Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Lisa Falkenberg's Column on Transparency and Retaliation

There's a good article from Lisa Falkenberg in today's print edition of the Chronicle regarding the ongoing dispute between the Harris County District Attorney's Office and Amanda Culbertson, formerly of the HPD Crime Lab.  I will link to it when it comes online.

The long-story-short is that Harris County has apparently had a contract for twenty years with Lone Star College for the testing and maintenance of the instruments used to test breath test results.  Earlier this year, Amanda Culbertson told officials that the Mobile "B.A.T. vans" that have intoxilyzers in them were not reliable, thus jeopardizing numerous DWI cases where they were used.  Her findings were documented in e-mails within HPD, and defense counsel Brent Mayr had filed a Writ in March of this year alleging Brady violations for withholding that information.

Fast forward to July, when defense attorneys Dane Johnson and Jordan Lewis find themselves in trial on another B.A.T. van case, where a trial case had to be continued mid-trial when prosecutors claim that this is the first time they've heard of these allegations.  As noted in the article by the Chronicle's Brian Rogers and Anita Hassan, Amanda Culbertson stated she left the HPD Crime Lab over her reports of the B.A.T. van problems and moved to Lone Star College, where she continued in her duties for a different agency.  Rather than being the chemist for HPD, she is now doing it for Lone Star, which does the supervising of those intoxilyzers used by the Harris County Sheriff's Office and other county agencies.

Apparently incensed that Culbertson had called into question the H.P.D. cases, the County is now trying to suddenly cancel that contract with Lone Star.  You can draw your own conclusions as to whether or not that move was in response to their new employee -- Amanda Culbertson.

As Lisa points out in the article, Lykos and Crew over at the D.A.'s Office are attempting to play the "who me?" card on what has inspired the termination of the contract, acting as if this was a move made by County Commissioners without the Office's involvement.  However, this seems to fly in the face of logic under the circumstances.  At the last Commissioners' Court meeting on the subject, ADA Rachel Palmer, who is the Deputy Chief of the Misdemeanor Division (which handles the vast majority of DWI cases for the Office) was in attendance when the matter was addressed.

To top things off, there have been rumblings and threats from the D.A.'s Office about looking into whether or not they could indict Culbertson for perjury.

Lisa's column is a great one, but I think we are just hitting the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this story.

Sound a little retaliatory yet?

My friend and fellow blogger, Paul Kennedy, pointed out yesterday in his blog that he was somewhat perturbed at the rush to defend Amanda Culbertson and other members of Lone Star College by the defense bar, arguing that it gave them credibility on future cases in advance.  I understand his position, but I think at some point there may need to be a weighing of the evils involved here.

Defense attorneys standing up for a whistleblower witness that is risking her livelihood to testify about faulty evidence that affects hundreds of cases is the right thing to do, even if it means having to begrudgingly admit that you find her credible down the road.

The dangers of a District Attorney's Office that will literally go after that same whistleblowing witness like John Gotti after Sammy "the Bull" Gravano is a much more alarming proposition, in my opinion.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Today Lisa Falkenberg asks "Where is honesty,transparency now?". News flash Lisa it remains where it has always been for Team Lycos, non-existent!

Anonymous said...

"Bullying is an act of repeated aggressive behavior in order to intentionally hurt another person, physically or mentally. Bullying is characterized by an individual behaving in a certain way to gain power over another person..."

Pat Lykos is a bully. That is her leadership style and all that she knows.

Pat Lykos was known as a bully when she was a judge and is known as a bully since being DA.

The problem with bullies, inter alia, is that they delude themselves into believing that all potential conflicts are subordinate to their oppressive will.

Bullies feed on fear and cowardness; so the best way to deal with bullies is to stand up to their arrogance.......

Anonymous said...

Glad to see you keep this one above the belt, even if your two posters so far can't. You will gain more credibility by pointing out the problems in that office in general without all the Lykos bashing than you would going back to the good ol' days where Lykos was every third word you typed.

However, your duty as a defense lawyer is to your existing clients. You can't fail to take advantage of something that will help your current clients because it may hurt a future client, to whom you have no duty. That's how the Plaintiff's bar thinks--systemically, they will tank certain cases because they know that on appeal a certain result will hurt their future cases.

There is no choice between two evils. You do what you can for every client. Period.

Rage

Anonymous said...

So Rage you actually disagree with anons 10:19 and 8:55???????

