnecessary and a monumental waste of time for lawyers, defendants (people who have real lives and real jobs yet people who are being forced to take off work for almost a full day while their case is pending, people who are “presumed” at this point to be innocent. Why can’t Harris County follow proper manners and etiquette and extend a little professional courtesy to the people charged with an offense and the lawyers representing them and allow the parties to appear at mandatory court dates less frequently?

In Galveston County, they actually let you come to court about once every 6 months so you can actually have time to work on your case. Montgomery County will give you a 3 month reset. Fort Bend and Brazoria also show the same courtesy. Harris County, however, will make a person come to court about 5 times in a 3 month period.

Why does Harris County do this?

One reason is there are a few judges that are hyper-concerned with the number of cases pending on their docket. There has become a competition between courts to see who can plead out the most cases and have the lowest number of pending cases on their docket. How do you encourage more people to give in and just plead guilty? Make them take off from school and work so many unnecessary times that they risk losing their job or getting kicked out of school. That way, the defendant comes in, throws their hands up and says to their lawyer, “Let’s just get this over with, I’ll plead guilty because I cannot take off any more time to come to court for these settings.”

You know why the court building is unable to handle the number of people there each day?

Because it wasn’t designed to have 15,000 misdemeanor defendants coming to court every 2 weeks. Longer resets would save money on human resources and reduce overcrowding in the mornings. It would also give lawyers time to work on their client’s cases and give the case a long enough reset date to actually matter.

Also, by spacing out the dockets for your on-bond defendants, there is more space to bring in those defendants who are still in custody and having their freedom actually deprived at the moment. These are the ones who need to be working more quickly towards a resolution of their cases.

I know that docket numbers are important to the judges, but have we really examined why? In most instances, a high docket isn't a reflection of poor management by a judge. A judge has to do their job regardless of whether there are 100 defendants on their docket or 1,000. If a case gets reset, it may be because a prosecutor doesn't have some "to do" done, or it could be that a defendant just doesn't want to work out their case.

That's not something to blame on the Judge of the court, is it?

Anyway, it's just an idea.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: Any portions of this post that were written with poor spelling or grammar or that were in any way offensive to a judge were written by Tyler Flood. All the good stuff with immaculate spelling was written by Murray Newman).

Thursday, May 13, 2010

New Moves

Today, the Harris County D.A.'s Office posted some pretty significant moves that were only 3 weeks overdue. Some are really good. Some are interesting. Some are just downright confusing. On the whole, I'd give the moves a solid C+ from an administration that definitely needs a lift after Lykos' disastrous appearance on Channel 11 and Clint Greenwood's Not Guilty verdict in the Bellaire Police Officer Shooting.

The most intriguing of the moves is the creation of the "Capital Trial Division" which will be headed by Denise Bradley and Bill Hawkins. I'm not sure exactly what that means, but what I've heard from some of the prosecutors is that Bill and Denise will be serving as advisers to the Gang Who Couldn't Shoot Straight on Capital Murder cases. Lord knows that they could use some lessons..

After the Lykos' decision on the Randy Sylvester case, I'm thinking lesson one should be entitled: Ass vs. Hole-in-the Ground -- Learning the Difference.

In another intriguing move, they have changed the Felony Trial Bureau from five divisions down to three. Actually, given the budget crunch, this is probably a pretty fiscally savvy move.

Major kudos go to the Administration for the promotion of Lance Long to Division Chief and putting him in the Trial Bureau. Lance is a brilliant trial attorney who has the experience to lead felony prosecutors and teach them how to try serious cases. He's a good leader because he'll lead from the front. This move was waaaaay overdue, and I'm glad to see them making it.

In some of the more "odd" (not necessarily "bad") moves, the Office has moved long-time Welfare Fraud Division Chief Carl Hobbs to head the Misdemeanor Division. I'm sure Carl will do just fine in Misdemeanor, but I don't get this move. He knows Welfare Fraud like the back of his hand from literally decades of doing it. It's a tough job that nobody else particularly wants to do. Why move Carl now?

Probably because the person they are replacing him with is none other than Division Chief Don Smyth. Don (who we are hoping will be "Judge Smyth" after November) ran against Lykos' "Chosen One" Rachel Palmer in the Republican Primary, and he beat her. My guess is that this is Lykos' subtle way of giving Don the finger for running against (and defeating) Rachel.

Other strange moves included:

- the creation of a co-Deputy Dawg of Misdemeanor by adding Justin Keiter to share with Rachel Palmer's duties. Congratulations to Keiter, who was most likely promoted because he makes Jim Leitner feel taller.

-the move of longtime appellate guru Shirley Cornelius to truancy. Truancy? Seriously? What's wrong with you people?

and the move of experienced trial lawyer Charissa Sloan to Grand Jury. By all means, if you've discovered that you have somebody who knows what she's doing in trial, please get her out of the Trial Bureau as quickly as possible.

But, all in all, it was a fairly decent round of moves for the Gang.

