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Showing posts from 2008

A Phenomenally Bad Year

Good-bye and good riddance to the Year 2008. This year has been so damn bad, that I came to Florida just to get the year over with an hour earlier. I can remember like it was yesterday when I came into the Office on December 27, 2007 and another prosecutor pointed out to me the online article on Chron.com about Chuck Rosenthal's e-mail scandal, and I felt a feeling of dread over what the New Year would bring. My cousin was in town, visiting from Baltimore, and I tried to explain to him the significance of what was happening. Something inside of me knew that I had a year left at the D.A.'s Office, if that long. Sadly, my worst fears on that day were not only met, but exceeded. The first part of the year was filled with embarrassment after embarrassment as the e-mail scandal went from bad to worse. At one point, as prosecutors, we were even having to ask potential jurors how bad the E-Mail Scandal had affected them and whether or not they could still be fair to the D.A.'

In Case You Missed It . . .

Phil Archer did a piece on the Ceremony Honoring the Prosecutors and Investigators that Pat Lykos fired for completely political reasons. Once again, I nearly did a spit take as Lykos said the firings weren't political. I guess if she keeps lying to herself and the camera, maybe she thinks somebody will believe it eventually.

The Value of a Prosecutor's Discretion

Of all the decisions that have been made thus far by the Lykos / Leitner Administration, probably the only one that I've truly understood thus far was the decision not to renew my contract to work for her. I mean, she and I are very much equal in our mutual dislike of each other, and I certainly wouldn't have had her working for me had the shoe been on the other foot. So, for those who feel that I've been "whining" on the blog about her decisions regarding the Office, please know that it isn't my departure from the Office that I'm griping about. It's the departure of morale and, by extension , prosecutorial discretion that I mourn. I'm sure that some of you are now thinking " why do you care if the prosecutor's have good morale or not? You're a defense attorney now." It's a valid question, and it has two answers: #1 - that Office is still staffed by excellent prosecutors, investigators, and secretaries that I worked wi

Today's Chronicle Article

Brian Rogers has an article in today's Chronicle detailing the fact that acting District Attorney Ken Magidson is honoring those Assistant District Attorneys who are not being kept on by the Pat Lykos Administration . It is a nice gesture by Mr. Magidson and recognizes my fellow ADAs who dedicated their careers to helping the victims of crime in Harris County. It does mention my termination due to the writing of this blog and my criticisms of the new Lykos / Leitner Administration. So far, my favorite comment from one of the readers of the article is " God help the person who dared to criticized the head of the new Gestapo, I'm surprised he's not already been arrested on some trumped up charges and died a mysterious death in the Harris County Jail. " Although that gave me a pretty good laugh, let me assure you that I'm alive and well. I'm working hard at getting up and running in my new practice. I've been working on getting my new website up

Merry Christmas Everybody!

I hope that everybody has an excellent Christmas today and gets to celebrate and enjoy their families. Now stop thinking about the CJC and reading this blog for the day and go play with your kids! Merry Christmas!

I'm Done

Well, I am now officially no longer an Assistant District Attorney. As I mentioned in my goodbye e-mail to the Office, I came to Houston to work here on August 16, 1999, and I've always considered it one of the best days of my life. I hardly knew a soul at the D.A.'s Office, but over the years the people I worked with grew into my family. We've stood by each others' sides through the good times, the great times, the bad times, and the tragic times. My Dad was a Marine Corps Officer in Vietnam, and he kept re-enlisting (to the point that my grandmother said she felt guilty about praying for someone who was so stupid). The reason he kept re-enlisting, he told me wasn't because he particularly enjoyed being in Vietnam and having people shoot at him, but because he felt a kinship and camaraderie with the people he served with. On a much smaller scale, I have always felt the same way about the people I worked with at the Office. It's an Office I'm proud to hav

An Interesting Read

Our friend over at The County Seat published this interesting post on some of the new imported higher ups on the Pat Lykos flow chart. I had no idea who some of these folks were.

