Friday, December 30, 2011

Lykos 2011: A Year in Review

JANUARY

January 12th – An Amber Alert for Clint Greenwood is cancelled after he is found safely in his office on the 6th floor.  The alert had been issued on January 2nd when he left for work and then was not heard from.  Greenwood explained that it always takes him 10 days to get to work.

FEBRUARY

February 10th- An infuriated Pat Lykos denounces the release of a video of HPD officers beating a handcuffed and surrendering teenager, Chad Holley, to local media.  Although having campaigned on the platform of “transparency,” she declares that there are some things that the public should never get to see – kind of like they should never get to see her ever actually going to trial, having integrity, etc.

February 16th – An attempted morale boosting exercise on the part of Misdemeanor Chief John Jordan goes horribly awry when local media learn of a reward system for guilty verdicts secured from misdemeanor prosecutors.  The reward of an afternoon of bowling meets with little complaint from the rank and file; however, the punishment of “Seven Minutes of Heaven” in a closet with Lykos for losing prosecutors causes an uproar.

MARCH

March 1st – Daycare worker Jessica Tata flees the country to Nigeria before the District Attorney’s Office will agree to file charges on her for the deaths of four children in her care during a house fire.  D.A. Lykos angrily denounces HFD’s Fire Marshal for not filing charges earlier once she realizes that Tata’s frequent flier miles are not transferable to her in an asset forfeiture.

March 19th – Pat Lykos amends the District Attorney’s Operations Manual to include a guideline on how ADAs must conduct themselves if participating in any campaigns during the 2012 elections.  Rule Number One is that no candidate may speak of any affiliation with Pat Lykos and the District Attorney’s Office.  Yeah.  Seriously.  Apparently the First Rule of Pat Lykos is that there IS no Pat Lykos.

March 21st – Jessica Tata is apprehended in Nigeria.  She insists that she had not fled the country to avoid prosecution; rather, she had just “carpooled in” with Clint Greenwood, and it always takes him ten days to get from his house to the courthouse.

March 25th – In response to mandatory budget cuts, the Lykos Administration tightens its belt on fiscal matters.  Several prosecutors and Administrative Assistants are terminated, and the solid gold statue of Lykos for the front lobby is trimmed down from 10 feet tall to a life-sized statue of 5’1.

March 29th – County Court at Law # 4 Judge John Clinton finds himself in hot water for ordering conditions of probation that involve going to church, thus violating the separation between Church and State.  A supportive Pat Lykos rallies to Judge Clinton’s defense, pointing out that all of her upper-Administration are required to worship her or be burned at the stake, as dictated in the Bible.

APRIL

April 10th – Another Amber Alert for Clint Greenwood is cancelled when he is found safely in his office.  Greenwood had last been seen on April 1st when he left the office to go to lunch.  Greenwood explains that it always takes him 10 days to get back to the office after lunch.

April 23rd – After years of telling the Harris County Criminal Justice System how to do its job, Houston Chronicle columnist Rick Casey finally does a little background research and goes to jury duty.  He points out that all jurors that are struck for cause are “conscientious objectors against the war on drugs.”  Furthermore, based on the body language he is reading from the judge and the prosecutor, he can tell they oppose the drug war, too.  Then he remembers that he may have eaten one of his “special brownies” for breakfast.  This is further evidenced by the fact that the case he was observing was a traffic ticket appeal.

MAY

May 27th – Pat Lykos hires Heather Ramsey Cook as Office’s new “Community Liason” officer, in lieu of hiring actual prosecutors to work at the Office.  Heather, who had initially come to the Office as part of the hastily assembled search party for Clint Greenwood, announces that she will be doing nothing political in her job.  Rather, she was only there to help citizens of the community communicate with Her Holiness Patricia R. Lykos, Patron Saint of Harris County.

JUNE

June 1st – A Court of Appeals reverses the Criminally Negligent Homicide conviction of Jeri Montgomery, who had been convicted of causing a fatality accident while talking on her cellular telephone.  Pat Lykos, who had previously called Montgomery “selfish and narcissistic” in the newspapers, dispatches community liaison Heather Ramsey Cook to meet with Montgomery. Heather explains that what  Lykos had meant to call her was “awesome and pretty” but got misquoted.  Furthermore, Pat hopes she can still count on Montgomery’s vote in March 2012!

June 10th – Longtime prosecutor Kevin Petroff resigns from Harris County to go to work for the Galveston County District Attorney’s Office.  Petroff explains the departure by saying that since he recently turned 16, he can now drive to Galveston on his own, without an adult passenger to supervise him on his learner’s permit.

JULY

July 17th – Yet another Amber Alert for Clint Greenwood is cancelled when he is again found safely in his Office.  Greenwood had been missing since July 7th when he was last seen going to use the restroom.  Greenwood explained that it always takes him 10 days to get back to his office after using the restroom.

AUGUST

August 1st – Allegations that HPD’s mobile “B.A.T. vans” are unreliable begin to pick up steam as possible Brady material in DWI cases.  The District Attorney’s Office remains unconcerned about the allegations, telling younger prosecutors, “It isn’t ‘Brady’ if nobody knows about it, now is it?”

August 3rd – Defense attorney and proud veteran Pat McCann has his head shaved in the 228th District Court, honoring a bet with participants in Veterans’ Court.  McCann had not shaved nor had a haircut in the 10 months preceding.  Local blogger Murray Newman is seen sweeping up the hair on the floor and heading back to his office with the hair and a bottle of super glue.

August 19th – A video from Jersey Village high school days hits the internet, with a then-17-year-old Todd Dupont performing in a music video to the tune of Madonna’s Vogue.  A visibly rattled Dupont says,  “Oh thank God, it was just that video.  I was scared a different one was going to be released.”

SEPTEMBER

September 6th – Longtime columnist for the Houston Chronicle, Rick Casey, leaves the newspaper.  Apparently writing columns with little to no research had become too exhausting.

September 7th – Legendary icon of the Harris County Criminal Justice System, Rayford Carter passes away after a lengthy illness.   His passing officially makes Pat Lykos the oldest and most cantankerous defense attorney in the building.

September 28th – Local defense attorney and Botox aficionado Brian Wice writes a controversial editorial in the Houston Chronicle criticizing prosecutors’ reactions to a Not Guilty verdict in the Michael Brown trial.  Wice’s original editorial, entitled “Hey!  I Was One of the Defense Attorneys On That Case Too!” was scrapped after fact checkers for the Chronicle could not confirm that it was Wice’s bald spot that appeared next to lead counsel Dick DeGeurin in all of the media coverage.

OCTOBER

October 4th – The Harris County District Attorney’s Office lobbies to have Lone Star College’s contract with the county (for testing Intoxilyzers) cancelled after learning that former-HPD chemist Amanda Culbertson now works for them.  Lykos denies that the cancelling of the contract was retaliation for Culbertson whistle-blowing on the HPD “B.A.T." vans.  She also denies that cancelling her cable subscription was motivated because “Comcast still has that damn Channel 13 with that jackass Oberg” as part of their line-up.

October 21st – The 185th Grand Jury kicks Harris County prosecutors out of the room as they hear from witnesses regarding the B.A.T. van scandal.  Lykos and Crew angrily insist that there is a conspiracy of people out to get her because “they don’t like her.”  She then identifies the people involved in the conspiracy as Judge Mike Anderson, Judges Marc and Susan Brown, the defense bar, and 99.9% of the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.

October 24th – Pat Lykos is caught trying to mislead ABC 13’s Ted Oberg in an interview, stating that she had never heard of any BAT van problems “from HPD’s crime lab.”  When called out on her deception, Lykos tries the old “Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct” maneuver, which fails miserably.  (NOTE:  Seriously, go back and watch the video of the interview.  It’s disturbing.)