And all this time I thought truth was an absolute defense--you of all people should agree with that, right? I mean with all your talk about duty, honor, truth and all I really believed in you man. I guess Art Seton was right about you being a fraud.

Anonymous said...

Murray - give ADA Palmer a break. There are many reasons why Rachel would attend a Commissioner's Court meeting far removed from her position as Deputy Chief of the Misdemeanor Division as it relates to the DAs interest in the Breath Alcohol Testing Services conttract. Her top 10 reasons for attending that meeting:
10. To kickoff her next campaign
9. For a photo op for the next issue of Paper City
8. To look, feel & act important
7. To show off her newest outfit
6. So she can say she was "on the Commissioner's Court" during her next campaign
5. She was hobnobbing with the Who's Who of Harris County
4. To ensure Don Hooper behaved himself at the meeting
3. Representing the Junior League - promoting the "potential of women" in support of Amanda
2. To solicit her divisions new DWI PRE-PRE trial/arrest diversion program
1. Her HCDA badge was missing and she could not come to work

Anonymous said...

Frankly those of us who went to TDCAA are amazed that Durfee was able to respond. We figured that his jaw would still be sore after his interaction with Nick Lykos during Durfee's presentation on open records.

Anonymous said...

Murray, this story is also very different from the DNA saga at the begining of this century. Prosecutors never went to the crime lab to watch tests being performed. THey merely relied on the purported results.

Lykos assistant DA's were in the vans out in the field when they were in use. Don't you think some of them knew about the problems? If they did, which supervisors did they tell? Which of those supervisors did nothing?

I think this whole thing is ripe for a grand jury investigation.

Anonymous said...

Lykos' reaction to Ms. Culberson's testimony is nothing new; it happens all the time. This is just one of the first times as DA that her behind-the-scenes retaliation has been so obvious. Since being elected DA, she has usually managed to camouflage her under-handed actions, i.e., firings, demotions, suspensions, against anyone who she deems as being an enemy. When she was a District Court Judge, she had a history of either firing or causing resignations of her court personnel on a regular basis. The only difference now is she has over 500 'minions' she can toy with at will.

Anonymous said...

I was wondering whether or not Nick Lykos and Pat Lykos shared a room at the Bates Motel?

Anonymous said...

Changing the vendor doesn't solve the problems with the vans, the AC defects, the maintenance deficiencies, the insufficient county employee oversight, etc. If I understand things correctly, the deficiencies had nothing to do with Lone Star Contract. The DA's office is clueless if they think they have resolved a "problem". The defense attorney's may keep Wong, Culbertson and others VERY busy...

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 6:28

Stop trying to confuse the Administration with the facts.

Anonymous said...

12:44, I can't even tell what you're saying.

Rage

Anonymous said...

6:28, the HCDAO has not tried to fix any problem in the last 20 years. They prosecute in spite of them, with full knowledge of them, every time.

But what they have done is enabled their argument to impeach Culbertson in the future. Every time she gets up and testifies that the BAT vans are questionable, they'll just get up there and say "Aren't you really doing this to retaliate against the HCDAO for canceling your contract with San Jacinto?"

And the juries will eat it up.

Rage

Anonymous said...

Hmmm.. Brent Mayr was in those vans more that any ADA has been. He claims he knew nothing about any problems and did numerous interviews talking about how great they were. Does it seem a little odd that the same attorneys that fight tooth and nail to toss a breath test are now trying to keep the people they fight against?? Not to mention that Culbertson is being paid for defense work now too. She is probably more guilty than anyone after her statement that she thought they were faulty for more than a year before she left HPD. She is not a whistle blower, she is pissed that she was not made the lab supervisor just like when she was "released" from the ME's office. The HCSO van is exactly like the one HPD uses, and now has the same people maintaining it so shouldn't we expect the same problems??

Anonymous said...

I was wondering if Pat Lykos was ever a tenant at the 8 Mile Road Mobile Court(Eminem)?

Anonymous said...

re: Rage 3:03

Nick, your ignorance and panties are really showing when you claim that "the DA's Office hasn't tried to fix anything in the last 20 years". Prior to your sister taking office, the John Holmes years are legend for vigorously prosecuting guilty defendants. More importantly, he had more integrity in his little finger than the current administration has in the whole bodies of Lykos and the other tag-alongs she drug in with her.

Anonymous said...

Is Nick Lykos still on the Harris County payroll? I wonder why he wasn't given a work furlough by Dr. Dick Raycraft.