Tonight was Felony Chief Prosecutor Jon Stephenson's going away party. Although Jon wasn't a headline-grabbing prosecutor, he was highly respected amongst his peers and the defense bar as a fair, honorable and reasonable man who truly embodied the meaning of a Public Servant.
The reason I entitled this blog "The Perils of Blogging" is that there were so many former prosecutors who turned out for Jon's party that had left the D.A.'s Office in recent months and I failed to write something on this blog commemorating and commending the work they did on behalf of Harris County. Faces in the crowd that I saw were Kate Skagerburg, Leah Shapiro, and Brad Loper, to name a few. Scott Pope and Bill Hawkins were unable to attend, but I remembered that I failed to give them a salute on their departure as well.
Quite frankly, the reason I was remiss in doing an "office obituary" for those former prosecutors (and I'm sure several others that I'm forgetting to name at the moment) is for two reasons. The first and foremost being that y'all are leaving the Office so fast that I can't keep up. The other one being that I've just been busy. On top of my workload, my Little Man started kindergarten three weeks ago (he's only gotten two notes home from the teacher thus far) and I got engaged to My Favorite Editor from New York. So, my social calendar has been slightly pre-occupied over the past couple of months.
To those of you who took the job as an Assistant District Attorney and have left recently, please accept my profuse apologies for not giving you the credit you deserve with an individual write up.
As a prosecutor, I was honored to work alongside you.
As a defense attorney, I was greatly appreciative of the reasonable, intelligent, and well-intentioned way in which you handled the cases I had against you.
I've been trying to tone down my rants against the Pat Lykos Administration over time. At some point, I realized that my railing against her may ultimately make Ted Kazcynski seem even-handed.
But I cannot ignore the fact that some really damn good people have left the Office this year that probably wouldn't have under other circumstances.
Lykos and Crew have gotten some great publicity over the past year for some big cases -- Michael Anthony Green being the most prominent of them. She's flown to England to be honored for her non-death-seeking-stance, and she has basked in the glory. The public has applauded her for it.
But what the public doesn't realize is the value of the damage she has done by causing the mass exodus that she has. They will never appreciate -- and the media will never write a story about -- those prosecutors that made the correct, reasonable, and often merciful decision on those day-to-day cases that can truly make a difference in a person's life.
A rank and file prosecutor will never ever ever be recognized for:
-- offering a misdemeanor deferred on a young person accused of a felony;
-- going to bat for a kid who deserves a pre-trial diversion;
-- simply acknowledging that a case cannot legally be made and dismissing it, despite the angry rantings of a Complainant or an arresting officer;
-- pushing forward on a case that needs to be tried, even if the defendant is buddies with someone in the upper administration; OR
-- fading the heat for someone you supervise if they made a rookie mistake.
But the good prosecutors do (or did) that all. They did it thanklessly. They did it despite a fear of retribution from an Office where public appearance was everything, and there was a threat of retribution for something that would falter in the court of public opinion.
Yes, there will always be big name cases where the spotlight shines brightly and adoringly on the D.A.'s Office . . .
But the real test of character is what one does when the spotlight isn't on them.
For all of you that I mentioned earlier (and the ones I forgot), you deserve a standing ovation for the things you had the courage and character to do during your time at the Office when the spotlight wasn't on you. I'm sorry I got behind in my blogging duties.
For those of us in the trenches every day -- either on the defense side or the prosecution side -- you had (and continue to have) the ultimate respect of your peers.
You did your job and changed many lives for the better based on the simple mantra of "just do the right thing".
Although the general public may not realize it, the Harris County District Attorney's Office is much worse off after your departure.