Monday, July 30, 2012

A Soft Landing for Leitner?

For several months now, those of us who participate in this blog have been speculating about the future of Harris County District Attorney's Office 1st Assistant Jim Leitner.  Every few weeks, there have been (what appeared to be) credible reports that he was turning in his two weeks notice.  The rumors started before the election in May, and have continued fairly regularly since then.  I hear new reports every week or so that he is finally leaving the Office.  I don't even bother to report them anymore.

The situation is interesting, however.

Since taking over the 1st Assistant position on January 1, 2009 in an unholy alliance with Pat Lykos, Jim has seemed to relish in the role of chief "bridge burner."  He started in 2008 by vowing to his friends in the D.A.'s Office that he would never support Pat Lykos if he failed to make the runoff and then contradicting himself the moment he lost.  His endorsement of Lykos coupled by his later appointment to 1st Assistant smacked of an illegal back room deal that didn't do his reputation any favors.

His blind bullying on behalf of Lykos has alienated the prosecutors that he has been supervising for the past three and a half years.  During his tenure he hasn't exactly earned too many new friends in the Judiciary or the Defense Bar, either.

Whether Leitner leaves on December 31st at 11:59 p.m. or tomorrow, the only certainty is that he will definitely not be the 1st Assistant come January 1st, 2013.  (NOTE:  Unless Lloyd Oliver wins, in which case, all bets are off.)  The big question now is, "What becomes of Jim Leitner once he no longer has that shiny badge that he likes to wear on his belt?"

The answer to that question may be in the works as we speak.

First, let's jump back in time to November 2007.

Kelly Siegler and her career arch-nemesis, Dick DeGuerin, have been embroiled in the hotly contested murder trial of David Temple.  The case is a whodunnit murder that dealt with a prominent Katy football coach charged in the murder of his 8-months-pregnant wife.  Much of the case is based largely on circumstantial evidence, with no confession from the defendant nor any forensic evidence that can definitively link him to the crime.

Unfortunately for David Temple and Mr. DeGuerin, circumstantial evidence is still evidence.  A jury convicted Temple of the murder of his wife and sentenced him to Life in prison.

DeGuerin complained loudly -- both publicly and privately -- that an innocent man had been convicted.  The appellate courts have disagreed and David Temple continues to serve his Life sentence as of this writing.

On January 1st, 2009, the Lykos Crew came to town.  According to reliable sources, soon after Lykos was elected, DeGuerin lobbied the Lykos Administration, specifically 1st Assistant Jim Leitner, to review the Temple case and agree to a reversal of the case.  My reports indicate that Kelly Siegler's trial file on David Temple has been sitting in Leitner's office since very early in 2009.  Why the First Assistant would take such an interest in a case is a mystery to me.  Perhaps it is because Mr. DeGuerin is such a high profile defense attorney.  Maybe Leitner was still angry after the bitter campaign between Kelly Siegler and Pat Lykos?

Whatever the motive was in 2009, nothing really became of the Temple case under the Lykos Administration -- at least nothing helpful to Mr. Temple or Mr. DeGuerin.

But in May of this year, Jim Leitner learned that his boss, Pat Lykos, was going to be out of a job at the end of the year.  He was savvy enough to know that when Lykos' job ended with the D.A.'s Office, his job would end as well.  Leitner knew that on January 1, 2013 he was going to be a defense attorney again, and the folks he would be dealing with would be a group of prosecutors that he had proudly treated like crap for the preceding four years.

Oops.

Where is that Temple file? Mr. Leitner must have wondered to himself.  Because if there was anything that might give him a little bit of goodwill in his job search beginning January 1st, surely the gratitude of Dick DeGuerin would count for something, right?

So, according to multiple credible sources, 1st Assistant Jim Leitner has picked up the David Temple file again.  DeGuerin is still claiming that his client is innocent.  DeGuerin has even hired former Harris County Sheriff's Office Lieutenant (and current defense attorney) John Denholm to work on the Temple case for him.  That's interesting, since Denholm was the Lieutenant in HCSO Homicide when the Temple murder occurred.

Leitner has the District Attorney's Office doing all they can to help DeGuerin, Denholm and David Temple, too.  He has an investigator assigned to do all he can to help them in their investigation.  That particular investigator has been given permission to log as many hours of overtime as he could possibly need with no questions asked -- all at taxpayer expense.

Leitner (who was rumored to have been leaving last Wednesday) has told others that he is staying on at the District Attorney's Office a little bit longer to take care of some projects.  It would appear that one of those "projects" is getting the murder conviction of David Temple overturned.  Although some of the details are not confirmed, apparently a jailhouse snitch heard somebody other than David Temple confess to the murder.  Supposedly the "confessor" is now in Mexico.  That would make this a third-hand confession that Leitner is desperately trying to prove to be true.

If Leitner finds the information he is so desperately seeking, a District Judge would have the power to let David Temple walk out the front door of TDCJ.

Mr. DeGuerin and Mr. Temple would doubtlessly be grateful.