I guess time will tell how it all plays out.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Programming Note -- UPDATED!

This upcoming week is shaping up to be a busy one for me, but I wanted to make sure that you all are aware of a Channel 11 Programming Note.

Based on some teaser advertising, it looks like they are broadcasting an interview with everybody's favorite Public Defender, Pat Lykos, on Monday, May 10th on the 10 o'clock news, where she apparently gets angry and storms out of the interview.

Or, as I like to call it, she "pulls a Leitner".

Make sure not to miss it.

UPDATE -- Okay, I just watched the news story. I'm not sure that the statistics of the increase in No Bills is all that alarming, but the murder case profiled does seem to be worthy of a little more looking into.

But all of that takes a back seat to what an ass that Lykos made of herself.

Wow.

It was almost as if she knocked back a few Jack and Cokes before the interview.

Was she trying to be cute by making Greenblatt state his name, or is that how she handles everybody who questions what she is doing?

Is "Greenblatt Math" really all that confusing for her? It seemed pretty damn straight-forward to me.

And a "urinating contest"? Really Pat? Are you afraid to say "pissing"? You are the one who once called Judge Bacon a f*ck face, after all.

Wow. You really made a fool out of yourself on that one.

Good job.

You can link to the article by click here.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Father's Day

Did they run to him with open arms?

He was their father, after all. The man who gave them life.

Did they feel safe enough around him that they felt no need to let their mother know they were going with him?

He was their father, after all. The man who should love them with all his heart.

Did they feel they were safe in his arms?

He was their father, after all. The man who should do everything in his power to protect them.

Did they think twice about leaving with him?

He was their father, after all. And it was Father's Day. The day where we celebrate all those wonderful qualities of a father, and thank him for encouraging, loving, and protecting us as we grow into adulthood.

But on Father's Day of 2008, whatever feelings of safety, attachment, and love that 7-year-old Randy Sylvester, Jr. and his 3-year-old sister, Denim Sylvester, felt for their father, Randy Terrell Sylvester, it is now most assuredly safe to say that those feelings were very much misplaced.

On Father's Day of 2008, when Randy, Jr. and Denim ran to their father's arm, they ran to the arms of a monster who would betray them.

Murder them.

Desecrate their bodies.

They were kidnapped from their mother's apartment complex, and a community joined together to search for them.

But the search was futile. Randy Terrell Sylvester had already murdered his own children and burned their bodies to the point that the Medical Examiner's Office could only determine that they had been murdered -- but couldn't tell anyone how specifically.

What went through their minds when they realized what he was doing?

Confusion? Sadness? Terror?

My mind leads me away from even thinking about what the last moments of their short lives were like.

As Sylvester lied to the police and said drug dealers kidnapped and murdered his children, he ultimately admitted to community activist Quanell X that he had done the killings himself.

And by admitting that, he showed us all that he was a monster.

He was charged with Capital Murder under the Old Administration, and in reality, he could have been tried for that four times over:
-murder in the course of committing the kidnapping of Randy Sylvester, Jr.
-murder in the course of committing the kidnapping of Denim Sylvester.
-murder of Denim Sylvester, a child under six years of age.
-the murder of two individuals, Randy Sylvester, Jr. and Denim Sylvester in the same occurrence.

If the standard for whether or not a District Attorney's Office should seek death is whether or not the crime they have committed "shocked the conscience", then surely there would be no better candidate for lethal injection than a monster such as Randy Sylvester.

A crime that united a community in horror and outrage deserved nothing less than the ultimate punishment, wouldn't you agree?

Certainly, those of us who follow death penalty cases felt that Mr. Sylvester was absolutely a sure-fire lock for receiving lethal injection. Twelve reasonable minds could never disagree on such a certainty, could they?

We'll never know.

Today, the Pat Lykos Administration allowed the murderer of 7-year-old Randy Sylvester, Jr. and his 3-year-old sister, Denim, to plead to life in prison.

A monster's life was spared.

Why?

I'm at a complete loss to even begin to think of reasons why Pat Lykos thought it was a life-worthy case.

How do you ever seek the death penalty again in Harris County with any credibility after a decision like that? Was it because the children were black? Was it because Sylvester claimed he was insane? Were you just scared of losing a big case?

Lykos never thought very highly of this case. If you'll remember, she snubbed prosecutor Stephen St. Martin when the FBI presented him with an award for his work on it.

The Lykos Administration has violated the Public's Trust with this decision.

It's a dereliction of duty that proves that Pat Lykos and anyone else involved with encouraging the decision to not seek the death penalty on Sylvester have absolutely no business calling themselves prosecutors.

As you go to sleep tonight, say a prayer for Denim and Randy Sylvester, Jr.

Hug your children if you have them.

Tell them they are safe and you'll never let anyone hurt them.

If you are of the forgiving mind, say a prayer for the soul of Randy Sylvester, Sr.

And maybe even one for Pat Lykos, too.