To be fair, I may have been a little bit antagonistic during the heated 2008 D.A. Election when I referred to her as Pippi Longstocking. To her credit, when I actually met Lisa a year or so later, she was very gracious despite some of the potshots I took at her on the blog. Although we didn't agree on many issues, we shared the common interest of the Harris County Criminal Courthouse. Despite the opposing views, I like her and consider her a friend.
When she first began writing about the Alfred Dewayne Brown case, she asked me a couple of questions here and there about the Grand Jury process for background information. I was more than happy to share my thoughts, and I thought she was on the right track. I was happy for her when she won the Pulitzer. Even though I didn't know enough about Brown's case back then to form an opinion on his guilt or innocence, I agreed with Lisa that the Grand Jury system had been abused and that needed to be brought to light.
I've never had a problem being friends with somebody that I disagreed with -- something that irks some of my friends in prosecution/law enforcement from time to time -- and I disagreed with Lisa on several issues over the years. Unfortunately, we had a falling out over her coverage of the David Temple case. She wrote an article singing the praises of John Denholm and Steve Clappart, and I responded with this post, pointing out that I felt they were dishonest morons.
Lisa sent me a tersely worded e-mail, blasting me for my response and telling me I had my facts wrong on Clappart and Denholm. I disagreed. I was (and am) pretty comfortable in my assessment of those two. That exchange was pretty much the last time we spoke.
The reason I write all of that backstory is that I want to make it clear that I don't feel any animosity towards Lisa for what she writes. Whether I think her point is correct or incorrect, I think she usually writes from a place of intellectual honesty.
But I think that she's gotten too close to the Alfred Dewayne Brown case and it is drastically coloring her perspective on it.
Just to clarify, I write from a completely biased perspective every time I write something for the blog. I try to justify what I'm thinking with logic and I also acknowledge counter-views, but I'm biased as hell. It would be silly to argue otherwise.
But I'm a blogger with small to medium readership --not a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for a newspaper in a major metropolitan area.
Earlier this month, Lisa wrote a column demanding that Harris County hurry up and pay Brown for all the years he "wrongfully" spent on Death Row. The column itself didn't surprise me. It is natural for Lisa to feel tied to the Brown case -- it won her the Pulitzer, after all. I thought it was a little strange that an investigative journalist was criticizing the idea of John Raley looking further into the case. What really surprised me, however, was a pretty gross misstatement of the law and facts that Lisa made in that article. She strongly insinuated that Brown had been found practically innocent by the Court of Criminal Appeals, which couldn't be further from the truth. I called out the misstatement in this post.
Last week, the news broke that the Harris County Attorney's Office was in strong disagreement over Brown's innocence. Their argument was that a phone call that could have potentially exonerated Brown, actually proved his guilt.
Given Lisa's closeness to the case, I was curious as to what she would have to say about Mr. Brown now. This morning, she answered that question quite clearly by doubling down on her belief in Brown's innocence.
In a column entitled "It's Harris County Attorneys, not Alfred Dewayne Brown, bluffing in federal court," Lisa assails the County Attorney's allegation of Brown being guilty as a "ridiculous claim."
If the records didn't help Brown's defense, then the county attorneys reason that they weren't exculpatory, and so Brown's prosecutors didn't violate his rights by withholding them. Thus, they conclude Brown's conviction shouldn't have been reversed, and he lacks a civil rights claim as well.
See, I told you they got creative.Not exactly. As one of my commenters in the last post noted:
Brown's lawsuit is demanding compensation because he was factually innocent. The County Attorney's response is counter to that. A person can be factually guilty and still have his rights violated. If that happens, he deserves a new trial. A new trial doesn't make one factually innocent and thus entitled to millions of dollars.
And Lisa knows that.
Lisa's article is attempting to equate the fact that Brown deserved a new trial to his factual innocence. She's vilifying the County for not wanting to pay cash money to Brown and saying that they are arguing he should have never gotten his case reversed, either. I haven't seen the entirety of the County Attorney's pleadings, so I don't know if they are arguing that exact point. If they are arguing that he didn't deserve a new trial, they are wrong.
There is no dispute in my mind (or the minds of prosecutors or defense attorneys) that Brown deserved the remedy of a reversal of his case due to the exculpatory evidence being hidden. The dispute arises over whether he should receive a nice lump sum payment in addition to the reversal . . . or another trip back to Death Row.
Lisa concludes this morning's column with this:
A prosecutor has a duty not to convict, but to do justice. The moment Rizzo realized he had evidence that had even the potential to help Brown, he was bound by law to turn it over. He didn't. He sat on it, and then claimed years later the phone record was lost inadvertently.
That's a violation of Brown's rights. That comes across loud and clear. The rest is just static.Now, who's being creative?
In essence, this is what has happened:
HARRIS COUNTY: Mr. Brown did not receive a fair trial so his case should be reversed.
LISA: Pay him millions, too.
HARRIS COUNTY: Slow down, Lisa. We are going to see if we have enough evidence to retry him.
LISA: Pay him his millions.
HARRIS COUNTY: Doesn't look like we are going to be able to try his case again, so . . .
LISA: So, you're going to pay him his millions?
HARRIS COUNTY: No. For him to get his millions, we have to believe that he actually didn't commit this crime.
LISA: That's ridiculous. Pay him his millions.
HARRIS COUNTY: We don't think he deserves his millions.
LISA: You're all idiots. You violated his rights. Pay him his millions.
HARRIS COUNTY: After looking at these phone records, we actually think we may be able to prove he's guilty. We may even take him back to trial.
LISA: You're just being difficult. That's impossible. Pay him his millions.
The first blog post that I wrote about Lisa's coverage of the Alfred Dewayne Brown case was entitled "Tunnel Vision & The Falkenberg Articles." In that post, I criticized people who have tunnel vision to the degree that they aren't willing to examine any other possibility than the theory they believe in. In that post, I was talking about Rizzo's tunnel vision, but I could borrow that same title for this post.
Lisa's articles on Brown reflect an absolute inability to consider the possibility that he may actually have been responsible for murdering Houston Police Officer Charles Clark. In the picture accompanying today's column, she is literally seen hugging Brown as he is released from custody. This case is the one that won her the Pulitzer.
Maybe Lisa is the one suffering from a little bit of tunnel vision now.