And if Mr. Temple walks out the front door of TDCJ, we should all keep a careful eye on what door Mr. Leitner walks in through.

Having powerful friends can often soften the landing for you when you lose your job.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Tonight's Reasonable Doubt (7/26/12): UPDATED

UPDATE:  Unfortunately, my co-host Todd Dupont neglected to tell me he was going to be out of town this evening, so we are not doing tonight's show.  We'll have Wayne on in the near future, but the FCC can stand down for now.

I realize this makes two weeks in a row that we've had programing changes.  I apologize to our four viewers across the county.  Blame Todd!

Please join me and Todd Dupont at 8:00 p.m. tonight for Reasonable Doubt.  Our guest is scheduled to be defense attorney and master joke teller, Wayne Heller.  It should be an entertaining show as we try to keep Wayne contained.

The FCC hasn't been this nervous since 2 Live Crew broke up.

As always, you can watch it live streaming tonight by clicking here.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Fox 26 Debate Footage

For those of you who weren't able to catch Sunday morning's debate between Judge Mike Anderson and Lloyd Oliver, you can watch it by clicking here.

It is in four different segments that are about ten minutes a piece.

On a related note, I'm looking for a translator who speaks Lloydese.

David Hilburn for Brazos County District Attorney

Early voting begins today for the run-off elections in the Republican and Democratic primaries across the State of Texas, and one of Harris County's favorite alumni could use some help up in my old stomping grounds.

David Hilburn, a former Harris County and Brazos County prosecutor, is running for District Attorney in Brazos County.  Although most of you who read this blog vote in Harris County, I hope you will send a link to this post to anyone you know who is a registered voter in Brazos.  The turnout is expected to be pretty small.

David is an outstanding candidate for District Attorney and his background makes him the best choice for Brazos County, in particular.  He grew up in Lockhart, Texas before coming to Texas A & M University.  He was an active and popular member of the Corps of Cadets.  During his time at A&M, David knew that he wanted to be a criminal prosecutor and he worked for both Caldwell County and the Brazos County District Attorney's Offices.  That's when I first met him.

After graduating, Hilburn attended the South Texas College of Law and began interning with the Harris County District Attorney's Office.  Given his experience at other District Attorney's Offices, he was assigned to assist legendary prosecutors Johnny Holmes and Devon Anderson as they prosecuted the infamous serial killer Rafael Resendez Ramirez, also known as the Railcar Killer.  It would be Mr. Holmes' last case as the District Attorney of Harris County, and David's first experience with just how important a good prosecutor is.

After graduating from law school, David joined the Harris County District Attorney's Office where he did an excellent job, winning the respect and friendship of the judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys that he worked with.  He quickly rose to the level of "Felony Two" in the Office, where he was tasked with prosecuting the most heinous cases that Harris County needed tried -- from murder to crimes against children to sexual assault.

Ultimately, Aggieland would persuade David to leave Harris County.  He returned to the Brazos County District Attorney's Office as a prosecutor and stayed there for several years.  He got married to his wife Amy and they have a little boy and a little girl.

After nine years of prosecuting over 75 jury trials, Dave joined the Law Office of James & Reynolds, where he has maintained the reputation he has always enjoyed.  He's a smart and tough lawyer, but one who is also friendly and compassionate.  He has excellent judgment and would be a great benefit to the Brazos County District Attorney's Office if elected.

David has run a very positive campaign and I have nothing bad to say about his opponent.

When you have as many excellent qualities and qualifications as David Hilburn does, it speaks for itself.

Please vote for David Hilburn for Brazos County District Attorney and tell your friends who vote in Brazos County to get out and vote.  Early voting is only held this week and he needs your help.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Tonight's Reasonable Doubt (7/19/12): UPDATED

UPDATE:  Unfortunately, Dan is unable to appear on tonight's episode and has rescheduled for early next month.  Tonight, our throw-down last-minute "special" guest will be Franklin Bynum.  With or without the shoes.

Please join me and Todd Dupont for tonight's Reasonable Doubt, where our guest will be one of my favorite people on Earth, Dan Cogdell.  Having had the opportunity to have tried a murder case with Dan, I can say from personal observation that he is one of the best attorneys I've ever seen.  He's also one of the funniest people I've ever had a conversation with.  (NOTE:  I think the reason there is a sketch of him on his website rather than a photograph may be because photography had not been invented yet when he first started practicing, however.)

It is going to be a great show.

Please tune in tonight at 8 p.m.  As always, you can watch it live streaming on the internet by clicking here.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The First Anderson/Oliver D.A. Debate

No, I'm not kidding.

On Sunday morning, July 22nd, 2012, Fox 26 will be airing the first debate between the Republican and Democrat candidates for Harris County District Attorney.  Former Judge Mike Anderson will be facing off against Lloyd Oliver regarding their ideas for the future of the Office.

HCCLA President Chris Tritico played a large part in getting this event together and I'm hopeful that you all will participate.