Secretaries' Day

The Pat Lykos bloodletting continued today with several Administrative Assistants around the Office being told, three days before Christmas , that their services would not be needed under the Reign of Queen Snookems . I have to say that I honestly don't get the timing of this one, because, quite frankly, it couldn't have been worse for the hard working folks that help us all get our jobs done every day. You know, I expected to get fired by Old Patsy the second she won the election. I had pretty much been planning on it all year. I had campaigned very diligently against her and I knew her reputation of not tolerating political opposition. But for me, it was a calculated gamble. I'm an attorney and even if my services weren't needed with the Harris County District Attorney's Office, I still have the potential to make a living outside of it - whether that be hanging out a shingle (which I'm doing) or trying to get on with a law firm. The Administrative Assista

The Flow Chart Cometh

At long last the Leitner Administration took time out of their busy schedule of planning the Coronation of Queen Lykos and finally published the new Flow Chart for the Office that will take effect January 1. I will be quite candid in saying that the choices they made ranged from Excellent to Good to Iffy to WTF?!?! . First off, I actually applaud them for all of their Chief promotions today. These were good people that got promoted to positions that they are very qualified to hold. Congratulations to Eileen Bogar , Craig Still, Denise Nichols, Anna Emmons , Darin Darby, and Joe Vinas on their promotions to chief. I'm probably forgetting one or two. I don't mean to, but congratulations to anyone I forgot. There were some interesting calls on the Office structure as well. I'm not really sure about the reasoning behind the "Cold Case" division being blended into "Animal Cruelty", but maybe I'm just missing something. Outstanding call on putting

Where's the Flow Chart?

As you all know, I will be vacating my office at the end of this year. Actually, my last day at the Office will be December 24th, and then I will be headed for some much needed rest and relaxation in Florida with my Mom and my Little Boy. Ever since I received notice of the fact that I wasn't going to be needed in the next Administration, I've been pretty anxious about finding out who my replacement in the court is going to be. I really need to talk to them. The new Office "Flow Chart" was due on Monday. As of this writing, it still hasn't come out yet. I've got some serious cases pending in my court, folks. I need to bring my successor up-to-speed and I need to do it before I leave. Just because I'm heading out the door doesn't mean that I don't still care about these cases. My successor will get to handle the cases of: Biondi Rolle and Company : Charged with the capital murder of a 9-month pregnant woman during a home invasion. Patrick Est

And the Living Shall Come to Envy the Dead . . .

I'm trying to be good. I really am. I ended my trial career for the D.A.'s Office yesterday on a very high note, and my true intent was to stay positive, no matter how silly the Leitner/Lykos Administration became. But I'm only human, and sometimes, I just can't help myself. Today, there were more hijinx from the Gang that Couldn't Shoot Straight. Around lunch time, I (as well as all other current D.A. staff) received an e-mail from Jim "Brains of the Operation" Leitner inviting me to attend the swearing in of Judge Patricia Lykos as the new elected District Attorney. Although I honestly wasn't trying to play "hard to get", I felt that I would not be able to attend the ceremony, since I wouldn't be one of the Assistant District Attorneys raising their hands at the event. I tried to be polite. I did RSVP. "Thank you for the invitation," I responded to Jim. "But I will not be able to attend." (TIP TO MR. LEITNER:

Mrs. Bates

I became the Chief of the 339 th District Court in July of 2007. It was my first (and as it turns out, only) Felony District Court where I would serve in that position. I had several cases set for trial for me, and a host of others pending. Some were capital murder cases and some were regular murders. In the middle of the pile of cases that I was inheriting was a Tampering with Evidence case, which, at first glance, seemed a little odd on it's face. A Tampering with Evidence case is a third degree felony, and normally involves a Defendant trying to dispose of narcotics that a cop saw him with. I thought it was strange that my predecessor in the court had assigned a Tampering case to himself as a chief. When I actually picked up the case, however, I quickly learned why it was a "Chief Case". It involved a badly decomposed body found in the trunk of a car, parked in the garage of a townhome in Midtown Houston. The file was littered with notes regarding a pending autopsy

Reminder: Dick Wheelan's Memorial

Remember that this afternoon at 5:00 p.m. is the celebration of Dick Wheelan's life. For details, click here .

Family

Goodness. I've been in trial all week so I've kind of been half- assing it when it comes to blogging. It's almost as if I have a "real job", no matter how temporarily. The blog here has been lighting up with comments and attacks on one another like there is no tomorrow. In the Spirit of the Holidays, I'd like to make a request: Stop it. And for my part, I'm going to try to stop writing anything that would inspire you to light up things against each other. Maybe in January, I will feel more ornery. Life is changing around the CJC , folks. Maybe for the better. Maybe for the worse. Either way, things are going to be different. But one of the things that I have always tried to emphasize on this blog is that those of us who come in and out of the CJC are all part of a family. On a daily basis, we deal with subject matter that would absolutely send the rest of the Harris County population into a thumb-sucking catatonic trance sitting in the fetal posi

Just a Thought . . .