October 26th – Numerous prosecutors from the Harris County District Attorney’s Office are subpoenaed to appear before the 185th Grand Jury.  District Attorney Pat Lykos refuses to go unless allowed to bring a “comfort item” while testifying.  That comfort item?  A carton of Camel filterless cigarettes.

NOVEMBER

November 2nd – Pat Lykos testifies to the Grand Jury that she never sought to have Amanda Culbertson fired from Lone Star College for retaliatory reasons.  She also denies that the reason she attempted to have Ted Oberg fired from Channel 13 and Murray Newman fired from the Law Offices of Murray Newman was retaliatory, either.

November 7th – Prosecutors Carl Hobbs and Steve Morris are brought before the 185th District Court on a Show Cause hearing to explain why they were in possession of highly confidential Grand Jury transcripts from a proceeding that the District Attorney’s Office had been recused from.  Pat Lykos denies having anything to do with the unfortunate event and quickly cancels her idea to add G. Gordon Liddy and E. Howard Hunt to the D.A. Office payroll.

November 29th – Numerous police unions including HPD’s and the HCSO’s hold a press conference to announce that they have “No confidence” in District Attorney Pat Lykos.  An angry Pat Lykos denounces the Unions as being part of the ever-growing “conspiracy” of people out to get her, which now includes Judge Mike Anderson, Judges Marc and Susan Brown, the Defense Bar, 99.9% of the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, Girl Scout Troops 3-17, her 3rd cousin, Barney Lykos, and Rick, the guy who gives out M&Ms in front of the courthouse.

November 30th – Judge Mike Anderson announces his candidacy for Harris County District Attorney.  An office memo from the Gang Who Couldn’t Shoot Straight is issued to the rest of the office, stating: “You better not let us catch any of you bastards smiling about this.”
In a related story, local blogger Murray Newman ponders the future of his blog if the D.A.’s Office is no longer run by a mean, ignorant, power-mad politician who gives him so much material to write about on a daily basis.

DECEMBER
December 13th – A second Grand Jury asks for a Special Prosecutor to assist in investigating allegations of wrong-doing by Pat Lykos’ Harris County District Attorney’s Office.  An angry Lykos adds 232nd Judge Mary Lou Keel to her list of people out to get her, along with the Police Unions, Judge Mike Anderson, Judges Marc and Susan Brown, the Defense Bar, 99.9% of the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, Girl Scout Troops 3-17, her 3rd cousin, Barney Lykos, Rick, the guy who gives out M&Ms in front of the courthouse, Nick Lykos, the Reverend Billy Graham, and an actual partridge in a pear tree.

December 19th – In an effort to keep from having to testify to the 185th Grand Jury, Assistant District Attorney Rachel Palmer invokes her 5th Amendment and subsequently files a Motion to Recuse Judge Susan Brown.  Palmer’s attorney, Clay Rawlings asks to continue the hearing for ten days to provide ADA Clint Greenwood his customary ten days needed to arrive at the courthouse so that he can testify.

December 21st – Fresh off of being told by Judge Susan Brown that she did not have to talk to the 185th Grand Jury, Rachel Palmer heads down to Channel 11 to talk to them.  In the interview, Palmer explains that the reason she invoked her 5th Amendment rights in front of the Grand Jury had nothing to do with retaliating against Amanda Culbertson.  In actuality, Palmer states she just didn’t want to explain why she declared “sick time” on her time sheet when she was really in Dallas for a Hello Kitty Fan Club convention.

December 25th – After a lackluster Christmas, Pat Lykos adds Santa Claus to the list of conspirators out to get her because they don’t like her.  As evidence of this conspiracy, Lykos provides photographs of Santa meeting with several members of Girl Scout Troops 3-17.

December 27th – In an interview with local Republican blogger David Jennings, Pat Lykos insists that she has hired somewhere between 20 and 25 new prosecutors over the past several months.  Unfortunately, all of her three media relations people (Donna Hawkins, Heather Ramsey Cook and David Benzion) had been too busy doing “other things” to announce a move by the Office that actually had something to with the administration of Criminal Justice.

December 30th – In a private ceremony held in Pat Lykos’ office on the 6th floor of the CJC, Rachel Palmer is named Employee of the Year, given the Harris County District Attorney’s Medal of Valor, and then quietly shipped off to Appellate where she can spend the day doing nothing, along with other Lykos political beneficiary Lana Shadwick.

December 31st – After learning that the 185th Grand Jury will not be meeting again until the beginning of 2012, Pat Lykos declares that the official slogan for her re-election campaign will be:  “Indictment Free Through Years One, Two and Three!”

Rachel Palmer moved to Appellate

So, after spending her first three years in the Lykos Administration at the reward position of Deputy Dawg of the Misdemeanor Division, Rachel Palmer has finally been unseated from her throne.  I guess the Lykos Administration finally decided to "punish" her for making the Office look bad by pleading the 5th.

Today, according to the Office's moves memo, Rachel is being moved to the Appellate Division.

She won't have to pull a docket or try a case.  She can have relatively flexible hours.  I wonder if they will be more flexible for Rachel than they were for Shirley Cornelius.

Perhaps she can do some legal research on when the 5th Amendment applies and when it doesn't and the admissibility of polygraph evidence.

Oh, and I've got $5 that says they use her move to Appellate as justification to give her Chief's salary in the weeks to come.

Want to see something funny?

When a person comments in on this blog, Life at the Harris County Criminal Justice Center, they can be as anonymous as they want to be.  I don't require an e-mail address or a verified identity before you can say what you want to say.  On the Chronicle Blog, however, I don't have a say in what information must be left by commenters.  When they leave a comment, they must attach an e-mail address.  It also will show their IP address to me.

As you all know, I will publish comments that I don't agree with and even those that are criticizing me.  I think that is only fair.  And, often, funny.

But I was pretty amused when I got this comment on the Chronicle blog yesterday.


Obviously, I don't agree with it and the spelling and grammar are atrocious, but I published old TJ's comment, anyway.  Note, the e-mail address, IP address, and the time.

So, I thought it was even funnier when I got this next post (which I didn't publish).


Again, note the e-mail address and IP address.  Looks like old TJ is having a bit of an identity crisis.  But, I suppose it is good that his two personalities agree, at least.  As a matter of fact, he agrees with himself so much that he came back a third time.


What cracks me up the most is that if he had posted his comments on this blog, I wouldn't have been able to tell the difference.  Whoever this mental midget is went to the one place where I could tell he was double posting under two different names.

See what I have to deal with here, people?!?!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Post on the Chronicle Blog

Yes, I do still write on the Chronicle blog occasionally.  Here is my latest post.

Thoughts from a Guest Poster

I got the following comments from a previous poster who goes by the street name of "Spunk."  The points in the comment are excellent, so I decided to make it a post on its own rather than put it in the comments section.  This is the comment in its entirety:


