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.