Thursday, January 5, 2012

A New Grand Jury Scandal

As I mentioned in some of my earlier posts regarding the 185th Grand Jury investigation, one of the sneakier things that Pat Lykos and Crew were hoping to have happen was for the Grand Jury's term to expire at the end of the calendar year.  If it had done so, Lykos, Leitner, Bridgwater and Palmer could have all breathed sighs of relief as the twelve men and women who were looking into criminal wrongdoing suddenly had to disband as a matter of law.

The reason Lykos and Crew believed this a possibility was due to some changes in the last legislative session which changed the terms of Grand Juries, thus ending all active Grand Juries on December 31st, 2011 . . .

. . . unless that Grand Jury got an extension from the Court . . .

. . . which the 185th Grand Jury did.

Unfortunately, while the Lykos Administration was hoping against hope that their Grand Jury problem was going to go away by January 1st, they were forgetting to do something else:  work on establishing new Grand Juries for January 2012.

Selecting a Grand Jury is not something that can be done overnight.  You have to find people willing to serve and the ability to serve for what is now (under the law change) a six month term.  Details have to be ironed out about how exactly they are going to do that.  Are 11 of the 22 District Courts going to have active Grand Juries the first half of the year and the other 11 the second half?  Are Grand Juries going to meet just once a week, instead of two?  There are a lot of things to consider.

And Lykos and Crew considered NONE of them.  They were way too busy holding their breath and waiting to see if the 185th was about to go away.

Which explains this e-mail from First Assistant Jim Leitner to the rest of the Office today:

-----Original Message------
From: Leitner, Jim
To: All DA Employees
Subject: Grand Juries for the November Term 2011
Sent: Jan 5, 2012 9:43 AM

I have just been notified that the Judges have terminated all Grand Juries that were empanelled for the November Term 2011. That termination, from what I understand, has been backdated to December 31st. Therefore, do not take any cases in to any Grand Jury until the Judges have created and sworn in Grand Juries for the January Term 2012. Also, don’t issue any Grand Jury subpoenas until we have new Grand Juries empanelled.  I am meeting with Judge Hill today to make sure that we have the right information on this, but until you hear otherwise proceed as if there are no Grand Juries available  until the new term Grand Juries are sworn in. This does not affect the 185th or 232nd Grand Jury which have been extended for pending investigations.
Jim
This is the legal version of getting caught with your pants down.  In Harris County, Texas, there are two Grand Juries meeting every day of the week to manage the enormous caseload that comes through the courthouse.  It will take the District Attorney's Office and the courts at least a week (and most likely longer than that) to get them up and running again.

Obviously, having no Grand Juries running is going to create an enormous backlog.

It can also create a danger to the public.  Here's why.

When a person is arrested and incarcerated prior to trial, the District Attorney's Office has 90 days to get that case indicted.  Otherwise, the person accused is entitled to a bond they can make.

That applies to all felony charges -- from Aggravated Sexual Assault to Aggravated Robbery to Murder.  If the deadline goes past the 90 days, the end result is those folks will be getting back out on the street.

It recently happened in Fort Bend with one case. 

The rank and file prosecutors had absolutely ZERO notice this was coming.  Nobody from the Upper Administration sent them anything letting them know, "Hey, if you have a case getting close to 90 days old, you need to get it to the Grand Jury before December 31st."

And most of the more serious cases take the full 90 days to get ready for Grand Jury.  As a prosecutor, I routinely took murder cases and sexual assault cases to the Grand Jury on the 85th to 89th day.  The trial prosecutors are about to find out that if they were banking on going to the Grand Jury this week or next, that they are not going to be able to do so.

And some really bad people are potentially about to be back on the streets.

If Lykos had been watching the Public's back, rather than her own, perhaps she would have caught this.

I cannot emphasize enough what a colossal screw up this is.

39 comments:

Anonymous said...

The conspiracy widens.

Way to go Jimmy. Lead the office into the abyss.

I can't wait for you idiots to lose your jobs.

The Leadership Team never ceases to amaze me with their ignorance.

Thomas Hobbes said...

But then, there also may be people sitting in jail who, if they could be released, would pose no risk of harm.

Are you trying on your prosecutor hat to see whether it still fits?

Anonymous said...