Before we get too far away from that matter of Rachel Palmer taking the 5th, I would like to address Rachel directly regarding her commentary, behavior and specifically her appearance with her attorneys on Channel 11 after having taken the 5th. Let us review and reflect upon the following:
1.  Rachel Palmer, this is not "about" you! In your testimony and selective interview with channel 11 you continually reference yourself, how long you have endured attacks from people on the blogs and Murray Newman himself and how tired you are of it, and blah blah blah-- it's all about you, you, you.  Do not flatter yourself, Rachel, the only reason anyone pays attention to you is because you have continued to inject yourself in controversy in your ongoing attempt to ingratiate yourself to Pat Lykos and to cover up your criminal conduct contributing to the official oppression of Amanda Culbertson, and because your husband seems hellbent on showing his backside every time he gets a chance.      
2.  Dear Media, please stop calling Rachel Palmer a "top prosecutor."  That's like calling a substitute kindergarten teacher among a bunch of college professors a 'top educator.'  In the last 3 years since Lykos took over the office Rachel has not tried a single felony, and the few she did try before then did not go very well. She is a marginal trial lawyer at best.  She has now found a comfortable place making more money than she is worth and all she does is supervise MISDEMEANORS.  She probably wouldn't have a job at all at the office if Lykos had lost.  As a victim of a violent crime, trust me, you wouldn't want Rachel Palmer advocating on your behalf.
3.  Rachel testified  that she was "scared" of Judge Susan Brown because of the way she treats her, and her only specific example was because of the way Judge Brown says "Hi, Rachel." Are you kidding me?? It has been a well known fact for a long time that from the standpoint of the prosecutor, Judge S. Brown's court is one of the best assignments in the trial bureau. She is fair, she knows the law, she is pleasant, and she is willing to go to trial on any type of case.  Clearly Rachel Palmer was not around to try cases in front of notorious hard-assed judges such as Jimmy James, Joe Keagans, and ironically, PAT LYKOS who couldn't keep a consistent staff in her court from the district clerk's office because she was so damned mean.  If all it takes to scare Rachel Palmer is the tone of one's voice when saying hello to her, she wouldn't have lasted 10 minutes in Judge Pat Lykos' court. I am embarrassed to have ever been in the same occupational class with someone so soft and weak as Rachel Palmer.
4. What is Rachel Palmer (or anyone else) really saying when she asserts the 5th Amendment? Rachel is saying this: I am refusing to answer the questions because if I do, either I will have to admit I that have already committed a crime, OR the truthful answer I am required to give will itself contitute a crime (Aggravated Perjury).  Whether there is a vast conspiracy or not to unseat Pat Lykos, the fact remains that Rachel Palmer is telling the world that either she has committed a crime for which she may yet be indicted or she has already committed or will commit perjury if she answers the questions.  DOESN'T THAT BOTHER ANYONE IN THE LYKOS ADMINISTRATION AND WHAT DOES IT SAY ABOUT THEM IF IT DOESN'T?   What has Rachel said or done that constitutes a crime, and who is she covering for besides herself?  I hope the media and the public understands this about Rachel and Lykos.
5. What's in those emails, Rachel?  I hope everyone noticed that during the interview with channel 11, Rachel's attorney Clay Rawlins had a stack of some "2000" emails of Rachel's subpoenaed by the grand jury, and he said something to the effect that with so many emails it is understandable that she might have made a mistake in them.  WHAT MISTAKE??  Why didn't you read it to us?   And Clay, maybe you ought to ask Chuck Rosenthal how well the 'mistake' defense works when emails are subpoenaed and used against you.    
6.  Under ANY other previous administration, Rachel, a prosecutor like you taking the 5th amendment would have been swiftly and unceremoniously FIRED.  It was a policy of Mr. Holmes that, even if you are factually 'innocent'/or not guilty or not culpable or whatever, you as an employee of the Harris County  District Attorney's Office could expect to be fired for failing to cooperate in any way with a law enforcement investigation of any kind, constitutional rights be damned! Before Lykos, prosecutors were very aware, up front, that they are not mere citizens who possess those basic constitutional rights like everyone else.  We were held to a higher standard of conduct.  For example, if an Asst. DA got stopped for suspicion of DWI but was in fact not intoxicated, that Asst. DA would still be fired if the investigating officer asked him/her to take a breath test and he/she refused, despite the fact that any other ordinary citizen has a right to refuse a breath test.  Why?  Because prosecutors are an arm of law enforcement and as such, seekers of the truth, not hiders of it. Surely the public does not want a DA's Office with prosecutors who strutinize ordinary citizens everyday who are hiding facts which will incriminate them while simultaneously those same prosecutors are taking the 5th amendment any time they themselves want to avoid answering incriminating questions.
7.  More to the point, Rachel, if you have nothing to hide, then why can't you answer the questions?  Jim Leitner said to the media that he would be "hard pressed" to discipline an employee for exercising a constitutional right.  Despite whatever experience he may have, it is clear that Mr. Leitner is first and foremost still a criminal defense attorney at heart and in practice.  Rachel Palmer does have a right to take the 5th, but she doesn't have a constitutional right to do so and remain employed at the DA's Office. She remains employed at the will and pleasure of Pat Lykos.  Keeping her so employed has rendered the Harris County DA's Office the Harris County Hypocritical DA's Office.  Rachel, why don't you and your constitutional rights take a hike?
The level of hypocrisy is ridiculous.  Wasn't Jim Leitner one of the same set of prosecutors who decided to get a copy of the transcript of witness testimony in grand jury despite his knowledge that Judge Brown and a court of appeals had ruled that grand jury may proceed without a member of the District Attorney's Office present, and despite his knowledge and understanding that Judge Brown did not grant him permission to get that transcript and in fact had told him not to do so?  Yet a couple weeks later, apparently with Jim Leitner and the DA's Offices blessings, when Rachel Palmer gets herself cornered by incriminating questions, she refuses to answer media's questions and attempts to school Ted Oberg by stating, "You know that's not an appropriate question...grand jury proceedings are secret."  Nauseating.
There is no vast conspiracy to unseat Pat Lykos (she brought this all on herself) but boy there ought to be because she has no respect for the law or anyone besides herself.  There was a rumor that on the day Rachel spoke to Channel 11 with her attorneys and Leitner spoke to Ted Oberg that Pat Lykos told certain staff members that there was 'going to be a press conference,' and she was 'going to make everything right.' When are you going to speak to the media yourself, Pat? You can't hide forever.  And putting Rachel and Leitner out there sure didn't make anything 'right.'  
-Spunk

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Big Jolly and Me

Before I get into explaining how very wrong my friend, Dave Jennings AKA Big Jolly, is about some of the things he has posted over on his blog, I want to make something very clear.

David Jennings is a good man who is doing more than 99.999% of the population when it comes to educating himself on who he votes for and whom he recommends that others vote for.  I may not always agree with his decisions [see below], but I respect him and the rules that he plays by.  In a comment on my last post, he pointed out that he hated personal attacks on candidates and he had done more than the readers know to stop Terry Lowry's personal attacks on Kelly Siegler.  That is the truth, folks.

And just because I disagree with him doesn't change that.

Now, let me tell you [and him] how wrong he is.

1.  To start out with, Dave, you need to work a little bit on not being so sensitive.  When I posted this article about the Other 95%, I was trying to point out the simple fact that those of us who worked around the CJC have a better working knowledge of Pat Lykos than those who meet her at political functions.  In response, you seem to think I called you an "ignoramus" according to this post and that you were suffering my "wrath" for disagreeing with me.  Give me a break.

Would you select a heart surgeon for yourself or your loved one because you met a doctor at a cocktail party and thought they had good social graces?  Of course not.  You would want to talk to people that knew the job required of a heart surgeon and had actual experience with dealing with them.  Let's say that you narrowed the choice down to two potential surgeons.  One of them was reviled as being a terrible surgeon by all the medical personnel who knew her.  The other was highly respected by all the medical personnel.  Who would you pick?  That was all that I was trying to point out in that article.

2.  You call Don Hooper a "friend"?  Really?  Well, I gotta give you credit for making a public announcement on something really unpopular.

Ever since Hooper latched onto Rachel Palmer, he has done nothing but court controversy with his juvenile (and occasionally borderline criminal) antics.  Did you ever go back to the comments section of this post from the 2010 election?  That's your "friend" Hooper typing under my name.  I suppose if I had his life, I would want to adopt other identities as well.

He still does it on the Chronicle comments section and on your blog, as well.  It is one thing to post anonymously, but something else to claim to be another person.  Nobody was complaining that he revealed the name of the Grand Jury foreperson on the Chronicle site.  What was in bad taste was making posts as if he were her.

I share your distaste for Terry Lowry and his methods of campaigning, but Hooper makes him look like an Amish Buddhist Monk that has taken a vow of silence by comparison.  Talk to Edward Porter about Hooper confronting him at a polling location and then telling people that Porter had a gun (he didn't).

