Sunday, August 11, 2019

Temple Trial Takeaways

As you doubtlessly know by now, the punishment phase of The State of Texas vs. David Temple ended in a mistrial on Friday after jurors failed to reach an agreement on an appropriate punishment for the man they easily convicted of murder.

I've heard from multiple credible sources that the split between the jurors was 10-2, with ten of the jurors demanding Life in prison for the man they convicted of killing his 8-month-pregnant wife, Belinda, by placing a shotgun to the back of her head and pulling the trigger.  The remaining two jurors were holding out for something far less and neither side seemed willing to budge from their position despite almost two days of deliberations.

A jury that convicts but then deadlocks over punishment is not unheard of, but it is fairly uncommon.  Since Temple was convicted of a 1999 murder, the law of 1999 applies to the case.  Back then a person could receive probation for murder, so Temple could technically receive it, as well.  Due to this, there is apparently an argument to be made that Temple could be placed on bond while awaiting his punishment.

If 178th District Court Judge Kelli Johnson elects to give Temple a bond, she will doubtlessly consider the brutality of the case, how many jurors wanted Life for Temple, and the fact that when released from jail in 2016, Temple vowed "for the people that lied and cheated who put me there to be held accountable."  Texas Attorney General Prosecutors Lisa Tanner and Bill Turner will likely point out that these combined factors make Temple a high flight risk with a revenge agenda who has nothing to lose.

Although the hung jury on punishment prevented bringing the 20-year saga of David Temple to a complete close, the fact that he was convicted again will more than suffice for the time being.

It has been a long and winding road that gave David Temple a second chance at getting away with murder, one that most murderers don't get.

Temple was originally convicted and sentenced to Life in 2007 in a trial that pitted Harris County Assistant District Attorney Kelly Siegler against prominent defense attorney Dick DeGuerin.  Despite the fact that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the case, DeGuerin lobbied the District Attorney's Office under then-D.A. (and Siegler's political rival) Pat Lykos to perform an off-the-books investigation into an alternate suspect.

In July of 2012, Pat Lykos was a "lame duck" D.A., having lost her bid for re-election to Mike Anderson in the Republican Primary.  DeGuerin asked then-1st Assistant Jim Leitner to "review" the Temple case before the Lykos Circus left town at the end of December.  Inexplicably, Leitner complied, as I detailed in this post.

Leitner had been informed that newly-minted defense attorney and former Harris County Homicide Lieutenant John Denholm had been sucking up to working for DeGuerin on developing an "alternate suspect" to the murder of Belinda Temple.  Despite the fact that the Court of Criminal Appeals had recently affirmed Temple's conviction, Leitner was more than happy to do DeGuerin's bidding and assigned Denholm's buddy (and current HCDA investigator) Steve Clappart to work on the case.

By September 2012, the dream team of Clappart and Denholm had drafted a Capital Murder warrant for the arrest of a "suspect" named Cody Ray Ellis based on evidence so absurd that I won't even address it in this post.  You can check out the legal document that these two nimwits tried to get signed by clicking here.   (NOTE:  Don't forget to scroll down to the transcript where Leitner testified that he would have signed that warrant.)

Here's a fun fact, in case you didn't pick up on it already:  During the retrial, Stan Schneider didn't even advance Ellis as his "alternate suspect," instead focusing on another teenager from the neighborhood, Riley Joe Sanders.  The juries in both the 2007 and 2019 trials quickly rejected all alternate suspects in favor of Temple.



In the meantime, DeGuerin (now joined by Stanley Schneider) filed an "Out of Time Motion for New Trial or Alternative Application for Writ of Habeas Corpus Based on Actual Innocence, Newly Discovered Evidence, and the Willful Suppression of Exculpatory Evidence." (Stanley apparently gets paid by the word.)  It is worth noting that during all of this, the Lykos Administration never bothered communicating what was going on to the family of Belinda Lucas Temple, which is something I noted here.


Wanting to avoid the appearance of impropriety, Lykos appointed local defense attorney Brad Beers to be a "special prosecutor" on the Temple matter.  There was a small conflict of interest on that, however, seeing as how Beers had previously represented Clappart twice (once in a lawsuit and once on a disciplinary infraction within the Office).

All of this ultimately led to a hearing in 2015 that David Temple wasn't entitled to and that very few others have been the beneficiary of.  During that hearing, Stan Schnieder and then-licensed attorney Casie Gotro got to revisit the entirety of the Temple case.  That rendition of Team Temple rejected at least five judges to hear the extra-judicial hearing before settling on Judge Larry Gist.

As we all know, the multi-week hearing ultimately resulted in findings from Gist that Kelly Siegler had been untimely in turning over evidence to Dick DeGuerin during the 2007 trial, and recommended that Temple receive a new trial.  My opinion then and my opinion now is that Judge Gist wasn't paying attention to much of the evidence that he was hearing.  He certainly wasn't paying attention when he signed off on an order where Gotro and Schneider had slipped in an extra finding.

I know that I'm biased, because Kelly Siegler is one of my best friends, but I will go to my grave feeling that the District Attorney's response to Gist's finding, coupled with Houston Press journalist Craig Malisow's article Unreasonable Doubt: Did Kelly Siegler Really Railroad an Innocent Man Eight Years Ago held far more accurate accounts of the Temple hearing than Gist's findings.

Regardless of how I feel, or how Kelly Siegler's detractors feel, David Temple ultimately got his case reversed.  Due to Kelly's fame as one of the best prosecutors in the State of Texas, the Houston Chronicle writers were ecstatic.  Lisa Falkenberg wrote a really touching article on how Clappart and Denholm were heroic and brave for taking a stand in pursuing the "real killer," despite losing friends.

SPOILER ALERT:  Denholm and Clappart lost friends because everyone knew that they (and their warrant) were full of shit, Lisa.  They were full of shit then and they are full of shit now.  Just FYI.

Brother Denholm even had the audacity to file a grievance against me with the State Bar (with attached affidavits from Gotro and Schneider) for daring to blog about Temple (and try to ruin Temple's fight for freedom).  It got rejected summarily.  I'm still a practicing lawyer, and that's all I'll say about that topic.

And then came the Reign of Ogg.

Kim Ogg took Office on January 1, 2017, and in her inauguration speech, she thanked Dick DeGuerin profusely for all he had done for her and her career.  Within a week, she vowed to be the One Woman Review Team who decided whether or not the District Attorney's Office would retry David Temple.  She appointed Steve Clappart to be her CHIEF investigator, and hired John Denholm to a Division Chief position.  Despite these clear conflicts of interest with Team Temple, Ogg steadfastly refused to recuse herself from the case.