As I mentioned earlier this week, I'm in trial one last time on behalf of the Great State of Texas. I posted the night before last about Transparency and the Toxic Avenger , and although I've briefly scanned the comments coming in on it, I haven't really had the time to weigh in with my own opinions. (As a side note, I will say that one thing that I will not particularly miss about working for the D.A.'s Office is the role of "cat herder" when it comes to trying to get all my witnesses ready for trial!) I made mention in my earlier post about someone I considered a friend making reference to my "toxic blog". Obviously, the comments have brought to light the fact that the person I was referring to was Donna Goode, and the reaction to that on both sides of the issue has been very loud (and often angry). Let me say this about Donna Goode: She's a damn fine prosecutor and public servant. Although I was saddened to learn that she referred to me

Transparency and the Toxic Avenger

I had an interesting conversation with a couple of good friends this morning that I found to be rather thought provoking. We were discussing the irony over Pat Lykos ' campaign promises of "transparency" within her District Attorney's Office and the fact that she decided not to renew my contract because of this blog. I guess that "transparency" under the Lykos Standardized Dictionary means only those things that illustrate what a damn fine job she will be doing. She will fire or demote anyone who dared to even look at another candidate during the D.A.'s race. She proved that over the past few days with her administrative decisions that, amongst other things, had her demoting prosecutors from specialty positions such as White Collar Crime, Appellate, and Consumer Fraud in favor of some of her political cronies. Yeah, I have a strong feeling that her view of "transparency" will leave some longing for the good old days of the McCarthy era whe

One Last Rodeo

I've talked to all my witnesses. I've got all my exhibits marked. And tonight after I put my little boy to bed, I'll finish writing my voir dire . Tomorrow morning, for one last time, I will pick a jury on behalf of the Great State of Texas. I'm trying a murder case against an excellent and diligent defense attorney. One of my favorite prosecutors in the Office will be sitting second chair with me. And I'll get to try the case in front of the Best Damn Judge in the Courthouse. I know that time and life experiences can change a person's outlook on things as years go by and circumstances shape you. But as for tomorrow, I can honestly say that when I stand up in front of those 65 people on the jury panel, as I represent the State of Texas and the Harris County District Attorney's Office one last time . . . . . . there won't be a place in the World that I'd rather be.

Leitner On Leadership

On Thursday, the Baby Misdemeanor Prosecutors had a mandatory CLE (that's "Continuing Legal Education" for you folks not in the legal field) seminar on Ethics on the 20 th Floor. In attendance was District Attorney 1st Assistant-Elect Jim Leitner . At the end of the seminar, Leitner was given his first opportunity to address the "Troops" who were all there. Now, keep in mind, this was a captive audience of more-or-less rookie prosecutors and it was two days after the mini-purge that had cost me my job on Tuesday. The Babies (which is the Office's affectionate term for the misdemeanor prosecutors) are probably the most shapeable , inspire-able , and potentially loyal employees that Lykos could get her claws on. Setting aside the fact that Lykos herself didn't bother to attend the event (on Ethics, no less), this was a big moment folks, and Leitner stepped up to the plate to address them for the first time ever. HERE IS WHAT HE SHOULD HAVE SAID

The ABA Blog Poll

My good friend, Mark Bennett is in the running on the ABA Journal's Top 100 Blawgs regarding criminal justice. Help a local guy out by clicking here to vote for Mark's blog for #1 so we can show them that those of us who practice in the Harris County Criminal Justice Center support our own. Vote early and vote often!

A Celebration of Dick Wheelan's Life

On Saturday, December 13, 2008 at 5:00 p.m., there will be a celebration honoring the incredible and fascinating life of our friend Richelieu Edward "Dick" Wheelan . It will be at Christ Church Cathedral, located at 1117 Texas Street, Houston, Texas 77002. That's between Fannin and San Jacinto Street. Dick was one of the most well-loved and well-respected attorneys to ever grace the halls of the CJC , and the man had probably about the most fascinating life out of anyone I've ever known personally. Please mark your calendars to come by and celebrate his amazing life with his family and friends.