Couple that with the "badging" scandal that arose when he borrowed his then-fiancee's badge to go harass some neighbors.  Pat Lykos never looked into the possibility that he might have committed a criminal offense like Impersonating a Public Servant.  Rather, she vigorously hunted down any Assistant District Attorney who might have run the HPD offense report to learn what happened.

I guess everybody needs a friend, Dave, but damn.

3.  Let's get back on pace and talk about your "puff piece" on Lykos.  Yes, you have a valid point when you say that you wrote a similarly easy-going article on Mike Anderson with this article, but dude, after accusing him of being a liar and a conspirator in the 185th Grand Jury, you kind of owed the man.  Seriously.

My issue with the piece you did on Lykos was that it seemed to be devoid of the critical thinking that you normally possess when you write.  I don't know whether it was a favor to your former colleague from Lone Star Times, David Benzion, or what, but didn't you think that it was just the slightest bit suspicious that Lykos had been hiding from mainstream media all month, yet comes out of her spider hole to do an interview with a blogger?  I'm stunned that she didn't call me!

How did that phone call go exactly?  Something like this?

   BENZION:  Hey Dave!  Long time, no see!  Did you see that I gave you a shout out on www.lonestartimes.com when I shut it down?
   BIG JOLLY:  I sure did.  Thanks for that!  Where are you working now?
   BENZION:  Well, I just started this week doing PR for the Pat Lykos Administration.
   BIG JOLLY:  Ouch.
   BENZION:  Ouch is right.  All these damn reporter types like that asshole Ted Oberg are trying to act like she and her upper Administration are a bunch of crooks.
   BIG JOLLY:  Yikes.  What do they want you to do about it?
   BENZION:  I'm trying to find a news agency that will give her a positive story.
   BIG JOLLY:  Did you try the Chronicle?  They love her over there.
   BENZION:  Yeah, but even Lisa Falkenberg took a chunk out of our ass with her column on Palmer.
   BIG JOLLY:  That's rough, man.
   BENZION:  Yeah, and I can't find anyone else between here and Sioux City, Iowa that will do something positive on Lykos.  Even the Greensheets wouldn't let me ghostwrite a story!
   BIG JOLLY:  That's terrible.
   BENZION:  Any way that I could talk you into doing a nice piece on her?
   BIG JOLLY:  Well, I don't know . . .
   BENZION:  Dave, I hate to call in favors, but she has a gun to my head right now and she's threatening to use it if I don't come through for her.
   BIG JOLLY:  Ha ha.
   BENZION:  I'm not kidding.
   PAT LYKOS (IN BACKGROUND):  Do I sound like I'm f*cking kidding around here, Mr. Jennings?
   BIG JOLLY:  Okay!  Okay!  I'll do the piece!  Just don't kill him, Pat!

4.  As to the contents of the piece itself, where do I begin?  First of all, let's start with Roger Bridgwater's assertion that Pat Lykos has never screamed or cursed at anyone.  Um, yeah.  First of all, this is Roger Bridgwater asserting that.  The guy who lost his cool so badly with Donna Goode in a staff meeting that he had to run her out of the Office.  That he would throw down the gauntlet for people to step up and name an incident is silly.

Do you really think that the people under her are going to stand up and talk to you and then lose their jobs?  Come on, Dave.  The Lykos Administration has been nothing if not retaliatory.  Want some examples of her publicly gutting somebody?  Ask Rifi Newaz and Mark Donnelly.  I know of another prosecutor that she told he was "abjectly incompetent," but it isn't my place to tell his story.  Nobody, generally, really likes to piss off the elected District Attorney.

Regarding her "accomplishments," I've addressed them all time and again.  I've given her credit when I thought credit was due, but so often she just renamed a Division and called it her own.  When you questioned her on that, she pretty much said "nuh uh" and you let it go at that.  I told you already about the fugitive squad suggested by Bill Exley in this post.

Cleaning up Haverstock Hills is a lovely accomplishment until you realize that a person gets prosecuted disproportionately if they commit a crime there than anywhere else in the County.  They have this neat little thing in the Constitution called "Equal Protection" and it sure as hell seems to me that she is violating it when a person is treated more harshly than another person under the law by virtue of where they were when arrested.

I do like what she's done with the Juvenile Diversion system and I like that she's been working with a mental health court.  I don't think there was anything particularly novel about her doing that, but I will still applaud her for doing it.

Let's see, what else did you talk about?  That she drove herself to your meeting?  Joe Strange wasn't escorting her in an Escalade?  And this is something we should applaud her for?  She took a break from acting like the Queen of England to go meet with somebody who would be friendly to her?  That's just her not being an absolute idiot.  Or perhaps Joe Strange was busy doing something else.

Either way, Dave, I couldn't disagree with you more on this issue of Lykos.  She is terrible.  She has always been terrible.  Just because she is on the outs with Lowry doesn't make her less terrible.  I tried to call you last week and talk to you about this before I wrote the Other 95% post, but your voicemail was full.  I texted you too, but never heard back from you.  I've got somebody I would like for you to meet.

Anyway, I'm sorry if you thought I was calling you an ignoramus in the earlier post.  It wasn't my intent.

This blog has documented with facts her Reign of Terror within that Office over the past three years, and will continue to do so.  I'm sorry to see you let yourself get snowed by her.

I still respect you and consider you a friend.

Even if you are being an ignoramus.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

I want to take a day off from politics and Grand Juries and wish everyone in my little CJC family a very Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 23, 2011

It's That Time Again!

You know what to do . . .

On the First Day of Lykos, Snookems gave to me . . .

Anthony Graves and Nicole Casarez on Reasonable Doubt

Several people have asked me to post the Reasonable Doubt video with Anthony Graves and Nicole Casarez on the blog.  Special thanks to Kelly Siegler for putting us in touch with Anthony and Nicole.  Additional special thanks to Franklin Bynum for putting the show on the Net.


Reasonable Doubt, December 15, 2011, Anthony Graves and Nicole Casarez from HCCLA on Vimeo.

A New Voir Dire Question

One of the things that we should be thankful to Rachel Palmer for (as well as the Lykos Administration for not firing or demoting her) is the gift of a very strong and effective way to voir dire potential jurors on the issue of the 5th Amendment.

For instance, you could pose the questions as follows:

DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  There could be a lot of reasons that my client does not take the stand during this Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child case.  What are some of the reasons?

JUROR # 1:  His attorney told him not to?

DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Yes, or perhaps he works for Pat Lykos' Harris County District Attorney's Office.

JUROR # 2:  He's a bad speaker?

DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Yes, or perhaps he works for Pat Lykos' Harris County District Attorney's Office.

JUROR # 3:  He would really screw up on the stand if faced with cross-examination?

DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Yes, or perhaps he works for Pat Lykos' Harris County District Attorney's Office.

JUROR #4:  He has a lot of prior convictions and doesn't want to talk about them?

DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Yes, or perhaps he works for Pat Lykos' Harris County District Attorney's Office.

JUROR # 5:  He's guilty as hell?

DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Yes, or perhaps he works for Pat Lykos' Harris County District Attorney's Office.

JUROR #6:  Wait a second, if your client didn't do anything wrong and has nothing to hide, why wouldn't he WANT to take the stand and clear all of this up for us?

DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Why don't you ask Pat Lykos' Harris County District Attorney's Office.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Other 95% and the Origins of a "Conspiracy"

APOLOGIES IN ADVANCE - This one is long and rambling.  There should be a point in there somewhere:

When it comes to politics in Harris County (and perhaps any county), I've always considered the races affecting the Criminal Justice Center to be somewhat of an oddity.  Let's face it, as a wise Homicide Investigator once told me, we deal with probably less than 5% of the population (if that much).  The President, the Governor, or the Legislature can enact laws that affect us all, yet most citizens' involvement with the criminal justice system comes from jury duty.