I took the liberty of sending "A New Grand Jury Scandal" to 13 Undercover. I hope you don't mind. I am so frustrated that Ms. Lycos only cares about her image to the public. She does not seem to care at all about protecting the public. The job she is sworn to do.
Is there going to be anyway of finding out how many criminals get a free walk because of this?

Mr. Murray you can post this or not, just wanted to let you know what I did. Sorry I did not first get permission.

Sue

David Ryan said...

Your vision is colored by your disdain for the incumbent. Grand Juries are not the responsibility of the elected district attorney; the responsibility for having new grand juries lies with the elected district judges.

Or, do you suggest the District Attorney's Office is at fault for not foreseeing the district judges' failure to have new grand juries timely empaneled? Perhaps the DA should have anticipated this failure, and rushed to indictment anything and everything, without proper consideration? And then be open to criticism for indicting a case that later is determined was not ready for presentment?

Or did I miss the conspiracy memo?

Anonymous said...

I was wondering if Pat Lykos is still vacationing in Hawaii?

Anonymous said...

I was wondering if Jimmy Leitner is actually related to Jimmy Olsen?

Anonymous said...

This blog, as you have noted, previously discussed the changes in grand jury procedures to become effective January 1, 2012. What is troublesome to me is that apparently neither the Harris criminal judiciary nor the Harris County District Attorney's Office were prepared for those changes. New grand jury procedures should have been in place to satisfy the changes in the Government Code - it appears that everybody was just standing around waiting for the other to take the lead with their thumb up their ..... Since it is necessary to have indictments, however, in order to have felony prosecutions (except where there is a waiver) the onus was on the District Attorney's Office to insure that grand juries were in place. In my opinion, this is but one more example of the absolute incompetence of the current District Attorney. Perhaps in addition to all the overpaid media personnel she surrounds herself with, she needs to add somebody who reads and understands the Government Code provisions; apparently there are none on staff currently.
Calvin A. Hartmann

Anonymous said...

Republican voters, this is one of the most egregious failures of this administration. They were so worried about there own hides that they gave no notice to the rank and file prosecutors that this was a possibility. Add to it the fact the Grand Juries stopped meeting shortly before Christmas, so we are likely looking at losing a month. A month with no grand juries. So things that were safely on the 60 day list are now going to be on the 90 day list.

How many threes and twos are going to be blamed for this when habitual felons are let loose with PR bonds.

6th Floor, don't you think that you should have let us know that you were going to ignore this problem???

This has the potential to be far worse than Palmer. When murderers and rapists are let out of jail on PR bonds, the citizens are in danger.

Anonymous said...

I wish I could say I am surprised that the ONLY focus of the current administration was on the effects of the grand jury legislation on "The Judge" and her crew instead of the implications for an office that seeks indictment on hundreds of cases DAILY in its basic function as a LAW ENFORCEMENT ENTITY.

What's equally telling is that this very issue was brought to the attention of the 6th floor, but anyone questioning whether the grand jury term really ended on 12/31 was quickly hushed and ignored.

Quite frankly, it is more of the same. And by that I don't mean it is a conspiracy to unseat Lykos as DA, it is her decision making process finally catching up with her. Because, you see, when you are a politician ONLY, your concern is about how YOU look, how the headline about YOU will read, and whether voters with vote for YOU. And she is a very good politician. She is a lifelong politician. And unfortunately, as many of her current employees have learned, it is all she is capable of, and all she wants to do.

But when you are a PROSECUTOR first, seeking justice, whatever that looks like every time, and a POLITICIAN simply by virtue of the way people come to hold office in this county, you don't have to worry about soundbytes, headlines, self promotion, and voters. You do what is right simply because it is right. And at times, unfortunately, what is right isn't always what is popular, and it won't make the best political fodder, but at the end of the day, it's still right.

I'm sure the victims and families of victims who will soon learn that their victimizer will be walking out of the Harris County Jail because the District Attorney's Office didn't plan well enough to get that case indicted before 90 days won't be breathing that same "sigh of relief" contemplated by the administration. Instead, they will be gripped with fear because the person the law provides for them to be safe from can no longer be legally confined at anything less than a bond HE/SHE can make. I'm sure those victims would trade every holiday wish, moves & promotions memo, blue jean charity donation email, and holiday cheer party reminder for one correspondence from this administration that addresses the very function of this office: public safety. THEIR SAFETY.