Again, the Houston Chronicle was giddy with the prospect of the Temple Case being dismissed, because, you know, Kelly Siegler cheated!




While in the midst of Ogg's One Woman Review of Temple, DeGuerin even threw her a fundraiser! It was co-hosted by Paul Looney, who had also been a member of Team Temple at one point.


Coincidentally, Team Temple attorney Stan Schneider said that he was "completely comfortable" in whatever Ogg decided.  Gee, I wonder why.  

Ultimately, Kim Ogg relented under public pressure and recused the Harris County District Attorney's Office from The State of Texas vs. David Temple.

And the result? Justice. He was convicted again of Murder last week.

The circus that surrounded his case merely resulted in him getting a two and a half year break from prison that he clearly did not deserve.  Somewhere in the midst of all of this, the prosecutorial team of Lisa Tanner and Bill Turner were able to turn the focus back to the evidence of the case and back to Belinda Lucas Temple and her unborn daughter, Erin.

The postponement of the punishment phase to March will hopefully serve as merely an extremely lengthy epilogue for David Temple.  The real story concluded with the guilty verdict and Temple going back into custody.

Justice prevailed last week.  

Monday, July 22, 2019

Tales from the Old Days

From time to time, I'm reminded of a funny story from my days at the District Attorney's Office and I think that they might make for a decent blog post.  I was reminded of one of those moments this morning by former-HCDA investigator Steve Januhowski on Facebook, so I thought I'd share.

Back when I was a new-ish prosecutor, a group of prosecutors routinely got together on Wednesdays after work for Steak Night at the Little Woodrow's on W. Alabama (sadly, it has since been demolished).  I coordinated Steak Night and I was pretty religious about attendance.  We usually had anywhere between ten to thirty people show up.

I never missed.  If I didn't leave early from work, I was out the door at 5:00 sharp on Wednesdays.

During my tenure as the Chief of County Court at Law #5, my secretary was the one and only Barbara Eaglin, who was a true institution of the Office.  She had been around for decades, if not centuries and was well known for her good-natured battles with the smart ass baby prosecutors that came through the misdemeanor.  In addition, if a thought entered Barbara's mind, it immediately came right out of her mouth, and it came out loudly.

One Wednesday, my godfather, Jim Cox, called the Office looking for me.  Jim was an older attorney, who was probably in his mid-to-late-60s when this happened.  He didn't practice criminal law and he didn't know Barbara, nor did she have any clue on earth who she was talking to when she answered the phone.  As he would tell me later that the phone call went something like this.

BARBARA:  District Attorney's Office.

JIM:  May I speak to Murray Newman?

BARBARA:  No, he's gone for the day.

JIM:  Oh, that's right.  It's Wednesday.  He must have left early for steak night.

BARBARA:  No.  He left early because it's raining outside and shit floats.

She then hung up the phone.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Conversations at the Elevator Bank

While standing at the elevator bank at the CJC this morning, a highly agitated lady waded into the crowd of people waiting, yelling out questions to no one in particular.

LADY:  WHERE IS ANDREWS?!?!  CAN ANYONE TELL ME WHERE ANDREWS IS?!

CROWD:  (SILENCE)

LADY:  THEY SAID SHE'S ON SIX BUT I WAS JUST UP THERE AND SHE AIN'T THERE!  IT'S BULLSHIT!  SOMEBODY AROUND HERE'S GOT TO KNOW!

ME:  Do you mean Judge Kelley Andrews?

LADY (calming down some):  Yeah!  Her!

ME (trying to remember what floor Court 6 is on):  Well, she's Court Six, so . . .

LADY:  I JUST WENT TO SIX AND SHE ISN'T THERE!

ME:  Well, there's a difference between the sixth floor and Court Six, I'm trying to remember . . .

ANOTHER ATTORNEY:  I think Court Six is on the 11th floor.

LADY (to other attorney):  THANK YOU!  That's all you had to say.

LADY (giving me a dirty look):  I DON'T NEED SOME ARROGANT ASS LAWYER TALKING TO ME LIKE I'M STUPID.

ME:  [SPEECHLESS]

NOTE:  This post reminded me of my favorite post that I ever wrote about the CJC Elevator Experience, so I decided I should relink to it here.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Discretion and the MAC System

Like many criminal defense attorneys who work in Harris County, my law practice is a division of both retained and appointed cases.  In the ten and a half years that I've been on the defense side of things, my retained cases have increased, but I still take appointments on cases when my caseload can manage some new material.

For those of you unfamiliar with how the appointment system works in Harris County, an attorney who is approved to take appointments has the ability to go on the Harris County website and list himself or herself as available for either an individual appointment and/or a "term" appointment for a day or a block of days on the calendar.  If a court needs an "Attorney of the Day" (a lawyer who will work in the court and represent up to five defendants needing lawyers on any given day) and the attorney has checked the "term" appointment box, that attorney will be eligible to be called up.  If a court needs an attorney for just a case or two, the attorney who put in for an individual appointment would be eligible.

When the coordinator of the court needs an attorney for either "term" or individual appointment, the computer will generate the names of ten different attorneys who have listed themselves as being available.  The coordinator or the judge will then select someone from that ten-person field.  Additionally, the Harris County Public Defender's Office could also pop up as one of the ten options.

It should come as no surprise that the amount an attorney is paid on an appointed case is generally significantly less than what we routinely charge for retained cases.  That's not a complaint -- Harris County pays better than most other counties that I'm familiar with and there was a noticeable increase in the pay scale that went into effect in March.  But the bottom line is that indigent defendants in Harris County get some pretty damn good legal representation for a significant bargain to the County on a daily basis.

Attorneys who take appointments in Harris County find themselves in trial quite often and the more an attorney goes to trial, the better he or she becomes as a litigator.  Some of the very best lawyers that I tried cases against during my time at the D.A.'s Office were appointed and I think that if you ask any prosecutor or judge, they would express the same sentiment today.

Judges and coordinators know what defense attorneys do a good job, and more importantly, they know which ones don't.  Although the Court must select a name from one of the ten names that are provided to them from the electronic "Wheel," the Judges still have the discretion to avoid an attorney that isn't up for the case they are being considered for.  In that regard, discretion is definitely a good thing.

Critics of the current appointment system, however, point out that this discretion is also something that can lead to cronyism and potential abuse, and that is certainly a valid point.  In my earlier days at the D.A.'s Office, there were some judges that I saw appointing mind-numbingly bad attorneys on a routine basis.  I also saw attorneys who were powerful in the Republican Party or big donors that got a lot of mind-boggling appointments.  That being said, I saw that taper off significantly as new judges were elected to the Bench over the past fifteen years or so.

