This morning's edition, however, has a column in it from Rick Casey that (as of this writing) still hasn't hit the on-line edition, so I guess for once, it at least helped me get a head start on writing a post. The title of Casey's column nearly made me laugh out loud. It read:
My Fantasy: Siegler puts DA on trial.
Now, nevermind the fact that Freud could have a Field Day with Mr. Casey based on the title alone, I was still shocked to see Casey write something that could even remotely be considered complimentary of Kelly Siegler. Let's face facts, the Houston Chronicle wouldn't say nice things about Kelly if she took a dinner spoon, dug a mile into the earth, and rescued 33 Chilean miners completely by herself.
Kelly Siegler represents to the Chronicle and its staff something that they disapprove of: an "aggressive" prosecutor. One who actually knows her job and the law, and enforces it to the best of her ability, regardless of public perception. For some reason, we live in a city where the local newspaper treats the profession of prosecution with same resentment of a high school senior who got caught spiking punch by his teacher.
And in the world of those kill-joy prosecutors, there was never anyone better at it than Kelly.
But damn, what to do when Kelly actually is pointing her accusations at the actions of another prosecutor?
One like Charles Sebesta who truly broke the law, pressured and manipulated witnesses, and sent a factually innocent man to Death Row. A guy who decided that the preliminary readings of a high-profile case were enough to demand prosecution in his small town county, and then bent the facts to meet his theory of guilt. Someone who clearly didn't know what he was doing, but wanted to look good while doing it in the public perception.
Well, then, Rick Casey guesses it would be okay if Kelly were to prosecute somebody like Sebesta. I guess, in Casey's mind, as long as she were feeding on one of her own profession, then it would be okay to let her do her job.
The reality of the situation, however, is that Casey is just finally acknowledging something that most prosecutors have always felt, and that is that bad prosecutors like Charles Sebesta are hated even more by other prosecutors than they are hated by the general public. Prosecutors like Sebesta (and Mike Nifong before him) give prosecutors ulcers because they rock the credibility of prosecutors everywhere.
And yes, before somebody else points it out, Chuck Rosenthal gave all prosecutors a pretty big kick in the crotch with his actions, too.
My point is that while Casey and the Chronicle staffers loved taking potshots at Kelly Siegler when she was running for D.A. because she was too "aggressive", they would suddenly love to have her back to prosecute somebody like Sebesta. It is almost like they are suddenly getting a perspective on what it is like to be a victim of crime and hoping you have a good prosecutor trying it.
And don't get me wrong, an "aggressive" prosecutor is not necessarily synonymous with a "good prosecutor".
But the biggest fallacy in logic that the Chronicle always seemed to make was that being a good prosecutor was mutually exclusive from being an aggressive one as well.
Kelly was always both, and I know that the actions of prosecutors like Sebesta, Nifong, and even Rosenthal made her sick to her stomach. In all the criminals she prosecuted over the years, I can guarantee you that she has much more contempt in her heart for Charles Sebesta than for, say, Susan Wright.
I'm sure that based on this post, I will get my usual taunts from folks like Rage and Grits, pointing out that a defense attorney such as myself shouldn't have any clients since I'm so pro-prosecution.
Yeah, you know what, I'll admit it. I'm very pro-good prosecution. Even when it is aggressive.
I will sing the praises of a good prosecutor who knows the law and knows the facts of his or her case. One who doesn't hide the truth or try to twist the law. One who will sign a dismissal when the facts or even compassion calls for it on one case, and then will turn around and seek the death penalty in the next one. One who, at the ends of the day, strives to do what is right, and isn't even afraid to do it aggressively.
I'm a defense attorney and the job of defending is on me. Dealing with a good prosecutor makes my life and my job easier, believe it or not. Even when that prosecutor is telling me things I don't want to hear. I can't change the facts of my cases, but I'll always respect a good fight with a good prosecutor who I trust.
And for the record, there are still many many good prosecutors left in the Harris County D.A.'s Office.
It strikes me as sad how much disdain the Chronicle had for Kelly Siegler during her 2008 campaign for District Attorney. I never quite understood why they thought Kelly's aggressiveness made her somehow less worthy of the job than a career-politician who was more adept at saying things the public wanted to hear. You would have thought that city newspaper folks would have dug a little deeper into what really makes a truly good District Attorney.
Who is truly the better candidate to be a District Attorney? A pandering politician or an "aggressive" prosecutor?
I'm sure that today Anthony Graves wishes he had an aggressive prosecutor like Kelly Siegler back in 1992.