As a current employee of the office, I can only say that I am embarassed and I am sorry. I only hope that all of the things that have happened over the last 3 years, when, for the first time ever (to my knowledge) the office has been managed by judges (who were never prosecutors), career defense attorneys, and lifetime politicians, the voting public will see that the office responsible first and foremost for the administration of justice should not and can not be held by a person who's primary concern has never been for anyone other than herself.

Anonymous said...

One other thing to point out: the manner in which the elected DA in Fort Bend handled the situation, which by all accounts was a fuck up by his office/employee, could NEVER be expected from Pat Lykos. NEVER.

The prosecutor responsible for seeking indictment on a case in a county where grand juries were, like, empanelled, would have FELT the bus tires before they even heard them coming.

Imcompetent? That would be a minor tongue lashing from "The Judge" for this type of transgression. And no doubt Lykos wouldn't even have provided a statement personally, it would have come from one of the MANY public information employees now on the payroll. Ken Magidson had one, Pat Lykos has at least 5 (including Jim, because lets be honest, he gets "cornered" on a pretty regular basis). But you can bet your sweet bippy if you were the ADA who neglected to get a murder case, much less a MEDIA case indicted in 90 days, you wouldn't end up in APPELLATE making chief salary as a #2 prosecutor (a #2 prosecutor with the least number of trials, I might add) like one Rachel Palmer.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Murray, but you can't blame 6 for this one. Alan looked in to this in the middle of December and TDCAA also issued opinions on it. Alan and TDCAA agreed that sitting GJs could continue to work in to the new year. TDCAA has an entire forum on this and has supporting case law. I blame the Judge's attorney for this one, and I bet by next week cases will be presented again. I hate saying it's not their fault, but it's not. Judge Hill made the call on this today.

A Harris County Lawyer said...

David and Thomas,

Your points are well taken.

To address Mr. Hobbes' question first, yes, there is certainly a benefit to those charged with minor crimes reaping the benefits of a 90 day failure. However, if it takes the Grand Jury 90 days to indict on said minor offense, that's a failure of the DA's office too. Generally, I'm not a fan of justice happening because of a screw up.

David, you are right that the judiciary has a large role in this as well, but don't think for a second that the Grand Jury's administration isn't largely run by the DA's office. The Texas District and County Attorney's Association has been issuing advice on how to handle the change in the system and the DA's office had a duty to stay on top of how it would affect their caseload. My point is they consciously disregarded it because they thought it would be to their personal benefit.

Anonymous said...

Fuck ya they did.

Anonymous said...

So if it was a possibility that a murder defendant, regardless of the evidence against him/her, would be released from custody, that should not have been communicated by the administration? Even if it was a remote possibility? I'm willing to believe that TDCAA and perhaps even Alan Curry didn't think the grand jury's authority would end on December 31, but if we are even having to research the issue, would you not notify the troops so that the risk to the public is given the appropriate consideration?

Anonymous said...

I agree with Calvin, that the onus is on the District Attorney's Office to make sure that the Grand Juries are empaneled. I think it's interesting that Lykos' only "qualification" to be the DA is that she was a District Court Judge. With her experience as a Judge, she really should have been leading the charge to challenge the sitting judges to get it done.

Anonymous said...

You can be assured of one thing, Lykos will blame someone either on her staff or that of the Judges for this can of worms. She will not take any personal responsibility for not attending to the problems.

It is an absolute fact that she and Leitner had hoped that by maintaining a low-profile with regard to the Grand Jury losing its authority on 12/31/11, that her problems with the 185th and the 232nd would just go away. Their position contributed to this fiasco.

Anonymous said...

So the judges are saying the grand juries are fine but the DAs won't present any new cases? I remember The discussion of the grand jury terms awhile back so it is impossible for this to be a surprise to anyone.

T. Parker said...

America - Fuck ya!

Mark W. Stephens said...

Channel 11 just reported Lykos has been subpoenaed to appear before "a controversial...pollitically charged...Grand Jury."

Anonymous said...