The critics of Harris County's current appointment system, led by County Commissioner and former-State Senator Rodney Ellis, are pushing hard to replace it with a new program known as the Managed Assigned Counsel (MAC) Program. This program would take the power of appointment away from the Judges and Coordinators and give it to a newly created entity that made the appointments in a rotation.   The County Court judges have largely agreed to it, but there is some debate amongst the District Court judges.  The District Court judges have been regularly meeting with each other and members of the Defense Bar to iron out potential details.

The MAC is something that would require a grant from the Texas Indigent Defense Commission (TIDC) and the TIDC is an organization near dear to Rodney Ellis' heart.  His former policy advisor, Scott Ehlers, is Special Counsel to TIDC and would doubtlessly play a large role in bringing the MAC to Harris County.  It is my understanding that the District Court Judges have requested more time from TIDC to research the project, but apparently, Ellis was not on board with this delay.

Today, I was provided with a copy of TIDC's Recommendations for a Unified Harris County Managed Assigned Counsel Program, a 22 page write up of TIDC's ideas of how the new MAC should be implemented and run.  Although it is doubtlessly well-intentioned, I have numerous concerns about how it would work in Harris County.   In no particular order, here are some of the biggest ones.

1.  The MAC should oversee the appointment and payment of counsel in all misdemeanors and non-capital felonies, as well as appeals and post-conviction matters.  A MAC can also oversee appointments in specialty courts.

So, two big things jump out in this particular recommendation.  The first being that the MAC system will oversee not just the appointment of counsel, but also the payment of counsel.  As it currently stands, when an attorney submits a voucher for the work done on an appointed case, the Judge of the court must approve it, edit it, or reject it.  Generally, that's a pretty good system because, you know, the judge actually observed the attorney handling the case in his or her court.  The MAC system is going to turn over what payments are made to an entity that isn't in court handling the case.  In essence, this is pretty much the same premise as a person's insurance company deciding what medical procedures a person needs, rather than the doctor.

The second issue is that TIDC also wants the MAC to decide who can do specialty courts (i.e., Mental Health Court, Veteran's Court, Responsive Interventions for Change Court, etc.)  These particular courts rely on a stable of attorneys who practice solely in those courts on a daily basis.  These are courts that can be complicated as they are designed to rehabilitate rather than incarcerate defendants.  In these courts, it is absolutely critical that there are long term attorneys who are handling the caseloads and are familiar with how the courts work.  A MAC System that assigns a revolving door of appointments to random defense attorneys would be extremely counterproductive.

2.  Attorneys will generally be assigned to cases on a rotational basis, taking into consideration attorney experiences and expertise.  Investigators will be assigned to cases when requested by attorneys.  Experts will be approved by the MAC when requested by attorneys.

Attorneys being assigned on a rotational basis ensures that every attorney on the appointment list actually gets an appointment every now and again.   The rationale for this being that some attorneys get appointed on more than their "fair share" of cases, while some are never getting called.  This rule is designed to be fair to all of the attorneys.

Here's a spoiler alert:  the Indigent Defense System is not designed to make sure that attorneys are treated fairly; it's there to make sure that the CLIENTS are treated fairly.  Attorneys who get more appointments just might be getting more appointments because more judges have confidence in those attorneys' abilities.  If an attorney is on the list and never getting an appointment, one might want to know if the reason is that judges don't have faith in the attorney to do a good job.  Appointed attorneys are taking a client's life into their hands -- it isn't time to make sure that everyone gets a participation trophy.  Would you be comfortable going into heart surgery and being told "Well, Dr. Smith is the best heart surgeon in Houston, but we're giving you Dr. Jones because he hasn't gotten to do heart surgery lately."

As it currently stands, when a defense attorney wants an investigator or an expert on his or her case, he files a motion with the court for approval of funds to hire an expert.  Those are routinely granted and the defense attorney may then pick the investigator or expert of the attorney's choice.   I've been a lawyer now for 20 years and 11 of those have been as a defense attorney.  I tried a lot of investigators over several years before settling on the one I now use on ALL of my cases.  I've also identified and continue to use DNA experts, psychological experts, mitigation experts, and other experts that I know do a good job and I can trust.

Under this proposal, the MAC would have the power to deem whether or not I was worthy of an investigator or an expert.  If I was to be so blessed by this government entity to receive approval to have an investigator or expert, the MAC would then assign me one of their choosing.

This falls under the category of "are you f'ing kidding me?"  As a lawyer, my duty is to the client and to provide the best defense possible.  This includes me using my knowledge and discretion to choose the personnel needed for the case.  What if I have a personal conflict with the investigator?  Or I just know that investigator doesn't do a very good job?  Tough luck.  The relationship between an investigator and an attorney is absolutely critical.  My investigator (although obnoxious) does an amazing job for me on all of my cases and he's self-directed.  I couldn't get by without him and I don't want to work with anyone else.  That's not a slight to other investigators that I've worked for.  We just work well together.  (Don't get a big head, Roy.)

The idea of the MAC being the decider of "if" and "who" on investigators and experts is obscene.  Period.

3.  [The MAC will employ] Supervising attorney [to] assist assigned attorneys and ensure assigned attorneys are providing high-quality defense services.  Supervising attorneys should do such things as:  observe attorneys in court and trial and provide feedback on their performance; assist attorneys in preparing for trial, strategizing elements of cases and answering legal questions; serve as second-chair; respond to an investigate complaints about attorneys from judges, clients, and client family members; ensure attorneys are visiting clients at the jail; and conduct annual attorney performance reviews.  Supervising attorneys should also document attorney performance deficiencies, complaints, and disciplinary matters in the attorney's file, as well as begin any necessary proceedings to move an attorney to a lower level appointment list or remove an attorney from the appointments list due to not meeting the MAC's standards of attorney performance.

I don't even know where to begin with this part. So, the MAC will be staffed with "supervising attorneys" who will, in essence, serve as employers for all of the attorneys who take appointments.  They will give performance evals and keep a disciplinary file on us.  Um, a  disciplinary file?  Isn't that what the State Bar is for?

And the Supervising Attorney is going to investigate complaint's from the "client family members?"  Here's a newsflash, TIDC.  Lawyers don't owe a duty to a client's family members -- many of whom are verbally abusive, unreasonable, and not entitled to know a damn thing about a client's case without the client's permission.