The debate will be taped and then played in segments on Sunday morning at 6:10 a.m., 6:40 a.m., and 7:10 a.m.  Yes, that is very early for a Sunday morning, so don't forget to set your DVRs.  Chris has stated that the debate will be very viewer driven and your questions are welcomed.

If you have questions to be posed to either candidate, you can ask them on Fox 26 Facebook page.  Or you can ask them in the comments here and I will forward them on for you.

Thank to Chris and Fox 26 for putting this together.  I'm sure this will be interesting.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Flair

Never let it be said that incarceration can crush a man's sense of style.

I had a client this morning (who graciously approved my use of the below photo) who apparently decided that the county-issued orange uniforms were entirely too lowbrow.


Tonight's Reasonable Doubt (7/12/12)

Please join me and Todd Dupont for tonight's episode of Reasonable Doubt where our guest will be the shy and un-opinionated shrinking violet, Brian Wice.  Please call in with your questions.

As always, you can watch it live streaming by clicking here.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A Sobering Reminder

I'm pleased to report that HCCLA's reading of the Declaration of Independence was a tremendous success yesterday.  Unfortunately, Racehorse Haynes was under the weather and not able to attend, but there was a very strong turnout.  He was very much in all of our thoughts.

After the reading, I hopped in the car with my wife and my boy and we headed to my parents' lake house which is about 40 miles north of Bryan/College Station.  She and I are both from around this part of the State.  This morning we decided to go do a little exploring of our family history and ended up at a tiny little cemetery outside of Franklin, Texas called the Henry Prairie Cemetery.

She was looking for her ancestors there (yes, we are both Genealogy geeks) and we found a lot of them.

As we were looking through this tiny tiny cemetery, I came across this headstone.


It was a sobering reminder.

I had just written about Iwo Jima two days earlier and remarked about Mr. Haynes' service there as a United States Marine.

Adren F. Morgan was a Marine from Texas, too -- a tiny little town near Franklin.  

He was apparently part of the same invasion force as Mr. Haynes.

Unlike Mr. Haynes, Private Morgan did not survive the Battle of Iwo Jima.  In fact, he was killed on the second day of fighting.

He's buried in the Henry Prairie Cemetery, next to a little country church about six miles down a stretch of dirt road in Central Texas.

He was only 19 years old when he died.

Monday, July 2, 2012

A Simple Reading with Mr. Haynes

Tomorrow at 11:30 a.m., members of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers' Association will gather in front the Criminal Justice Center and take turns reading portions of the Declaration of Independence in observance of Independence Day.

It was an occasion started by HCCLA two years ago, and one that is quickly spreading across criminal courthouses around the country.  For the first time tomorrow, I will be one of the readers, and I couldn't be more honored to participate.

I suppose to the average cynic (which I think that many of us who practice criminal law are pre-disposed to be) the event may seem a little hokey and idyllic in front of a building that hears the cases of some of the worst miscreants that Harris County has to offer.  After all, the signers of the Declaration probably had no concept of the heavily tattooed and pierced misbegotten members of the community that walk in and out of the front door of the building charged with atrocities that would make Ghengis Khan blush.

But it isn't hokey. It isn't hokey at all.

It is never hokey to take a moment to remember that the principles our Nation was founded upon mean as much to us today as they did almost a quarter of a century ago.  Despite how much the facts of the cases may change, the principles remain the same.

One of the readers tomorrow will be Richard "Racehorse" Haynes.   He will be reading second -- right after HCCLA President Chris Tritico.

Mr. Haynes commands a lot of respect in the Criminal Defense community.  He is a living legend.

Long before Dick DeGuerin, Rusty Hardin, F. Lee Bailey, or Alan Dershowitz translated being a criminal lawyer into being a celebrity, you had Mr. Haynes.

He is, without a doubt, the Godfather of Harris County and Texas Criminal Defense Attorneys, if not Defense Attorneys across the country.

His work on some of Texas' most notorious cases -- from the Blood & Money defense of Dr. John Hill to the astounding acquittal of Cullen Davis -- have earned him a solid place in the history of criminal law.

But that isn't why I'm so honored to be reading alongside Racehorse Haynes tomorrow.

In 1945, Racehorse Haynes was part of the United States Marine Force who fought at Iwo Jima.

He was 17 years old at the time.

No matter how cynical you are, how could you not possibly be moved by hearing the words of the Declaration of Independence coming from someone who fought at Iwo Jima?

The implications of him reading those words on the front steps of our criminal courthouse could not be more simple nor more complex.

I've been reading about Racehorse Haynes since I was in Junior High.  I've watched him work since I first became a prosecutor.  I've marveled at his skills as a litigator.  In many instances, I've wondered how in the hell he got the results he got.

But at the end of the day, I've always held him in the highest esteem.

Not for what he did in a courtroom . . .

. . . but for what he did on a Pacific Island during World War II in 1945.

Even if you find the idea of watching a group of defense attorneys read the Declaration of Independence not to be worth your time, hearing those words from a World War II veteran is something that you should be proud to tell your family about on every Independence Day for years to come.