A Couple of Random Things

First and foremost, I would just like to say that words alone can never express how amazed, thankful, and humbled I was by all the condolences and well wishes that I received today from fellow prosecutors, Judges, members of the Defense Bar, and even people I had never met. I was absolutely overwhelmed by everyone's profound kindness. I kept thinking that it was like getting to attend my own funeral and hearing all the nice things people usually reserve to say about you until after you've died. I've said over and over again that I consider our CJC group as a Family. Today, you all let me know that you felt the same way, and I will never forget that. I will be eternally grateful for the wonderful friends and colleagues that I have been fortunate enough to work with over the years. On December 31st, I will walk out the door of the District Attorney's Office with some excellent company. Luci Davidson, Bert Graham, Craig Goodhart, Vic Wisner, Mike Trent, Joe Owmby, Rob Fr

My Day

The Lykos Administration took effect last week with District Attorney Ken Magidson extending the professional courtesy to Jim Leitner of hiring him on to do Pat Lykos ' bidding prior to her taking office on January 1, 2009. Yesterday, all District Attorney employees learned the drill: Leitner sent you an e-mail that invited you for a "meeting" where he told you that the Lykos Administration would not be re-hiring you as an employee. By the end of yesterday's count, he had taken out four investigators and one prosecutor. So when work started today, all prosecutors knew that if they got an e-mail from Leitner , it was time to say goodbye to their jobs. I got my e-mail around noon- ish while I was at lunch. I was having lunch with a close friend who knew that the e-mail may be coming. Leitner misspelled my name, which I thought was a bit rude. I mean, seriously, if you are going to can somebody from their job after 9.5 years, you could at least spell their nam

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

I wish everyone from our Little CJC Family a very Happy Thanksgiving! It's been a tumultuous and crazy year, but we've all got so many things to be thankful for. I'm thankful for every last one of you guys and, as always, I'm proud to work with you. Happy Thanksgiving!

A New Blog

I happened to stumble across a new blog (as in created yesterday) that is written from the perspective of a new prosecutor. I look forward to reading it in the days to come and I've linked to it in the side bar. I've also been meaning to let you guys know that Defense Attorney Herman Martinez also has a blog about what we do around the CJC that is worth a read.

An Academician Retires

Tomorrow will be Felony Trial Bureau Chief Lyn "Big Poppa" McClellan's last day in office. To say that his departure from the Office will be a tremendous loss is like saying that the Titanic took on a little water back in 1912. Lyn was one of a handful of prosecutors that I had heard about and read about prior to my joining the Office in 1999. One of my early mentors in life was a former HPD Homicide Sergeant named Gil Schultz who had his biggest case tried by Lyn and Rusty Hardin. It was the Cynthia Campbell case that was documented in two books -- Daddy's Girl by Clifford Irving and Cold Kill by Jack Olsen. If you haven't read them before, I highly recommend both books. For those of you who have read them, you know there is a priceless photo of Lyn in one of them. Shortly after I started at the Office, Lyn became the Division Chief of Misdemeanor, meaning he was one of my supervisors. It was hard to fathom that a prosecutor of Lyn's stature would be su

Dick Wheelan

For those of you who had not heard, Dick Wheelan passed away this morning after a courageous battle with cancer. I'm hesitant to post the notice of a person's passing on something as impersonal as this blog, but I received a request to do so from some people very close to him. I hope this doesn't offend anyone. I've known Dick since I've worked in Harris County, but I know that so many people knew him much better than I did. The Dick Wheelan that I knew was the ultimate Gentleman, a skilled attorney, and a person whose word was his bond. He was a very kind man who led a very interesting life. As one person just wrote me: "While his life was cut short, he sure made the most of the time that he had. He learned to fly fighter jets in the Navy, was a New York City police officer, then homicide detective, then lieutenant. A corporate lawyer living in Hong Kong, and then a defense attorney here. Very few people could claim to have done as much in a lifet

It's Official

The final votes were tallied today, and C.O. Bradford conceded the race for District Attorney , making former Judge Pat Lykos the new boss at the D.A.'s Office. And immediately around the Office, rumors of changes and firings and hirings began to swirl. I'm reminded of a story that one of my favorite professors at U.H. Law School, the late Yale Rosenberg, told his students before their first law school final. We were all extremely nervous. He relayed a story of going with his big brother to Coney Island when he was a little kid, and subsequently freaking out on one of the roller coasters as it approached its first big dive. Professor Rosenberg said that his brother looked over at him and told him the following words: "Sit down. Shut up. Hold on. And it will all be okay." His words applied very well to a room full of nervous law students. I think that they apply here very well, too. Change is always scary, folks. But the anticipation of it is much often

Interesting Column

Interesting article by Lisa Falkenberg this morning on her analysis of the 351st Judicial Race. Um. not quite sure what to say about it, so I'll let you guys do the talking. On an unrelated side note , I will be legally changing my name to Joe Kickass .

Of Anonymity

I've made mention in several of my posts that I'm hardly anonymous anymore. When asked if I'm "The Blogger", I never deny it [anymore]. I just don't officially state on the blog who I am for various and sundry reasons. I'm willing to bet that the vast majority of the people who read this Blog know who I am, so I figured I would post a poll and see if I'm correct in that assessment.