More troubling is that the MAC's Supervising Attorney will be an appointed attorney's de facto second chair.  So, not only does an appointed attorney get a random investigator and expert shoved down his or her throat, he or she also gets a mandatory second chair that he or she may or may not even know.  Sounds great!  I look forward to seeing what supervisor I'm going to get.  I wonder who will be supervising Skip Cornelius or Tyrone Moncriffe or Danny Easterling.

I find this portion to be so amusing because the whole idea of the MAC is to make sure every lawyer on the appointment list gets an appointment, but the ones who will be appointed on every case will be the MAC lawyers.  Nice.

At the risk of sounding like the kid who is threatening to take his ball and go home, I've got no interest in continuing to do appointments under the MAC System.  I can't imagine any attorney with a significant amount of experience agreeing to work under those circumstances, either.  If the System runs off the experienced attorneys, guess who that leaves?

If the MAC System is implemented in a manner that even vaguely resembles these suggestions, the quality of Indigent Representation will fall and fall dramatically.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Joe Gamaldi's Press Release

The Houston Police Department held a press conference today announcing that they had re-arrested Andre Timothy Jackson for the 2016 murder of 11-year-old Josue Flores.  As noted in the Houston Chronicle:
The indictment comes three years after police first arrested Jackson and charged him with murder — charges that prosecutors later dismissed over concerns they would not win at trial.
Apparently, evidence which had been collected during the initial investigation three years earlier just now provided a DNA link between Jackson and Flores.  It is not clear what piece of evidence that DNA was collected from or who that DNA belonged to, but my educated guess is that a piece of evidence belonging to Jackson may have been found to have Flores' DNA on it. 

Enter Houston Police Officer's Union President Joe Gamaldi. 

Gamaldi has been relatively quiet since his infamous "dirtbags on notice" press conference in the wake of the now-infamous HPD raid that left two citizens dead.  He's been around, continuing his on-going battle with Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, but there hasn't really been anything noteworthy to report. 

Today's press conference over the arrest of Andre Timothy Jackson, however, provided Gamaldi the opportunity to do two of his favorite things: 1) tout the awesomeness of the Houston Police Department; and 2) bash District Attorney Kim Ogg.  Gamaldi released the following press release:



There's nothing wrong with Gamaldi giving HPD Homicide a shout out for their hard work and dedication to this emotionally grueling case.  However, Gamaldi wasn't content with just giving his officers an attaboy and going about his business.  He decided that he needed to fire a couple of shots at Kim Ogg in the middle of this otherwise feel-good arrest story.
However, what has not been reported today is the defense attorney for Andre Jackson filed a motion several months ago to have all of his property/evidence returned to Mr. Jackson.  This included the key piece of evidence that the DNA would later be extracted from and would be material to any future trial.  In an act of what can only be described as gross incompetence, the Harris County District Attorney's Office inexplicably did not oppose this motion.
In this, Gamaldi is correct.  If the District Attorney's Office dismissed the case against Jackson in 2016 but hoped that further investigation would allow prosecution at a later date, then they absolutely should have fought tooth and nail against any motion to restore property to Jackson.  Their failure to do so is, as Gamaldi put it, gross incompetence.

But Gamaldi didn't stop there.
. . . Andre Jackson would be free to pick up his property and all the evidence belonging to him, that the Houston Police Department had in its custody.  Which Mr. Jackson actually attempted to do.
Please pay close attention to wording such as "his property" and "all the evidence belonging to him."
If not for the Houston Police Department Homicide Division and Chief Acevedo, who stated that "the items would only be returned over our dead bodies" opposing the motion from the judge, key pieces of evidence would have been turned over to Andre Jackson and lost forever.
So, here is a quick law tutorial for Mr. Gamaldi:  Judges don't issue "motions,"  they issue Orders.  As in, legal orders to do things, like say, return someone's property to him because the case against him got dismissed.

Failure to follow a Court's order is breaking the law. 

A very strong argument can be made that any evidence obtained from Mr. Jackson's property, which was being held by HPD in violation of a judge's order, was illegally obtained.  If a judge were to find that the evidence was illegally obtained, then a judge might find himself or herself well within his or her rights to suppress that evidence.  That same judge would also then suppress the results of any testing done on those items.

Gamaldi's press release indicates that key evidence belonging to Jackson was at the center of today's arrest.  Reading between the lines, that seems to spell out to me that a piece of property belonging to Jackson had DNA belonging to Josue Flores on it. 

So, let's throw out a hypothetical scenario.

Jackson gets arrested in 2016 and the police take clothing belonging to him during the arrest.  The case gets dismissed and Jackson files a motion to get his clothing back.  The District Attorney's Office says; "Sure, have your clothing back.  We don't care!" and a Judge signs an order that says, "HPD, give Mr. Jackson his clothing back."   Mr. Jackson goes to get his clothing and HPD basically says, "We don't care what the Judge's order says, you aren't getting your clothes back."  HPD then sends those clothes to a lab, and finds Josue Flores' DNA on Jackson's clothes.

If I was Jackson's defense attorney, I'd be arguing that all of those DNA results should be suppressed at trial because they were illegally obtained from property that HPD had been lawfully ordered to surrender to Jackson.

Gamaldi's press release is so mind-numbingly stupid, because (in his attempt to slam the D.A.'s Office) he basically acknowledges that HPD was breaking the law.  In fact, he seems downright giddy about it.

This would be akin to Tom Brady giving a press conference after the 2015 AFC Championship game and saying, "The Patriots did a great job today thanks to me ordering our equipment guy to deflate the game balls."

Let me be clear here.  I agree completely with Gamaldi's assessment that it was absolutely gross negligence that the D.A.'s Office didn't oppose the return of Jackson's property.  They should have fought with all of the Office's might to prevent that from happening.  But they didn't.

As wrong as that was, it doesn't give HPD the license to ignore a Judicial Order, however.

Personally, I think the remedy would be to exclude the evidence.  I may end up being proven wrong on that.  Several of my former prosecutor/current defense attorney colleagues think that the remedy would be to simply hold HPD in contempt for failing to return the evidence.  They may be correct but isn't holding them in contempt an acknowledgment by the Court that the law was violated?

How it ultimately plays out in court will be interesting to observe.

What isn't in dispute is that Joe Gamaldi didn't do the Houston Police Department any favors with his press release today.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The Mad Queen

The CJC Community was shocked today by the announcement that Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg had fired her First Assistant Tom Berg.  There were rumors that a few other employees in administrative positions had also been fired.

The move is surprising for a couple of reasons.

The first reason being that Tom Berg has a stellar reputation for being a man of integrity, dedication, and knowledge.  He is a combat veteran who has dedicated his life to the Criminal Justice Center and he is very highly respected amongst both the Defense Bar and the Prosecution.  Tom spent the vast majority of his legal career on the defense side of the aisle so I was somewhat surprised when he joined the D.A.'s Office.  I thought it was a great hire by Ogg and I said so at the time.

