Thursday, March 20, 2008

Today's Chronicle Agenda

For the third time in the week, the Chronicle has run an opinion piece on the need for a Public Defender's Office in Harris County. It's amazing to me that a story that is against their pro-Lykos agenda doesn't get published at all, but something that they want gets run three freaking times in a week! The Chronicle certainly has a special way of being annoying, doesn't it?

In an unrelated story, there is no article, but just a brief snippet with a photograph in the lower right corner of the City & State section about the swearing in of Kenneth Magidson. I guess the fact that it would be a positive and non-scandalous story about the District Attorney's Office probably made it non-newsworthy to Jeff Cohen and crew.

Back to the editorial, I would suggest reading the comments in the on-line version of it. A poster under the name of "Helpful" points out, much more eloquently than I can, his or her views against a PDs Office.

As I've said before, most ADAs don't really care who they are facing in a trial. However, the Chronicle, Senator Ellis, and Barry Scheck's tact in chasing after getting a PD's Office annoys me.

First of all, nobody is citing any specific cases where a Defendant got screwed over because of a court appointed attorney.

Second, the reputations of some of the most skilled defense attorneys in the Nation are being slandered by Ellis, Scheck, and Cohen. Indigent Harris County defendants have the opportunity to have some of the best attorneys in the world representing them for free, and Ellis, Scheck and Cohen are basically sitting in Ivory Towers and telling them that they aren't good enough.

Third, no one has yet to list a case where a defense attorney asked for additional funds for investigations and couldn't get them.

Fourth, the Chronicle cites things that could happen as if they are happening:

All too often, the jurists' wishes count for more than their commitment to defend their clients to the best of their ability.
The system is easy to manipulate in favor of particular lawyers who might be friends or political contributors.
An attorney who displeases a judge can be removed from the appointment list.

On behalf of the judges and defense attorneys who take appointments, please allow me to tell the Chronicle that you can kiss their butts with lines like those.

The Holy Trinity of Cohen, Scheck, and Ellis seem to just be scratching their heads and thinking, if so many people are being convicted in Harris County and sentenced to prison, there must be something wrong with the system. It must be racist. The D.A.'s must be overaggressive. The defense must be incompetent.

Or it could be, that we live in a major metropolitan area and there is a ton of crime and therefore, there are a ton of people being punished. Maybe, just maybe, a lot of these defendants are getting sentenced to prison sentences because, oh, I don't know, maybe they actually did what they're accused of.

One last parting thought.

The editorial starts off with the following line:

Harris County is the only major metropolitan area in the country without a public defender system to represent indigent defendants.

Ah, under that theory, isn't the Chronicle the only major metropolitan newspaper to never win a Pulitzer Prize?

Maybe under that theory, we should scrap them, too.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

You are a little nazi, aren't you, AHCL?

I hope you, a family member or friend never gets charged with a crime, and get a crappy appointed lawyer who is afraid to offend the judge responsible for lining his pockets.

Hey, how is Sam doing?

A Harris County Lawyer said...

Anon 4:50,
I see you've learned the neat trick of Pat Lykos that when you have no intellectual argument, to just call names. It's very effective. I feel ashamed of my article already.

Perhaps you'd like to illustrate an example of one of those "crappy appointed lawyers" that you mentioned and what they did to earn their title?

Last I talked to Sam, he seemed to be doing okay. Was there some relevance in why you asked that?

Anonymous said...

Name calling is the sign of someone without a valid argument.

I'd be curious to see some valid comparison of the two systems. Most of the arguments being made in favor of a public defender office are the same ones reformists use to point out how inadequate they are in other states. A family member so represented years ago found the harsh reality firsthand.

I was under the impression that the helpful poster was AHCL, a staunch Siegler advocate with more than a little insider information.

TPB

A Harris County Lawyer said...

No, Helpful and I are two seperate entities.
I don't post on the Chronicle boards for a couple of reasons. First and foremost being that they make me too damn mad. Second, I think it would risk my identity being exposed.
It wouldn't surprise me if Helpful was one of my regular posters, although I don't know which one.

Anonymous said...

A convicted individual must blame someone for his/her fate. The defense attorney (appointed or retained) is often the most convenient target.

T.S.

A Harris County Lawyer said...

You know, T.S. brings up a good point. A lot of times the Defendants are a lot more ticked off at their own attorneys than they are at the police, the judge, or even the dastardly prosecutors.

Of course, if the Defendants were rocket scientists, they probably wouldn't be in custody in the first place.

J said...

I'm not opposed to a PD in principle. One of the problems I fear is that if such an office is created we'll hear cries that the DA's office and the PD should have the same funding. This would be garbage, since much of what the DA's office does involves functions a PD would not have, such as investigating cases, the intake process, etc. Also, I wonder how other jurisdictions with PD's handle the governmental records statutes. Are they exempted from public records laws?

Anonymous said...

A public defender office will only be as good as those it hires and keeps employed. For current HC salaries, I hope none of the supporters expect a lot of bang for the buck.