So what did the DA's expect? They were aware of the statutory change. Then they quietly put out in house that Grand Juries were ending 12-31. That word gets to the courts. The Judges out of an abundance of caution decide to empannel new grand juries in January. I heard a judge talking to the court prosecutors about this in mid December. Then the DA's office changes their mind about the new law after they find out that the TWO grand juries investigating the office have been extended by written order so those TWO grand juries wouldn't die quietly on 12-31. Then they act like the 12-31 statutory change was a news flash that they never heard before yesterday!

Wow! Did the new media people come up with that spin? Jeez talk about conspiracies!

More like a confederacy of dunces! The blame rests squarely on six. Is anybody surprised that they are not taking the blame for this? Sounds like a setup so they can take some recent media heat off the office.

Anonymous said...

Ha! It took Jimmy until Jan 5 to figure out there were no grand juries. Classic.

David Ryan said...

With respect, TDCAA was still wrestling with the subject until December 21, 2011 (on December 20, 2011, TDCAA admitted its prior opinions were wrong)... 10 days before the year ended and, in practical terms, 6 days (or less) in the business year. By the time TDCAA had cohesive and correct advice, the grand juries were on holiday vacation or discharged.

This also seems to be a bit of Chicken Little. No one has yet been released from custody for failure to indict within 90 days. Unless and until it happens, and that person is accused of committing an egregious crime while on bond or fails to appear for trial, this is much ado about nothing.

The call for HCDAO to take on judicial responsibilities, or dictate actions to the judiciary, is troubling. There used to be extremely close cooperation between HCDAO and the judiciary. Most in the defense bar do not recall those times as halcyon days, and do not want its return.

The problem here lies squarely with the judges, no matter the benefit (real or perceived) to the current adminstration.

Anonymous said...

With all due respect to TDCAA of which I was a member and a contributor for many years, the forum to which reference apparently was made by a contributor to this blog is scarely a compendium of law dealing with the application of HB 79. It appears to be composed of FAQ, several questions of which appeared to have originated from Harris County. It would seem to me that because of the importance of the issue that there would have developed a bit more analysis/agreement amongst the prosecuting offices and the affected judiciary of the counties impacted by HB 79. Clearly there was no such leadership exerted by the Harris County District Attorney's Office vis-a-vis the issue. I guarantee under Holmes there would have been no snafu as now nor the current wondering in the wilderness. When we had a questionable change in the law that could have significant impact on prosecutions we would even seek expedited construction of those laws in the appellate courts. Competent prosecutors are pro-active.
Calvin A. Hartmann

Anonymous said...

Dear Murray, It is so sad when you go to sleep/do whatever you do, and we have to wait for new comments. I am addicted to this site. Seriously, can you put the last comments first so I don't waste as much time scrolling to the end? And to Dude (making an assumption, but I am sure that I am right), there are way more than ADAs who religiously monitor/comment on this blog. There are a lot of Harris County employees who work for elected officials who cannot/should not have public opinions. Do not think that we are spineless people. Do not think that the Criminal Courthouse is the only audience. And do not think that anonymous county employees don't know lots of people. They have had interactions for many years with all parties involved and they have definite opinions. Their friends always want their opinions on who to vote for. (Can't end w/o preposition, sorry. Won't do "on whom for to vote.) They don't like people who cast aspersions for no reason on dedicated public servants with proven results who aren't involved in this fight. Especially when they are acquainted with and like the people against whom the aspersions are cast. I hope that you honestly know who your friends are because it seems that not only are 10 law enforcement unions against the current administration in the DAs office, a large segment of the Harris County employees are not happy with the direction that the office has taken under Lykos. Are you going to say that we are all whiny babies when we don't even work there??? We just see every day the way that the office has become an embarrassment to Harris County. The Andersons are wonderful people who have many fans in the County. But, we will see that on primary day. And the Dude who said that Mike looks horribly aged, and like Devon's father (can't attack her, can you?) should do some market research with +60 Republican women who vote. They think that he is looking pretty good!

Anonymous said...

Lykos advised the bureau chiefs not to do anything pro-active many months ago. Didn't want any snafu's that might make her look bad.

Anonymous said...

Calvin hits the nail on the head. During the Holmes administration I had to participate in an anticipated change of law. The DA's office took the lead in clarifying the change and it's affect. But then Holmes was a leader and Lykos hides.

Anonymous said...