Tom had a learning curve at the D.A.'s Office -- largely due to the fact that his primary focus of criminal law had been on the Federal side of things, as opposed to State.  He made a few missteps at first and made a couple of statements that he would probably like to have taken back.  None of those missteps or misstatements, however, undercut that he was a fair-minded man who left private practice to help make the Criminal Justice System better.

His firing today by Ogg says a hell of a lot more about the Ogg Administration than it does about Tom Berg.

Ogg's Office has been under scrutiny lately because of the mass exodus of Harris County prosecutors who are leaving their jobs for . . .  any job but that one.  Morale is in the toilet and a job that was once the most coveted in the prosecutorial profession is now one that nobody wants anymore.  Tom Berg was not a contributing factor to that lack of morale.  He did his best to rally the troops that the Office still had left.

But Kim Ogg has always seemed to embrace the idea that it is better to be feared than loved.  There were multiple prosecutors and defense attorneys today who were comparing her method of ruling to Sunday night's episode of Game of Thrones (No spoilers here, but if you watched the show Sunday, you should understand what they are talking about).

While Ogg is running off good prosecutors in hordes and firing leaders like Tom Berg, she is busily making blatantly political hires like troubled former-HPD Chief Clarence Bradford.  More troubling is the rumor that Berg's firing has paved the way for wildly unpopular controversial Division Chief, JoAnne Musick to be promoted to the position of Trial Bureau Chief.

To my brethren and sistren in the Defense Bar, if you think your trial court prosecutors are currently hamstrung by micromanagement and stupid policies, get ready for Ogg giving JoAnne a blank check to run the whole bureau however she wants.

The firing of Tom Berg probably won't really change the day-to-day operations of prosecutors in a way that is noticeable to the general public, or even the rank and file prosecutors.  The message that is implied in his firing, however, is beyond troubling.  While Ogg has been able to waive off previous departures from the Office as people who weren't committed to her "progressive" ideas, she can't do the same with a man that she handpicked to be her second in command.  She can't do that with a man who has the integrity and reputation of Tom Berg.

Apparently, the First Assistant didn't learn the First Rule of dealing with Kim Ogg.

To disagree with the D.A. is to lose your job.


Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Sid Crowley



Former Harris County Assistant District Attorney and defense attorney Sid Crowley died last week at the age of 69.

He was a friend of mine and a semi-regular commenter on this blog since the blog started.

To me, Sid was the epitome of what a Harris County criminal lawyer was.  He was disheveled, disorganized, sarcastic, angry, fearless . . .

. . . and a phenomenal lawyer.

I met Sid when I was a baby prosecutor.  He was grizzled and wide-eyed.  My first encounter with him didn't lead me to believe that there was anything special about him.  It wasn't until much later that I mentioned something about Sid to another attorney (I think it was Pete Justin), and that lawyer's response was something to the effect of "Sid is one of the most brilliant legal minds that building has ever seen."

As I would come to find out, Sid may not have always looked like much on the outside, but on the inside, he was an intensely zealous (and wickedly brilliant) criminal defense attorney.  He had the respect of all of his peers that knew of his work.

He commented on the blog quite a bit.  Sometimes he signed his name, but other times he did so anonymously.  He wasn't hiding his opinions when he logged in under the "Anonymous" tag.  I think he just didn't feel like wasting the time it took to log in under his own name.  He would sometimes call me to follow up and explain why he commented the way he had.  He was a keen observer of the Big Picture when it came to the Harris County Criminal Justice System, and he was willing to fight every aspect of it which he believed to be unfair.

Recently, his health was failing him and he was struggling to make ends meet.  I called him to check on him, and he sounded like the Sid that we all knew and loved.  He was aggravated and pissed off, yet still in possession of his sense of humor and oddly upbeat demeanor.

A lot of us reached out to Sid to see if there was anything we could do to help him.  A special word of thanks should go out to Robert Pelton for his efforts in finding Sid the healthcare options that he needed.  As sad as I am to learn of Sid's passing, there is some comfort in knowing how many people reached out to him and let him know that they cared, loved and respected him.

A funeral mass for Sid will be held this Friday, April 26th at 10:00 a.m. in the Chapel of Divine Mercy at St. Laurence Catholic Church, 3100 Sweetwater Blvd., Sugar Land, TX 77479.  Sid's family is asking that donations in Sid's memory be made to the animal rescue group, HOPE.

Sid was a true warrior and a champion of those who didn't have anybody else to stand with them. He was an unassuming Giant in our little legal world.  I'm proud to have known him and I'm proud to have called him my friend.

I will miss him.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Remembering Anh Reiss

It is hard to believe that it has been over three years since Dr. Anh Reiss, wife of Harris County Assistant District Attorney Josh Reiss, passed away from myelodysplastic syndrome, a form of leukemia.

I first met Josh back in 2009 when there was a bone marrow registration drive at the CJC in the hopes of finding a suitable match for Anh.  Although the registration drive signed up many new donors, a match was not found for her.  Josh and I ended up becoming good friends and I kept up with Anh's condition as she and the Reiss family fought the disease for the next seven years.  Unfortunately, she ultimately passed away on February 26th of 2016 after a truly long and courageous battle.

Josh texted me yesterday to notify me of this editorial in the Houston Chronicle detailing Josh's efforts to have the anniversary of Anh's death officially memorialized Texas Bone Marrow, Blood, and Organ Donation Day in Texas.  The bill in the legislature to create this day is sponsored by Democratic Representative (and HCDA Alum) Gene Wu.  As noted in the editorial, it is also co-sponsored by a bipartisan list of area legislators.

Obviously, this is an uncontroversial and fantastic idea.  There are some very interesting statistics listed in the editorial regarding how many people favor the idea of donating organs and blood versus how many people are actually signed up to do so.  You can learn more about the bone marrow registry by checking out bethematch.org.

I'm proud to say that I signed up to be a blood marrow donor during a lunch break when I was a JP prosecutor way back in 1999.  You should do it, too, if you haven't already.

Good luck to Josh and the Reiss family on getting the Texas Bone Marrow, Blood and Organ Donation Day recognized, and thanks to Gene Wu for drafting the legislation to get it done.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Warrants, Snitches and Accountability

Local media is reporting some pretty shocking revelations this afternoon about the botched Houston Police Department raid that occurred on January 28th of this year.  As you probably already know, that raid left five HPD officers wounded and two citizens, Dennis Tuttle and Rhogena Nicholas, dead.  In the days following the raid, there were some early indications that there was more to the story than just a simple search warrant execution that had resulted in a gun battle.