For those of us regularly involved in the System, whether it be as a lawyer, a judge or a police officer, it can easily become 95% of our lives (if that little).  We know each other.  We work with each other.  We socialize with each other.  Sometimes, we even marry each other.  Whether we like it or not, we know the way the cogs and wheels within the Harris County Criminal Justice turn and how the System works.  Prosecutors know what defense attorneys are good and bad.  Defense attorneys know what prosecutors are reasonable and which aren't.  How a judge will react to certain sets of facts usually doesn't involve much guesswork.

And every election year, the path and direction of the Criminal Justice System can potentially get turned on its ear by the, well, the Other 95%.  Well-meaning voters who diligently flock to the polls (as they should) are deciding something that they know so very little about.  They vote for a candidate that perhaps they've met at a function or whose name sounds familiar to them, or maybe even just the person whose name comes first on the ballot.  Even very politically active voters who work hard to inform themselves, such as my friend Dave Jennings (AKA Big Jolly) can end up getting mislead on some of the real issues involving the criminal justice system.

Those of us who are within the System try to do the best we can to inform our friends, neighbors, and family members about what we know and who we think are deserving of votes.  Often, that's not enough.

I came to the Harris County District Attorney's Office in 1999 and had been there all of three months before longtime elected District Attorney Johnny Holmes announced he wasn't going to run for re-election.  On the same day of his announcement, Chuck Rosenthal announced his candidacy.  He was a controversial Division Chief from within the Office who was regarded by most of his co-workers as rather aloof and somewhat odd.  But Chuck was politically active within the Republican Party and when he made his announcement, nobody else from the D.A.'s Office was going to run against him.  Mr. Holmes wasn't particularly thrilled about Chuck's candidacy, but said he was staying out of it.

Mr. Holmes had to change his position when Judge Pat Lykos announced she too would be seeking the District Attorney's position in 2000.  Lykos had been off the bench in Harris County for quite some time, but her memory lived on -- and not in a good way.  She was known by the older lawyers as mean, crude, vindictive and dishonest.  Almost any attorney who was practicing in the 1980s to 1990s has a Lykos horror story.  Although Johnny Holmes was far from being a fan of Chuck Rosenthal's, he felt that was the better choice than Lykos.

Ironically, my group of friends at the Office at the time were all Baby Prosecutors.  We had heard a lot of bad things about Chuck and all we really knew about Lykos at the time was that she had presided over the Karla Fay Tucker trial.  We thought that was pretty cool and some of us (yes, I said "us") thought we should vote for Lykos.  I had met her before and even smoked cigarettes with her when she was a visiting judge.  I kind of thought she was cool.  (NOTE:  this is the blog equivalent of me doing a walk of shame).

But after hearing what other attorneys (both prosecutors and defense attorneys) had to say, Chuck became the choice as the Lesser of Two Evils.  He won in 2000 and again in 2004.  There wasn't much change or disruption at the Office.  Chuck was kind of like a groundhog who would appear at infrequent occasions.  He didn't get involved in how we tried out cases.  He was kind of like a weird uncle that you keep in the basement.  He would come out every once in awhile, do something dumb, and then go back to his Office.

Those of us who say we loved working for the Office loved the Elected-District Attorney's absence from our day-to-day dealings.  Those of us in the trenches were supervised by others in the trenches and decisions that were made were made by people in the trenches.  We fought hard.  We played hard.  We respected each other.  Every once in awhile, that weird uncle would escape from the basement and do something that embarrassed the rest of the family, but up until 2007, it was usually not too terribly devastating.

In 2007, obviously, that changed with the e-mail scandals.  The ADAs wanted to keep doing their jobs as best they could under the media circus that surrounded Rosenthal.  We were all worried about what would happen.  We were all grateful when our best and most famous prosecutor in the Office, Kelly Siegler, tried to salvage the ship.  Unfortunately, we lost that battle, and ultimately we got Lykos on the bench.



I digress.

Obviously, many ADAs stayed on under the Lykos Administration.  Some got promoted and have done well for themselves and for the Office.  There are plenty of outstanding prosecutors still there to this very day.  Others, however, who had gotten promoted abused that power.  Which brings us to Rachel Palmer.

I had known Rachel in passing when I was at the D.A.'s Office.  I didn't know her well enough to like her or dislike her, although I had heard about the cat fights that she was getting into with other prosecutors almost from the day she stepped in the door.  She was controversial.  She had a circle of friends that really liked her, but a larger contingency of those who didn't.  The bottom line was that, much like Pat Lykos, she was just kind of mean.  When Lykos promoted her to Deputy Division Chief, I didn't think it was a good idea, because she just doesn't get along with people.  But, given all the other massive screw ups Lykos was committing at the time, the Palmer to Deputy Dawg one seemed minor in comparison.

Soon, the inevitable happened.  Rachel took her new position of power and it went straight to her head.  Her catty comments and criticisms of the baby prosecutors that she supervised were becoming widespread knowledge.  Her troops hated her.  I know that Rachel thinks that she was my "favorite topic on the blog", but if you go back and look at the old posts, you will see the origins of Rachel-bashing occurred in the comments section.  I'm not passing the buck here, but the gripes about her came from within the D.A.'s Office.  (And by the way, Rachel, if you think the comments that end up on the blog about you are bad, you should see the ones I refuse to publish).

When Rachel announced that she was running for Judge, well, that sounded to me to be about the worst damn idea in America.  She was mean, petty, and vindictive, much like Pat Lykos.  She treated her people like crap and God only knows what she would be like if she actually were to assume the bench.  But Rachel, like Lykos, knew how to play to the Other 95%.  She was buddies with Carolyn Farb, the Houston Socialite who grew up on the mean streets of River Oaks.  Farb became one of Rachel's benefactors without knowing the first thing about criminal law.

And then came Don Hooper.  Rachel's fiancee was an absolute loose cannon at play in Houston.  His penchant for posting on blogs as other people, his rage issues at polling sites, and his liberal use of Rachel's badge were definitely not age appropriate actions for a 50-year-old.  Yet, there seemed to be no consequence for him coming from the Lykos Administration, and that is frightening.  A guy is out there doing all that Hooper was doing and yet because he was a Republican benefactor to Lykos, nothing was done to even get him to simply shut up?  I hope that Big Jolly can see that those of us who didn't want Rachel being a judge had some pretty damn good reasons for that.

Don Hooper was incensed when Rachel lost to Don Smyth.  The rest of us were just relieved.  Then came the Danny Dexter/Marc Brown race for the 180th District Court.  If Rachel Palmer and Don Hooper think that Judges Marc and Susan Brown have "bad blood" with them, I can assure you that it was not initiated (nor continued) by the Browns.   Hooper did everything he could for Danny, including harassing Marc Brown supporters at polling locations (if you don't believe me, ask Edward Porter).

Danny was a former prosecutor who I had worked with when I was there.  He was a really really nice guy.  But he was a terrible prosecutor.  I really didn't want to write anything bad against him as a person, but he had absolutely no business being on the bench.  But, like Rachel and Lykos, he also played well to the Other 95%.  He was wealthy and charming and had a lot of support.

Big Jolly mentions in his latest post that he thought it was below the belt when Danny's evaluations from his time at the D.A.'s Office hit the media.  Really?  How on Earth is that below the belt?

Unlike whether or not a Criminal Court Judge is Pro-Life or Pro-Choice, an evaluation of one's performance within the criminal arena is RELEVANT.  Very relevant, actually.  If pictures of Danny taking out the trash in his boxer shorts or rumors of a love child with Lady GaGa had been leaked to the media, that would have been below the belt.  But evaluations based on his job performance, work ethic, and knowledge of the law are probably those things that the Other 95% should be aware of.

I like Dave Jennings a lot, and I appreciate the fact that he works very hard to learn about the candidates, but he is just flat out wrong on that issue.