Murray,

The DA's office no longer controls the entire justice system which maybe has made the system a little more just as Mr.Ryan points out. When you reach too far and blame the 6th floor for things they should not control you lose credibility and look like a fired prosecutor with an ax to grind.

Anonymous said...

Regardless of who is at fault, the reality is that this was allowed to happen period.
This problem hightlights once again the poor leadership of PL. A true leader should have anticipated that there could be a little chaos and prepared her troops for that reality. A simple email from her or Jim boy would have covered it. Instead Lycos is to busy covering her own tail and dodging the media..

Anon 8:38
I don't envy the position you are in. It is damned if you do and damned if you don't. It says much about your character that you are apologizing basically to the citizens for all of the wrongs of this admin. You hang in there, things will get better. There are many citizens aware of the juvenile games of the 6th floor. You are not alone in this nightmare. Thank you for the job you do. You are vitally important to the safety of the citizen of HC. We appreciate your efforts.

Anonymous said...

The tribal wisdom of the Dakota Indians, passed on from generation to generation, says that; “When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, best strategy is to dismount."

However, in the DA's Office more ADVANCED strategies are often employed, such as:

1. Buying a stronger (and more expensive) whip.

2. Changing riders.

3. Appointing a committee to study the horse.

4. Arranging two trips to other countries to see how other cultures ride dead horses.

5. Lowering the standards so that dead horses can be included.

6. Reclassifying the dead horse as living-impaired.

7. Hiring outside contractors to ride the dead horse.

8. Harnessing several dead horses together to increase efficiency.

9. Providing additional funding and/or training to increase dead horse's performance.

10. Doing a productivity study to see if lighter riders would improve the dead horse's performance.

11. Declaring that as the dead horse does not have to be fed, it is less costly, carries lower overhead and therefore contributes substantially more to the bottom line of the economy than do some live horses.

12. Rewriting the expected performance requirements for all horses.

And of course...

13. Promoting the dead horse to a supervisory position.


If you don't understand the stupidity in this reasoning, you probably are happy with the way the DA's Office is being run.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:03; That is an awesome analogy… and not to distract from #1 thru #13, I would like to add #14 for your consideration?

14. Hiring 3 taxidermies to stuff it and display it to appear life-like while marketing it as the next triple crown winner.

Anonymous said...

Can we all agree on just on thing?

Lykos is spelled L-Y-K-O-S.

Anonymous said...

Since there are those who are defending the HCDAO and TDCAA 's patently dilatory response to the application of HB79 I would merely point out that these entities had only(sic) 165 days to come up with a solution, the bill having been signed by Perry on 7/19/11. Perhaps if the bill had been passed in the regular session a cogent solution would have been available with the additional days. More disturbing though is the apparent suggestion that the HCDAO was in some wise relying upon TDCAA to take the lead on the subject instead of relying upon its in house attorneys. One suspects that this was Lykos' way of directing the blame elsewhere if the decision was incorrect.
Calvin A. Hartmann

Anonymous said...

can someone please run against Roger Bridgwater? I'll help collect petitions and contribute toward the filing fee.

Anonymous said...

Guess this is just too difficult for the Chronicle to spin for Lykos.

Mark W Stephens said...

From May 2010

http://www.khou.com/home/harris_county_grand_juries_reject_increasing_number_of_criminal_cases-93376954.html

Anonymous said...

News from the bunker:
Item 1: Judges decided they would disband grand juries on December 15th. By at least December 21st, 6th floor was informed of this. They took no action and made no communication to the troops until January 5th.
Item 2: Judge Bradley has decided to keep her grand jury intact. Leitner informed specialty divisions of this development this morning. However, no guidance has been sent to the trial bureau, where the vast majority of cases are handled.

Anonymous said...

If the Chronicle can't spin the story in Lykos' favor, they simply don't report the story.

Anonymous said...

If Judge Bradley holds her Grand Jury over she will be giving the citizens of Harris County a benefit theat they will never truly understand. I have no idea of her opinion of our leader but I'm sure they won't appreciate how much of a favor she is doing them either. And even if they understand they of course will not show it. Judge Bradley is showing just how worthy she is of her position.

Anonymous said...

Here is a link to a January 9, 2012 article by the Chronicle on this situation:

http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/article/Grand-jury-technicality-could-have-freed-felons-2452046.php