For starters, the affidavit supporting the issuance of the search warrant had been reliant on the word of a Confidential Informant (CI) who had allegedly told the police that he had purchased an amount of heroin from a male at 7815 Harding Street.  The CI also allegedly told the police that the male at the residence had more heroin inside the house and that he had been in possession of a 9mm handgun.

Officers used that little tidbit about the 9mm to ask the magistrate who signed the warrant to authorize them to do a "No Knock" warrant, meaning that they had the right to just kick the door to make entry.  When executing search warrants, officers prefer using No Knock for two reasons: 1) officer safety, and 2) preventing the people inside the place to be searched from having time to destroy evidence.  The alternative to a "No Knock" is a "Knock and Announce" warrant, which officers don't like.  A police officer politely knocking on the door of a drug house and announcing he going to come inside is usually the cue for drug dealers to start flushing their product down the toilet.

Unless a warrant articulates a particularized need (normally officer safety) to make entry without knocking, the presumption is that they must do a "knock and announce" before making entry.  Usually, officers point out the danger to themselves by describing their belief that a person with a gun is inside the place to be searched.  Since the vast majority of people who deal drugs out of locations are armed, it should not be surprising to know that "No Knock" warrants are quite common in narcotics search warrants.

So, when the affidavit supporting a No Knock entry into 7815 Harding Street reported the individual inside the residence had a 9mm, that probably didn't seem to be too big of a stretch of the imagination to the magistrate signing the warrant.  As far as warrants go, there was nothing facially out of the ordinary about the one in this case.

But when the shootout was over and the smoke had cleared on January 28th, the reliability of the information in the search warrant came into question because there were two key things missing from the evidence recovered:  a 9mm handgun or any trace of heroin.

My initial reaction to this lack of evidence to support the CI's claims in the affidavit was that it must have been a lying CI.  CIs, as a general rule, aren't the most reputable of people.  In many cases, a CI has been charged with his or her own charges and are "working a contract" with narcotics officers.  "Working a contract" means that they have a signed agreement with the D.A.'s Office and narcotics officers that they will provide information resulting in the arrests of other drug dealers.  Those contracts are generally quantity based -- meaning that the CI will provide information that leads to the recovery of a set amount of drugs (like a kilo of cocaine, for instance).

Because of that, CIs have a tremendous amount of motivation to exaggerate what they say to their narcotics officer "handlers."  By necessity, CIs interact with suspects outside of direct supervision from their handlers.  They typically don't wear bodycams or "wires" that could be discovered when they make purchases.  They often go inside premises to make the purchases and their handlers lose a direct line of sight on them.  To bolster the CI's credibility, officers search them for drugs before sending them inside to make a purchase.  This assures that the CI isn't planting his or her own evidence.  The officers also provide them with marked money to make the purchase, in the hopes that once an arrest is made, the target suspect will have that marked money in his or her possession.

Other than those two minor safeguards, however, there is no real accountability in how an undercover drug purchase is described by a CI to an officer.  There is no verification of whether or not a suspect is really seen with a gun.  There is no verification of whether or not the CI really saw more drugs inside the premises.  All an officer can attest to in an affidavit for an application for a search warrant is to attest that the CI has provided good and reliable information in the past.

So, when there was no heroin and no 9mm recovered on Harding Street, I figured that HPD narcotics had been taken for a ride by a dishonest snitch.  In this post, I predicted that an investigation into the botched raid would lead to some embarrassment for HPD, but probably nothing criminal.

Today's revelations may have me eating my words about that.

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo today announced that the "confidential informant" utilized by HPD Narcotics in this particular raid didn't actually exist.

According to the Houston Chronicle, Officer Gerald Goines (who was severely wounded in the raid) provided investigators with the name of the CI who had provided him with the information that he used to get a search warrant.  In the subsequent investigation, that CI denied having ever gone to the Harding Street location or buying drugs there.  Additional interviews with other CIs utilized by Goines found that they had no knowledge of drug activity on the property, either.

More disturbing, according to the Chronicle article is that another one of the narcotics officers, Steven Bryant, had admitted to investigative officers that the heroin allegedly provided to him and Goines by the (apparently fictional) CI was actually heroin that he had gotten from Goines' vehicle.

So, to summarize, a married couple (and their dog) were shot to death by Houston Police Officers who entered into their house with a search warrant that was obtained on the word of a non-existent snitch and planted heroin that came directly from the officer who wrote the warrant.

This is absolutely stunning to me.  In my twenty years of being involved in the Harris County Criminal Justice world, I've seen some dumb mistakes, but this level of corruption is like something out of a movie.

It looks like Joe Gamaldi was a little premature in using this incident to give his "putting dirtbags on notice" speech.

The outlook for Goines and Bryant is pretty grim.  If it is proven that they intentionally lied in an affidavit for a search warrant, that would be a felony.  If a felony leads to a death, there's an argument to be made that they committed a couple of felony murders.

The bigger concern for all agencies who participate in undercover drug buys is that this incident calls into question all undercover buys leading to search warrants.  If a Confidential Informant's reliability was cause for concern, the possibility of rogue officers fabricating CIs and planting evidence is devastating.  The bottom line is that all search warrants are signed off on based on an officer's credibility as he or she relates the facts to a magistrate.  There is nothing more required to verify the veracity of the information contained in the supporting affidavits.

It is a fairly common practice in drug cases for defense attorneys to file a Motion to Reveal the Confidential Informant.  Those confidential informants are usually protected from being identified unless otherwise ordered by a judge.  In my experience, those motions are rarely granted.  My suspicion is that in the aftermath of the Harding Street raid, more and more of these Motions are going to be filed, and Judges are going to feel additional pressure to Order those CIs to be revealed.  If that becomes the norm, you are going to find less and less people willing to work as CIs -- regardless of the legal benefit to them.

The aftermath of the raid on Harding Street is going to have a far-reaching effect that goes way beyond what ultimately happens to Goines and Bryant.  There will be calls for more verification
of information before the signing of warrants, but finding a way to have that verification and not compromise an investigation will be no easy task.

Today's announcement from Chief Acevedo is just the beginning of the fallout that will come from the events of January 28th.  Police officers, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges can expect a lot of changes to the way these things are done in the future.

Unfortunately, those changes will be coming too late for Dennis Tuttle, Rhogena Nicholas, and the officers injured in the raid on Harding Street.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Awkward Family Photos: Law School Edition

Since I'm a firm believer in the premise that you shouldn't make fun of others unless you are willing to make fun of yourself, I will share the following awkward memento.