The whole reason I wrote this insanely lengthy post is because all of this talk of a "Conspiracy" to get the Lykos Administration and/or Rachel Palmer is something designed by Lykos supporters to play to the Other 95% -- Those who have met Pat and Rachel at a tea party and can sympathetically nod their heads with them when they speak of their persecution woes.  There are people who do not like Pat Lykos and Rachel Palmer and Don Hooper to be sure, but they are disliked with reason.  We aren't talking about Crips and Bloods and other silly partisan games here.  We are talking about real tangible reasons that people feel they are doing a terrible job and will oppose them.

The 5% of us (or less) that continue to deal with the Criminal Justice System on a daily basis do tend to know what we are talking about.  We know the good defense attorneys from the bad -- the reasonable prosecutors from the unreasonable -- the fair judges from the unfair.  We really don't care if a Republican or a Democrat holds a bench or even the D.A.'s spot, as long as they are doing a good job.

We all wish that those races were non-partisan, actually.

Then maybe the Other 95% might not fall for those conspiracy theories so much.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Rachel Palmer talks . . . to the Media

Fresh on the heels of being told that she can invoke her Fifth Amendment Right not to testify in front of the Grand Jury, Rachel Palmer and her defense team wasted no time in getting themselves in front of a camera to do some of that thinking smart, looking good and winning that she goes on and on about.  In an interview with Channel 11, Rachel noted that there was "nothing wrong" with her as a person or a prosecutor.

To me, the fact that she did so pretty much crystalizes what the Harris County District Attorney's Office is now all about.

After days of trying to stall out a Grand Jury investigation and refusing to talk to Grand Jurors, all the Gang Who Couldn't Shoot Straight seems to care about is their image.  We ignore those folks provided for under the Rule of Law and prefer to just go do a little on-air campaigning for the boss.

One of the things I failed to mention from Monday's hearing was a new face in the D.A.'s Roster -- David Benzion, formerly of the Lone Star Times.  For those of you who don't remember, Lone Star Times used to be a very politically active Republican website and news outlet.  I've known David for several years and he's a nice guy.

Monday was his first day on the job working for Pat Lykos.

His job?  Work on media relations.  His first assignment?  Go hang out in the Rachel Palmer hearing on the Motion to Recuse.

I find it interesting that in the middle of the whole Grand Jury debacle that Pat Lykos won't make a public appearance, but did apparently take time out of her hiding place to hire someone designed to improve HER public image.

At taxpayer expense, of course.

Perhaps if Lykos spent so much time actually doing the right thing, rather than spending Office money to make it appear as if she were doing so, none of this would be happening.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Tale of Two Hearings

As you should all know by now, Judge Al Bennett overruled Rachel Palmer's Motion to Recuse Judge Susan Brown from a hearing on a Motion to Compel Testimony before the 185th District Court Grand Jury this morning.  The lawyers then all proceeded back to the 185th District Court where Judge Brown ultimately overruled the Special Prosecutors' Motion to Compel. Judge Brown (in my opinion, wisely) stated that the questions proffered by the Special Prosecutors could have answers that "went either way" as to whether or not they were incriminating.  She made the safe call.

She also pretty much showed that the entire hearing on the Motion to Recuse was silly. (NOTE:  For more on that, read Lisa Falkenberg's excellent column here.)  Stephen St. Martin and Jim Mount now have the option of offering Rachel Palmer immunity and compel her testimony that way.

But let's go back and talk about the hearing from yesterday and the things we learned from it.

The hearing was in front of 61st Civil District Court Judge Al Bennett.  He was very impressive in hearing all sides of the argument, maintaining Courtroom and Grand Jury integrity, and giving the issue of a Motion to Recuse very serious consideration.  Rachel Palmer's defense team called five witnesses -- including Palmer, her husband Don Hooper, Stephen St. Martin, and two of the Grand Jurors -- in their attempt to show that Judge Brown was biased against Palmer.

From the start, Palmer's attorney, Clay Rawlings, made it pretty apparent that the goal of the exercise was delay.  Despite the fact that he had been the one who filed the Motion to Recuse, he started the proceedings by asking for a 10 day continuance.  Now, for those of you keeping score at home, those 10 days would have been VERY significant.  There is debate right now going on over whether or not the authority of all currently serving Grand Juries ends as of December 31st, 2011.  Although I have heard counter-opinions, the majority seems to think that the 185th Grand Jury may run out of time on that day.

Should Rawlings' Motion for Continuance have been granted, the hearing would have commenced on Thursday, December 29th -- the last day the 185th Grand Jury meets this year.  What became so very telling that the Motion was for purposes of delay was when Rawlings explained that he needed the Continuance for a witness who was 70 miles and would not appear without a subpoena.

That witness?  Clint Greenwood.

For those of you who don't know, Clint Greenwood is a Division Chief of the Harris County District Attorney's Office in the Public Integrity Division.  His office is one floor above Rachel Palmer's.  One phone call would have had him there within the hour.  It certainly would not have taken 10 freaking days.

When the Motion for Continuance was denied, they proceeded with testimony, calling one of the Grand Jurors first.  The first Grand Juror testified that she had been one of the Grand Jurors who approached Judge Brown after Thursday's hearing and complained of Don Hooper taking photographs.  The testimony then moved to a conversation that the Grand Juror had allegedly had with Clint Greenwood.

Per the actual Motion to Recuse and from Rawlings' opening statements, he believed that this particular Grand Juror had made the statement to Greenwood that "Roger [Bridgwater] and Jim [Leitner] had better not 'fall on the sword' for Pat Lykos."  The Grand Juror, in her testimony, adamantly (and I believe, credibly) denied ever having made such a statement.  She did point out, however, that she did, in fact, speak to Clint Greenwood on the day in question and Clint had told her, "If it was me, I would tell Leitner, Bridgwater and all the ADAs to plead the 5th."

That's a pretty sad statement coming from a Division Chief.  Especially one in charge of Public Integrity.  Having known Clint for a long time, I've always thought he had a tendency to, um, embellish stories.  I can easily see him spouting off something to Rachel Palmer's attorneys and then not wanting to come back and say it under oath.  Ultimately, Palmer's defense team rested without ever calling him.

Next up was Don Hooper, who came to deny ever having taken any photographs of Grand Jurors in the courtroom.  The people he was taking photos of were myself and Luci Davidson.  At this point, Don got to have the cathartic moment of setting the stage of a vast political conspiracy orchestrated by me, Machiavelli Newman.  He gleefully pointed out that I had been fired by Pat Lykos and he wasn't sure if I had a job any more. (NOTE TO DON:  Yes, I have always maintained steady employment since I graduated law school.  How about you?)  Hooper wasn't happy about seeing me and Luci entering the courtroom from the back hallway so was taking pictures.

Here's a tidbit for you, Don: all attorneys have access to those back hallways and stairwells.  We come up through them quite frequently.  Yes, the Judge's chambers are along those back hallways, but that isn't a direct door into the courtroom from chambers.  All this effort at playing Geography Detective was kind of stupid and created a big hoopla for nothing.

Hooper also talked about how I had written horrible things about his wife on the blog and all of this was a big political conspiracy.  Disappointingly, St. Martin did not cross-examine him and ask him about all of the identities he uses on the Chronicle website.

Next up I believe was St. Martin himself.  He was questioned about giving money to Kelly Siegler when she ran for DA in 2008.  He had no problem acknowledging that he had.  Clay Rawlings then submitted St. Martin to a reading test by having him read the order appointing him as Attorney Pro Tem.  Stephen passed the reading test once he got his glasses.

After that was another Grand Juror, who was grilled over her political affiliations.  The questioning of her backfired when she stated on the stand that she had supported Jim Leitner for DA in 2008.  When Jim lost, she supported Pat Lykos.  That kind of took the wind out of the Conspiracy Sails.

And the last witness was none other than Rachel Palmer.