Quote of the Day

From Ellis McCullough today after a particularly hectic day of fighting with the CJC Elevators: "I hope I live long enough to see this building imploded." Well said, Ellis. Well said.

I'm Back

I've gotten a couple of comments on why I haven't posted lately. No particular reason. Just didn't have a lot to say. I'm still taking in all of the ramifications of the November election and still trying to figure out what exactly happened at the Voting Booths. I may post on those thoughts a little bit later. But in the meantime, I thought I would let you guys know that I'm still alive.

The Election

Wow. What a wild night. At the moment, I'm still rather speechless at the county-wide rejection of some of the finest Judges in the Country. It is incredibly sad to me that Judicial Races still carry partisan titles with them, because that (and only that) is the reason the races ended today in the way which they did. Excellent judges were swept out by uninformed voters that pulled straight ticket. I'm still slightly confused by how one survived when the rest didn't (although I'm happy for Judge Ellis). As I've discussed before ( ad nauseum ) the race for District Attorney was a tough one for me to evaluate. Ultimately, I'm satisfied that Lykos won the race, because I know that she will continue to prosecute as the job dictates that she should. I sincerely wish her luck in the job. It's not an easy one, and given the circumstances, it's going to keep getting tougher. As for me, I believe that I will get up tomorrow morning and go do my job.

The Race for Harris County District Attorney

It's been over six months now since Judge Pat Lykos defeated Kelly Siegler in the Republican Primary for the District Attorney's race, leaving her to face Democratic candidate and former Houston Police Chief Clarence Bradford in the November election. The last time I wrote anything definitive on the race was immediately on the heels of the run-off vote. Many things have changed over the past six months. Time has passed and life has settled back down to a large degree -- just in time for everything to get all stirred up again for November! In the meantime, I'll try to take a little less emotional look at what is probably the most important race affecting those of us in and around the Criminal Justice Center. In the wake of the Republican run-off, I, along with several other prosecutors had a sit-down meeting with Chief Bradford. I was impressed by his easy-going demeanor and his very apparent earnestness at explaining the direction he wanted to take the Office. He was v

The Chronicle's Judicial Endorsements

The Chronicle made its judicial endorsements in today's newspaper on the 9 races up for grabs in the CJC . I disagree with them on their endorsement of Reuben Guerrero over Bill Moore for reasons I've stated here , but other than that, I was kind of amused to see that we agreed on eight of the nine races. I'm glad to see that the Chronicle editorial board has some sense. But on the other hand, I feel like I've totally lost my street cred.

Happy Birthday to My Best Friend

On a personal note, today is my little boy's third birthday. In a world that is often very dark, he is truly a Bringer of Light. I wish a very Happy Birthday to my Reason for Being, my Best Friend, and, pretty much, just my Everything. I love you with all my heart, Little Man.

The 351st District Court Judicial Race

The race for the 351st District Court has Republican incumbent Judge Mark Kent Ellis facing Democratic candidate and defense attorney Mekisha Walker Murray . In this instance, my personal knowledge of Judge Ellis is only in passing, but Mekisha is a former prosecutor and a personal friend of mine. Judge Ellis is an 8-year veteran of the District Attorney's Office, which he followed with 3 years of private practice. He has been on the bench since 1997. He has handled numerous death penalty Capital Murder trials and brings to the table eleven years of experience on the Bench. He is known as a very capable and intelligent judge who truly loves the law. If anything, it could be said he might actually love the law a bit too much , as he is well known for spending upwards of about four hours during his portion of voir dire educating the jury panel on the "ins and outs" of how criminal law works. Now, this is often times rather aggravating to the prosecutors and defense att

The 339th District Court Judicial Race

In all of the political contests involving the Harris County Criminal Justice Center, there is probably no greater disparity between the candidates' qualifications and ability than there are between Republican Incumbent Judge Caprice Cosper and her Democratic opponent, Municipal Court Judge Maria Jackson . As I've written before and my friend, Mark Bennett has written , Judge Cosper is the best Judge in the Criminal Courthouse. Please keep in mind that although Mark is one of my very good friends, he and I seem to disagree on damn near everything. But we are in agreement here that Judge Cosper is an amazing Judge and the thought of her losing her bench to a judge that tries only traffic cases is both nauseating and sad. I've mentioned previously that there are four judges who comprise the supervision of the STAR Court Program . All of their roles are equally important in the success of the program, but (call me biased) I would describe Judge Cosper as the heart and s