This is an awkward screen grab from an even more awkward video from my 1998 Criminal Trial Advocacy class at UH.  In this exercise, I'm trying (and failing) to learn how to admit a photograph into evidence.

My sponsoring witness is David Cunningham.

The pained looking judge on the bench is George Murphy.

I think I would rather pass a kidney stone than watch how bad I was back then, but I have to give major kudos to Dave, George and (not pictured) Judge Belinda Hill.  This was really a wonderful class that gave some very real and very practical advice to aspiring trial lawyers. 

It's been 21 years since this picture was taken and I'm honored to be able to say I've gone on to practice alongside (and in Judge Hill's case, in front of) these great lawyers. I'm also glad that I apparently got over the nervous habit of slapping my hands to my sides while talking as if I were some sort of spastic penguin.

I just wish someone had told me and Dave to go ahead and shave our heads back then.




Monday, February 11, 2019

The 2020 Race for District Attorney Heats Up, Already

Houston Chronicle reporter Zach Despart sent out a Tweet this evening that has Harris County prosecutors abuzz:


Despart noted that attorney Audia Jones has filed a Notice of Treasurer in the 2020 race for District Attorney.  Jones, who recently left the Harris County District Attorney's Office, has been very vocal on her Facebook page about her vision for the Criminal Justice System.  Her posts have also been critical of the D.A.'s Office's current administration.

Jones is married to 180th District Court Judge DaSean Jones, who just took office on January 1st of this year.  In the event that Jones were to win the race for District Attorney, there would probably be some question as to whether or not her husband could preside over cases prosecuted by the District Attorney's Office.  In all honesty, I'm not sure what the answer to that question would be.

While Audia Jones is the first one to definitely throw her hat in the ring to run for District Attorney (I'm not sure that Kim Ogg has even formally announced that she is running again), there have been rumors that former prosecutor Rachel Palmer Hooper is mulling over a run as the Republican candidate.  That's largely based on this Tweet from last month:


Rachel is sounding like somebody who is getting ready to make a run.  She's been in the Civil World for some time now, but who knows?  Maybe she misses the excitement of the Criminal Justice System.

Quite frankly, I think that any candidate running for Harris County D.A. as a Republican in 2020 is just throwing his or her money in the toilet.  After the bashing that Republicans took in 2018, that's going to be a fool's errand if Trump is still at the top of the ballot in 2020.  Although straight-ticket voting is (fortunately) now a thing of the past in Texas, I don't know if the change will be enough to make up those margins.  I expect that the "protest turnout" of voters who show up just to vote against Trump will remain extremely high and that doesn't bode well for any candidate running as an R in 2020.

On the plus side, I think that most smart candidates know this.  I'm expecting a pretty quiet Republican Primary.  Hopefully, it will be so quiet that no one will feel all that compelled to "buy ads" from sleazy Slate producers like Terry Lowry and Steven Hotze. 

I think that if anyone has a chance to win as a Republican candidate for District Attorney in 2020, it would need to be someone that would appeal to Latino and Latina voters.  The Republican Party has been rather alienating to those voters in the Trump Era and if the Republicans were smart, they would start trying to build some bridges to that community instead of burning them.  A charismatic, qualified, and experienced Latina candidate would be ideal in that situation, and if I were leading the Harris County Republican Party, I would be working overtime to recruit someone that matched that description.

But where could they ever find a candidate like that?


Stay tuned, folks.  2020 is already getting interesting.


Judge Cassandra Hollemon

The Harris County Criminal Justice World was shocked and saddened today by the unexpected and untimely passing of recently-elected Judge Cassandra Hollemon.  Judge Hollemon held the bench of County Court at Law # 12 after winning election this past November. 

I wish that I could offer some personal insight into Judge Hollemon's passing, but sadly, she passed away before I ever had the opportunity to appear before her.

In the 20 years since I've been practicing law, I've never known of a Harris County Judge who passed while in Office.  I believe that the last Harris County Judge to die in office was 230th District Court Judge Joe Kegans in 1997.  It is a significant and sad event.

Although I didn't know Judge Hollemon, I am sorry that we did not get a chance to know her and see what she would have accomplished on the bench.  My sincerest condolences go out to her family and friends.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Progressive Prosecutors Need Help Too

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg found herself in an unusual position last week when her request for funding 100 new prosecutors was met with harsh criticism from the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, a progressive group that normally is one of her biggest supporters.  As noted in the Houston Chronicle, Ogg's request for additional prosecutors seems to have been interpreted as some sort of act of war by TCJC's Jay Jenkins.
"Simply adding prosecutors is the strategy that got us here in the first place, with this mentality that the only thing we can spend money on is the police and prosecutors," said Jay Jenkins, project attorney with the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition.
Apparently, Jenkins is so concerned that if Kim Ogg were to get a whole bunch of new prosecutors, the D.A.'s Office would just go out and start prosecuting things unnecessarily so that those new prosecutors won't get too bored.  That's a silly notion if you've paid attention to anything that Kim Ogg has done since taking office at the beginning of 2017, and it clearly illustrates that Jenkins hasn't spent much time in the trenches of Harris County criminal justice.

Ogg countered Jenkins' criticism with an editorial in this morning's ChronicleIn typical Ogg fashion, she demonstrated her flair for the dramatic:
It's the kind of fear that awakens prosecutors in the middle of the night.
What if I help convict the wrong person?  What if I fail to bring a serial murderer to justice and he kills again?  What is the best outcome for a family plagued by domestic violence?  How do we prevent a drunk driver from leaving jail, getting in his car again and killing an entire family?
Prosecutors wrestle with these worries every day. 
Um, calm down, Kim.  Most prosecutors at your office waking up in the middle of the night are mostly worried about what Joanne Musick is retroactively doing with their evaluations.

That being said, Kim is right on this issue.  The District Attorney's Office does need more prosecutors, and contrary to Jay Jenkins' opinion, that doesn't compromise the Ogg Administration's progressive views towards the Criminal Justice System.  Harris County Assistant District Attorneys are overworked and underpaid.  Seriously.  To the point where it is kind of absurd.

Even with Possession of Marijuana cases and trace cases not being filed, there is no shortage of crime in Harris County, Texas.  Overall filings may be way down, but prosecutors still find themselves handling hundreds of cases.  Sure, those cases vary in degrees of seriousness, but each and every one of them still have things that must be done on them.

If Jenkins spent a little more time in the trenches, perhaps he would become more familiar with the extremely common occurrence of a case being reset because an overworked prosecutor didn't get a "To Do" done.  Those resets are (on average) about a month, and in many instances, that's a month of sitting in jail.

