Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Animals!

At the end of last week, I had a sudden onslaught of e-mails and questions about the Harris County District Attorney's Office recent decision to abolish the Animal Cruelty Division.  I got a call for commentary from a local reporter.  My wife asked me about it because she had received an email from Barrio Dogs, a stray dog advocacy group she is a member of.  Another friend asked me about it because she got an e-mail from the SPCA.

My response was the same to everyone:  Calm Down.

The structure of the District Attorney's Office has absolutely nothing to do with what crimes they will or will not prosecute.  Mike Anderson made it very clear when he was running for Office that as long as a law is on the books, he plans on prosecuting it.  Just because he dissolves a particular division doesn't mean he is going to cease trying those types of cases.

As I pointed out to the reporter I spoke to, Pat Lykos was a savvy politician and she knew that you just couldn't go wrong by promoting a division that everyone could get behind.  She touted the fact that she had an Animal Cruelty Division at the District Attorney's Office and animal lovers across the county rejoiced.

Who wouldn't get behind the idea of a specialized division that prosecuted the type of people who hurt animals?

But here's the deal, folks -- you don't have to have a specialized division to prosecute every crime.

There are certain types of crimes that necessitate a specialized division to handle them.  White Collar crimes demand prosecutors that know how to interpret voluminous financial records.  Child Abuse crimes demand prosecutors that know how to interpret forensic examinations of children and know how to deal with child witnesses.  Vehicular crimes demand prosecutors that can understand accident reconstruction reports and intoxilyzer results.

In other words, specialized divisions of the District Attorney's Office should be based on those types of crimes that demand specialized knowledge.

Prior to 2006, there wasn't a specialized division that handled animal cruelty.  The rank and file prosecutors of each court handled those types of cases.  It was just part of the repertoire of what we all handled in the court.  If someone harmed an animal, a prosecutor tried the case.  They were straight-forward and not all that difficult to handle.

As it turns out, getting fired up about prosecuting people who hurt animals is not that difficult, either.

I understand that it is easy to get alarmed when an animal advocacy group announces that Mike Anderson's District Attorney's Office is abolishing the Animal Cruelty Division.  The reality, however, is that he is trying to stabilize the financial disaster that he inherited from his predecessor.  Part of that plan is consolidating specialty divisions and keeping the courts running effectively.

My advice to those who are worried about the ramifications of the dissolution of the Animal Cruelty Division is simple:  just hang on for a minute.  If you feel that people are getting away with harming animals because of this decision, let's talk then.  I don't think that's going to happen.

In the meantime, don't make the snap decision that a shuffling of personnel means the failure to prosecute a crime that is near and dear to so many of our hearts.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Maybe there was some statistical analysis of the cases being handled by that division. Such as, how many charges have been filed in the past four years. How many trials has the division tried and were they misdemeanor or felony cases? How often was the investigator out of the office attending training classes? In other words, how efficient was it to fund the staff to possibly try very few cases. Murray is right about animal abuse cases having been tried for many years before 2008 when Lykos devoted a sizable budget to prosecute these cases by a Chief Prosecutor instead of utilizing the attorneys assigned to whatever court the case falls in. The HCDAO budget is a big mess due to Lykos' mismanagement and her proclivity for funding things to try to make her look good politically.

Queen of Thrones said...

Murray I think you and Ms. D @ anon 9:40 missed the real point of the Lykos animal cruelty division.

United States v. The Blue Haired Trolls of Harris County, 659 U.S. ___, 130 S.Ct. 1577 (2008) was an April 20, 2008 decision by the Supreme Court of the United States, which ruled that the version of 18 U.S.C. § 48 which had entered into effect on December 9, 1999 as Pub.L. 106-152 was an unconstitutional abridgment of the First Amendment right to freedom of speech. After this ruling, the statute was revised by the Blue Hair Troll Spot Lighting video Prohibition Act of 2008 to have much more specific language indicating it was intended only to apply to "blue haired troll head shot videos". As we all know, Pat Lykos was president of the, "Endangered Blue-Hair Troll Association of Harris County". And THAT boys and girls is the real story.....I swear on Rachael Palmer's honor!

Anonymous said...

Does this mean Mike Anderson will prosecute pit troll fights?

I mean who has a pet troll these days? They are not worth a shit to commercially raise unless you fight 'em......cuddly and cute they're not.
They smell like camel dung mixed with sour mash whiskey pickeled in non-mentholated cigarette smoke.

All a criminal defense attorney needs to do is bring one of those nasty cave dwelling bridge lurking trolls to the courtroom and his troll whacking defendant will be applauded as he walks.

Anonymous said...

Mike Anderson made it very clear when he was running for Office that as long as a law is on the books, he plans on prosecuting it.

Isn't the sodomy law actually still on the books?

Anonymous said...

On June 26, 2003, the Supreme Court released its 6–3 decision striking down the Texas statute. Five justices held it violated due process guarantees, and a sixth, Sandra Day O'Connor, held it violated equal protection guarantees. The majority opinion overruled Bowers v. Hardwick and implicitly invalidated similar sodomy statutes in 13 other states.

Anonymous said...

Well I have been handed my ass several times in the last 3 days. I went to many animal rescue/rights groups to get them to vote for Mike. I don't have much of a sense of humor when these animal right activist are pissed off at me. I have worked with many of them thru the years to save animals.I really hope this does not change now that they think I lied to them. I told them Mike was right for the job and a big animal lover. I am truly heartsick that this division would be abolished. There is a lot of training needed to try some of these cases. This division was named in 2008 but it was started in 2006. I guess this is just one more Lycos problem. She gutted the budget. I just hope that this doesn't change the outcome on any of the cruelty cases that are tried. It takes a special person to really care about animals and a special passion to prosecute the villians.

Anonymous said...

How many cases did animal cruelty try last year?

How many cases did they file?

How many of those cases were pled down (felony to misd, etc)?

How many days was the animal cruelty investigator away from the office at narcotics/computer/homicide training?

If you would keep that position, it needs to be a felony 3, no higher. And it does not needs it's own dedicated investigator; not when misd is short, and other specialized divisions with multiple prosecutors are short.

Anon 7:06 - I'm sure the animal lovers will now vote for Lloyd Oliver since Mike abolished the divsion. I'd rather have an animal cruelty section than a section that prosecutes domestic violence. (the last line is obviously bs).

Anonymous said...

But the sodomy law is still on the books. So, until he legislature takes it away, he has to prosecute it.

Anonymous said...

More BS from the DA-Lie to the animal lovers to get their votes,then come up with this nonsense about the cases getting sent to other departments. They will probably end up like all the untested rape kits that are years old.

Anonymous said...

Who is gonna show off the hidden camera man on horse sex without the Animal Cruelty Division shopping around the gawker of the day?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 8:16
Thank God the animal lovers have a brain. You seriously are an asshole and an idiot to boot. Do you really think that just because we are animal lovers that we would want to go after the cruelty cases and ignore domestic violence or any other crime needing to be prosecuted. If you bothered to read the whole post you would understand that budget problems are blamed not Mike. What an idiot. And yes jackass I am heartbroken that this division was abolished. I also believe that it takes a person with a real passion for animals to do the job right. I bet if you have a dog you let it ride in the back of your pickup truck.

Anonymous said...

IMHO there are too many specialized divisions in the DAs office these days. When I was with the office in the 80s, with the exception of some cases handled by Special Crimes, all the cases were handled by the trial court prosecutors. Public safety did not suffer.