This was absolutely a sight to behold, as we glimpsed the framework of the vast Right-wing conspiracy designed to destroy her, according to Rachel.  In very shrill, and often loud testimony, Rachel called out members of the audience (myself included) for being out to get her.  The summary of the conspiracy according to Rachel is as follows:

In 2009, a dedicated and hard-working and highly admired young prosecutor named Rachel Palmer was asked to run for Judge of County Court # 13 in Harris County, Texas.  The vile Murray Newman was outraged over this possibility because Rachel worked for Pat Lykos.  He quickly recruited then-Assistant District Attorney Denise Bradley to run against poor Rachel.  When Judge Mike Anderson decided not to run for the 262nd District Court Bench again so that he could focus on running for District Attorney and help initiate politically motivated Grand Juries, Denise Bradley ran for the 262nd.


A furious Murray Newman panicked that Rachel might now be running unopposed for the bench and quickly recruited Assistant District Attorney Don Smyth to run against Rachel.  At Republican functions, Rachel would sometimes run into Judge Susan Brown and her husband, then ADA-Marc Brown.  It was during these functions that our hero, Rachel, began to suspect that Judge Brown and her husband were possibly Sith Lords, since Judge Brown would say "Hi Rachel" in an offensive tone.  


Once Don Smyth had defeated Rachel in the primary, she and her husband Don valiantly fought to ward off the possibility of Sith Lord Marc Brown taking the bench and campaigned heavily for his opponent -- family friend Danny Dexter.  Some of Hooper's antics at polling locations infuriated Judge Susan Brown, who made a request for Rachel to come talk to her in court.  Rachel, sensing a trap that could lead to her imminent death, declined Judge Brown's invitation to come speak with her.


Ultimately, Marc Brown defeated Danny Dexter in the runoff and became Judge of the 180th District Court.  All the while, the 2010 election season had just been a diversion for the real plot that would come to light in 2011 . . .


Judge Mike Anderson, apparently using the Force, had foreseen that the Harris County District Attorney's Office would get themselves in trouble with the BAT Van scandal after he announced he wasn't going to run again.  Furthermore, the Force had told him that there were people he and his wife, former Judge Devon Anderson, knew who would be serving on Grand Juries in 2011.  Using the Dark Side of the Force, he willed it that the Grand Jury would begin investigating Pat Lykos, and subsequently Rachel Palmer.


Ultimately, it had been revealed that Judge Mike Anderson was actually Darth Sidious.  Since this by implication made Judge Susan Brown out to be Darth Vader and clearly Judge Marc Brown as Darth Maul, there was no way on Earth that Rachel could get a fair hearing from Judge Brown.


Obviously, I'm joking with some of the analogies, but that was pretty much the gist of what Rachel outlined as the conspiracy out to get her.

This morning, St. Martin and Mount called Judge Marc Brown to testify that there was no personal animosity between him and the Palmer/Hooper clan, but Judge Bennett said it wasn't necessary to hear from him.  He denied the Motion to Recuse.

We all came back over for the Motion to Compel, which, as noted above, Judge Vader Brown denied after meeting with Palmer's defense attorneys.  The next step is to see if Rachel is offered immunity.  The Grand Jury will meet today, Thursday, and next Tuesday and Thursday.

I'm betting that things are going to be resolved by the end of the year.

Monday, December 19, 2011

A "Must Read" from Mark Bennett

Anyone with even a passing interest in the hearing on the Motion to Compel Rachel Palmer's testimony today in the 185th really needs to read Bennett's post today.  Go there by clicking here.

This means you media types, too.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Thoughts from Thursday's Events

Although the actual hearing for the Motion to Compel filed by Special Prosecutors Jim Mount and Stephen St. Martin was reset until Monday morning, December 19th, there were some interesting and noteworthy events that happened on Thursday.  Here are a couple of the highlights:

1.  Although Rachel Palmer was escorted from the Grand Jury room up to the 185th for the Motion to Compel, she wasn't in custody.  I heard that rumors were running rampant through the CJC that Rachel had been placed in handcuffs and brought to the 185th.  That was absolutely NOT the case.  At some point, her attorney Clay Rawlings, who was angry with Mount and St. Martin about the Motion to Compel, announced to the court that his client was being mistreated and brought up "in custody."  Rachel appeared mortified at her attorney's assertion and both Mount and St. Martin made a point of letting the court know that wasn't the case.

2.  Over the lunch hour, David Mitcham was apparently added to the Defense Team.  In the time between the original morning meeting on Thursday and when the Court reconvened at 1:00 p.m., I heard from several sources that Rachel was trying to hire new counsel (or at least additional counsel).  Sure enough, Mitcham showed up with everyone at 1:00.  Smart move by Rachel.  David is a great lawyer.

3.  Immunity is not on the table.  The basis for which St. Martin and Mount are asking the Court to compel Rachel to testify is that their questions are not incriminating.  The questions are sealed and nobody but the parties know what they are at the moment.  Under the Special Prosecutors' position, there is no need for immunity to be offered if the questions wouldn't require anything for there to be immunity from.  At some point during the hearing, Judge Brown made mention of the possibility of Immunity being offered to Rachel, and both Mount and St. Martin were seen shaking their heads in unison.

4.  If Immunity had actually been offered, would it be worthless, anyway?  This turns into an interesting legal question that Mark Bennett has touched on over at his blog with this post (specifically in the comments section).  Commenters Mike Trent, Mike Paar and Bennett aptly point out that Immunity covers everything EXCEPT perjury.  So, let's say in a hypothetical-theoretical situation that when Rachel testified before the Grand Jury last month she stated a set of facts that have now been contradicted by testimony from the other witnesses who were called after her (i.e., Ed Emmett, Steve Raddack, El Franco Lee).  Now the Grand Jury has called her, Leitner, and Bridgwater back to explain themselves for their earlier answers and they want to invoke their 5th Amendment rather than risk getting caught in a lie from their previous testimony.  Even if given Immunity, would it cover possible perjury from their previous testimony?  Mark seems to think it would.  Mike Trent points out that it isn't specifically spelled out.

5.  Will it all be pointless in 2012?  No, I'm not talking about the Mayan Calendar predicting that the world will end next year and that we will all be progressing into the next Astral Plane (known to some as a land called "Ho Ha.")  Recent legislation has indicated that the power of all existing Grand Juries across the State will cease at the end of the year and all new ones must be empaneled at the beginning of the New Year.  Word on the street is that Lykos and Crew are eagerly anticipating all this Grand Jury work to be for nothing, but there is disagreement amongst the legal scholars over whether or not a previously authorized hold-over Grand Jury can continue.  Either way, I think it is totally awesome of the Upper Admin to be relying on a technicality to bail their asses out of hot water.

6.  Bridgwater and Leitner did not testify in Grand Jury on Thursday.  Although the 1st Assistant and Bureau Chief did receive subpoenas to come back to the 185th Grand Jury, they weren't actually called in on Thursday, most likely because they were having to deal with Rachel pleading the 5th.  I'm curious as to whether or not they will be pleading the 5th, as well.

7.  Bridgwater has Campaign Implications.  Unlike Leitner and Palmer, Roger Bridgwater is running for Judge in 2012.  Currently, he is unopposed in the Republican Primary.  If he pleads the 5th and creates the debacle that Rachel has, or if any of these folks end up indicted, is the Republican Party going to be running a candidate who is under indictment?  Or would they ask him to withdraw and just cede the race?  If Jared Woodfill was smart (don't worry, Roger, he isn't), he would be getting a back-up candidate in that race by the end of Monday's filing deadline.

8.  Jim Leitner is starting to fall apart at the seams.  We had a preview of how the 1st Assistant reacts when he doesn't know the answer to the tough questions back in 2009.  On Thursday, in the hallway immediately after the hearing, Leitner really lost his composure when pressed by Ted Oberg as to whether or not he found it "offensive" that an Assistant District Attorney had taken her 5th Amendment right.  Instead of doing the smart thing and saying, "This is an on-going Grand Jury investigation and our Office has no comment," he ended up shrieking at the crowd of cameras that what he found offensive was being backed up against the wall and forced to answer questions.  However, his response was probably more understandable than Rachel's dismissive "God is good" statements to the media.