That can be an extra month in jail because:

1.  A prosecutor didn't get a final restitution figure on a theft case.

2.  A prosecutor didn't get in touch with the victim of an assault who wanted to drop charges or was okay with probation.

3.  A prosecutor didn't get a copy of the search warrant or the offense report.

4.  A prosecutor didn't have time to look at a search issue.

5.  A prosecutor didn't have time to talk to an alibi witness offered by the defense.

6.  A prosecutor didn't have time to review a DWI video.

The reason these types of To Do's don't get done is NOT because prosecutors are lazy.  Most prosecutors (especially Twos and Threes) are working ten or twelve hour days and on weekends.  The reality is that they are overwhelmed with cases. 

If a prosecutor is in a court that goes to trial frequently, that makes matters even worse.  You know how whenever you go on vacation, all the things that you are supposed to be working on have a tendency to pile up on your desk?  Well, that same phenomenon occurs every time a prosecutor is in trial.

In many instances, a prosecutor won't take a hard look at a case unless it is actually set for trial.  If you're sitting in jail because you can't make bond, that's going to be a really long wait. 

I think that the 2011 William & Mary law review article (written by HCDA Alum Laura Killinger and her husband, Adam Gershowitz) cited in the Chronicle article frames the overall issue best.  They noted both pros and cons to the idea of adding more prosecutors.
. . . adding prosecutors could "result in increased prosecution of low-level drug or prostitution cases without any real reduction in the caseloads of existing prosecutors."
. . . a better-resourced district attorney's office can allow prosecutors to identify and dismiss weak cases more quickly. 
The interesting thing to note about Laura and Adam's article is that it was written in 2011, which was before the "progressive" movement that is currently sweeping major metropolitan areas in the country.  A more hard-core, conservative elected District Attorney might use more prosecutors to file more cases, but that's not Kim Ogg. 

And, quite frankly, I don't think that expansive prosecution of low-level cases is the future of prosecution.  At least, not in the big cities.

Ogg's appeal for more prosecutors is a well-intentioned and necessary request that will help the progressive agenda, not hurt it.  Jenkins should have a little more faith in Ogg.  They both have the same hopes for the future of Criminal Justice. 

If he spent a little more time in the trenches, he might realize that.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

The State of the Criminal Justice World

No, I did not quit blogging.  I've just been really lazy busy lately.

It has been over two months since my last blog post and much has changed since I wished all of the candidates well on Election Day.

In all honesty, I kind of wanted to wait for some time to pass after the election before I wrote again.  A lot of good friends lost their benches and it really didn't feel like the right time to point out that I was pretty sure that was going to be what happened.  Couple that with being off on a couple of Cold Justice shoots, a minor non-cancer-related-surgical-procedure-that-we-shall-never-speak-of-again, an increasingly obstinate 5-year-old, an awkward Christmas, and having to put down one of the family dogs, and I just haven't really had the time or energy to write.

So, fast forward to today, and we've got some interesting things to talk about in the Criminal Justice World.

1.  The New Judges 
As of this morning, I've appeared in front of five of the new District Court Judges and four of the new County Court at Law judges.  The experiences have been very positive.  The judges have all been attentive, courteous, and thoughtful.  In my pre-election analysis, I had said that the majority of the races had qualified candidates running against other qualified candidates.  Therefore, it isn't too big of a surprise to see the judges hit the ground running.

I do feel compelled to point out that new 183rd District Court Judge Chuck Silverman (who I was pretty harsh toward in my pre-election write up) showed that he had a sense of humor about my write-up, and he has been very professional and kind to me in my appearances in his court.

2.  A Judicial Scandal Brewing?
One of the new judges is already in the middle of a scandal, apparently.  I'm not naming that judge right now because nothing is official, but I've heard from multiple credible sources that he is under investigation.  The allegations are that, in open court, he grabbed the arm of an attorney's assistant in an attempt to physically remove her from an area of the courtroom.  The assistant felt pain and has lodged a complaint.  Whether or not that complaint will lead to criminal charges remains to be seen, but everyone is talking about the incident.

3.  The HPD Shootout
I was in Idaho when I learned of the five Houston Police Officers who were wounded in a shootout during the execution of a Search Warrant that left two suspects dead.  The search warrant was for a quantity of heroin and the fact that no heroin was found after the smoke cleared has people talking.  While the District Attorney's Office operates as a 24/7 resource for officers seeking search warrants, this particular one was written by the officers and then presented to a city magistrate for a signature.

There's nothing illegal about that, but in my opinion, the search warrant was a little sloppy.  The warrant was a "No Knock" warrant because a Confidential Informant told police that one of the occupants of the house had a 9mm semi-automatic on him.  No 9mm (or any other type of semi-automatic pistol) was recovered during a search of the crime scene, which means the C.I. was pretty much 0 for 2 for things he described to the author of the warrant.

My prediction is that a full-fledged investigation of this case is going to lead to some embarrassment to HPD but probably no criminal ramifications.  It sounds like they may have sent in a questionable Confidential Informant to make a controlled buy and that got five officers injured and two other people killed.  I'm also going to go out on a limb here and predict that some of the injuries to the officers are going to have come from friendly fire.

4.  Joe Gamaldi
I don't know Houston Police Officers' Union President Joe Gamaldi personally, but he is quickly making his predecessor, Ray Hunt, look like an introvert.  Gamaldi has been front and center of all things involving HPD cases and he has been extremely vocal.  In the past year, he's taken on Kim Ogg and the District Attorney's Office, judges who don't set adequately high bonds (in his opinion), HFD, and, as of this afternoon, HPD Police Chief Art Acevedo.

In the wake of the HPD shootout, Gamaldi made the statement that "dirtbags" were being put on notice, as were groups that disparaged police officers:
If you’re the ones that are out there spreading the rhetoric that police officers are the enemy, just know we’ve all got your number now, we’re going to be keeping track of all of y’all, and we’re going to make sure that we hold you accountable every time you stir the pot on our police officers.
I'm not exactly sure what Gamaldi means by "hold you accountable" but some are taking it as a threat to groups like Black Lives Matter.  I understand that HPD and BLM may not be big fans of each other but this seems to be a threat to the 1st Amendment, in my opinion.  Most HPD officers that I know seem to really like what Gamaldi is saying.  Everyone else seems to think that Gamaldi may be the one who is "stirring the pot."

5.  The CJC Building
Nothing has changed here.  I mean nothing.  The building is still a disaster that needs to be demolished.

So, that's all I've got at the moment.  If you have anything else you want to talk about here, let me know.