9.  Don Hooper is out of control.
Hooper has been very busy during this Grand Jury investigation.  There have been a variety of posts on the Chronicle comments section that he has been accused of authoring under pseudonyms.  Those comments typically attack Mike and Devon Anderson for their positions on the DIVERT program.  Although my favorite pseudonym used was "Fake Murray Newman" (which I actually thought was pretty funny), another comment bore the name of the 185th Grand Jury's foreperson.  That one isn't quite as amusing.
Last week, Hooper signed his name to a blog comment on David Jenning's Big Jolly blog, a comment that oozed the exact same bilge that these pseudonym commenters have been using on the Chron blog.

Can I prove that Hooper is posting as Fake Murray Newman and as the foreperson of the Grand Jury?  Nope.  Would I be willing to bet my lunch money that he is?  In a heartbeat.

I don't know why this knucklehead thinks that he is helping out his wife with this type of behavior.  I further don't understand why members of the Republican Party seem to think he has some sort of influence with them.

10.  Where in the World is Patricia Lykos?  With all of this going down, there has been no sign of the elected D.A.  There are complaints of personnel moves and promotions being put on hold because Lykos won't sign off on them.  She sure as hell hasn't stood with her people in court.  Even her proposed move to make Rachel Palmer the public spokesperson for the Office hasn't been approved.  I can't imagine why.

Also notably absent from the 185th courtroom on Thursday were any other prosecutors outside of the Upper Administration.  No rank and file prosecutor in their right mind would have showed up to watch the fireworks.  If they were perceived as coming to gawk at Palmer in the hugely embarrassing situation, they would have been labeled as enemies of Lykos on the spot.  Not to mention Hooper would have been snapping photographs of them, as well.

So, that's why I started doing the live tweeting from the hearing.

And I'll be back doing it again on Monday.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Motion to Compel

Interesting developments today from the 185th District Court Grand Jury as Assistant District Attorney and Deputy Division Chief of Misdemeanor Rachel Palmer was escorted from the Grand Jury to the 185th District Court in response to a Motion to Compel Testimony.

Special Prosecutors Jim Mount and Stephen St. Martin approached the bench with Palmer's defense attorney Clay Rawlins for a hearing on the record where Mount and St. Martin filed a Motion to Compel Testimony from Palmer. Per the conversation at the bench, Palmer invoked her Fifth Amendment right against Self-Incrimination in front of the Grand Jury. The Special Prosecutors' position was that she did not have a right to invoke the 5th, since she was not the target of the investigation and no questions would be asked that would incriminate her.

Rawlins had apparently contacted the Special Prosecutors yesterday after Palmer was subpoenaed to testify this morning. Rawlins informed them that Palmer would be taking a "blanket Fifth," meaning she would state her name for the record and then invoke the Fifth on all following questions. In response to Rawlins' representation to them, the prosecutors drafted a Motion to Compel.

All parties were ordered to return for a hearing on the Motion to Compel at 1:00 pm this afternoon.

Keeping in mind that a Harris County Assistant District Attorney invoking her Fifth Amendment right just looks terrible, it begs the question: who is the target of the investigation that she is trying to protect?

I will keep you posted as events develop.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Another Day, Another Grand Jury

Major kudos today for the Pat Lykos Administration for finding itself the subject of not one, but two Grand Jury investigations.

Today, Special Prosecutor Chris Downey was appointed to investigate yet another allegation of wrong-doing by the Harris County District Attorney's Office in the 232nd District Court's Grand Jury.  I'm not 100% certain of this, but I believe that this Grand Jury will be investigating allegations surrounding the departure of former Assistant District Attorney Shirley Cornelius that were outlined awhile back on this blog in this post.

For those die-hard Pat Lykos supporters conspiracy theorists who have been grumbling about the 185th Grand Jury's investigation being politically motivated, I think it is worth pointing out that the 232nd Grand Jury is selected by Judge Mary Lou Keel, who selects her Grand Jurors from an actual jury pool that is called to service at random.

Say what you want to about prior District Attorneys and their failings.  I can't remember a time when one was ever being investigated by a Grand Jury.

Certainly not two Grand Juries.

Monday, December 12, 2011

This Week's Reasonable Doubt's Special Guests (12/15/11)

Normally I don't write about Thursday's episode of Reasonable Doubt until the morning of the show.  That's because we don't know who our guest is going to be until a day or two before.

This week is different, because Todd Dupont and I are bringing you two very special guests that we have been trying to get on the show for quite some time.

With the help of Kelly Siegler, we are proud to announce that this week's Reasonable Doubt guests will be Anthony Graves and Nicole Casarez.  Mr. Graves, as you probably know, served 19 years on Death Row for a crime he did not commit.  Ms. Casarez is an attorney and professor at the University of St. Thomas who was instrumental in proving Mr. Graves' innocence.

It is going to be a great show, and as always, we will be taking your calls and questions.  You can watch it live on Thursday, December 15 at 8:00 p.m. on television or on the web by clicking here.

I'm Back

For those of you who actually enjoy reading this blog, sorry for the absence over the past week.  I've been in New York visiting my favorite editor and wife-to-be, and appearing on Tru TV's In Session.

There are a lot of different things that I've been wanting to write about, and I will try to catch up as fast as possible.  Things are very interesting around the CJC right now.

In the meantime, feel free to start a new comments chain here.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Legality of D.I.V.E.R.T.

There was an interesting ruling out of the 14th Court of Appeals this week that points out what many of us have been saying for awhile -- that Pat Lykos' DIVERT program is not a legal form of punishment for Driving While Intoxicated.

In State vs. Rhodes, the Defendant was charged with Driving While Intoxicated and his case landed in County Court at Law # 2 under Judge Bill Harmon.  Followers of the DIVERT controversy know that Judge Harmon has always maintained the position that DIVERT is illegal and he won't do it in his court.  The Defendant wanted to participate in DIVERT, but that wasn't going to happen on Judge Harmon's watch.

Rhodes' attorney then filed a Motion to Recuse Judge Harmon in the attempt to get a new judge that would allow him to have DIVERT.  A hearing occurred on the Motion to Recuse and the Administrative Judge chose NOT to remove Judge Harmon from the bench.  The defendant was ultimately found guilty and received 3 days and a $500 fine.

He then appealed his case, citing as error the Administrative Judge's ruling to NOT remove Judge Harmon as the error.

Now, before we go into the ruling, I'm kind of wondering what it was like for the D.A.'s Office to be arguing against the Defendant's appeal.  They were kind of in a Catch-22, weren't they?  On the one hand, they want the conviction to stand, but on the other they have to protect the validity of Lykos' pet project.  I haven't seen the State's response, but I'm curious how they argued it and kept it intellectually honest.

Additionally, how did they handle the Motion to Recuse?  Did they agree with the Defendant that Judge Harmon should be removed from the case?  I'm asking out of genuine curiosity.

Ultimately, the Defendant and the DIVERT program both lost their arguments.

The 14th Court of Appeals ruled that the Defendant was not entitled to a different judge than Judge Harmon, because Judge Harmon was correctly following the law when he refused to participate in DIVERT's pre-trial diversion program.  They pointed out that Judge Harmon was, in fact, following the law and considering the full range of punishment because pre-trial diversion is not a legal form of punishment.

I wonder what will become of DIVERT in light of this ruling.  My guess is Lykos will keep on giving it out.   I guess she kind of backtracked off that whole "Rule of Law" thing she touted so highly in the 2008 election.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Johnny Holmes Endorses Mike Anderson

The campaign for Judge Mike Anderson has gotten underway in a big way today with the immediate endorsement of Judge Anderson from former Harris County District Attorney Johnny Holmes.

“Mike Anderson has the qualities it will take to restore the leadership and integrity of the District Attorney’s Office.  I’m proud to support Mike," said Mr. Holmes, according to a press release.


For more information about Judge Anderson's campaign, check out www.andersonda.com