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Showing posts from June, 2008

Rick Casey Champions Another Cause

I didn't get around to reading the Chronicle until well after dark this evening, and I'm glad for that. The reason being that if I had read Rick Casey's latest holier-than-thou tripe in the paper, I probably would have just been irritated all day. Casey has stepped to the defense of the Baytown juvenile who was charged with capital murder this week for murdering her newborn son. I don't know any more details than anyone else who has been reading the paper and/or watching the news, but my understanding is that the baby was found strangled, drowned, and had toilet paper crammed down his throat by his 14-year-old mother. Gee, who wouldn't have sympathy for that?! And, of course, Rick Casey is quick to assess who the real villain is in the scenario: Bill Hawkins, the Juvenile Division Chief of the District Attorney's Office. Yes, let's quickly skip over the fact that apparently we, as a Society, are now quite comfortable with 14-year- olds having babies,

Ted Busch

Bert Graham sent out the following e-mail regarding the passing of former First Assistant Ted Busch. Mr. Busch had left the Office long before I arrived, so I will print Bert's e-mail here: From: Graham, Bert Sent: Friday, June 27, 2008 1:05 PM To: All DA Employees Subject: Legend of this Office has died. Ted Busch, former First Assistant District Attorney of the Harris County District Attorney's Office died two days ago. He was my good friend and mentor and he will be missed by those of us who stayed in contact with him through the years. He was a career prosecutor having started here in the early 1960's and retiring as First Assistant D.A. in 1987. He was smart and extremely dedicated to helping provide a quality prosecutors office while seeing that justice was done. Ted was definitely what I would call a "character" because of his eccentricities, but they were mostly the endearing type. For example, he never agreed to accept social security because

Where Are They Now: David Hilburn

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I was recently alerted by former Harris County ADA (and current Brazos County ADA) David Hilburn that he had gotten some local acclaim in the Bryan/College Station area for his attempted heroics in a Brazos County Courtroom . Uh, it didn't turn out so well for him. Who would have ever thought that an ADA in Brazos County would be facing more danger than one in Harris County? For those of you who don't know David Hilburn, he was probably one of the most popular ADAs to ever walk the halls of the CJC. The reason being he was just so damn nice, and so damn funny. Dave seems to be adapting well in Brazos County -- he's married up and allegedly has a bambino on the way. Dancing Dave assured me that he is recovering well from the bump on the Noggin, and if there was any type of brain damage, well, nobody really would have noticed.

Incentives

I had an interesting conversation this morning with a friend of mine from the Office, who we'll call "KB" (since I'm really starting to enjoy assigning pseudonyms to people) about what we thought would the personnel shifts would be under a Bradford and/or Lykos Administration. Of course, at this point, it is pretty much all random speculation when it comes to either candidate. Bradford reached out to those ADAs who would be willing to talk to him some time ago. This week, all the ADAs received a letter from Pat Lykos , saying that their jobs were safe for "those who believe in the rule of law, and understand our solemn duty to ensure justice and protect our citizens". I think we all realize that there won't be a wholesale purging of the Office. There just wouldn't be enough people to replace them. I do imagine that several who have placed themselves "out there" a little more aggressively than others (like say, a certain Blogger,

Another Need for a Prosecutor for Hire?

KHOU .com is reporting that the entire Montgomery County District Attorney's Office is having to recuse itself from a murder case involving two year old Madisyn Farrington . The article reports that District Attorney himself had interviewed Madisyn's eight-year-old sister, who was a fact witness on the case. According to the article, the sister had a "different story" from the one she originally told investigators, although it does not go into details. Whatever the details are, they must be substantial enough for the entire office to be forced to recuse itself from the case in it's entirety. I find this to be completely bizarre. I realize that Montgomery County's District Attorney's Office is substantially smaller than Harris County's, but it sounds like the proper procedures were followed by D.A. Mike McDougal in interviewing the child. The interview was not recorded, but in my experience, I never taped a meeting with a witness prior to trial

Revolt of the Machines

I know that blaming technology is my favorite scapegoating activity when it comes to problems on the blog, but the damn electronics department has seemed out to get me the past couple of weeks. First of all, the Great Blogging Spirit of the Sky has somehow arbitrarily decided to stop alerting me whenever I get a new comment, which means that I have no idea when somebody has posted a comment on the blog. It was kind of funny, actually, because first it trickled off, and then it just stopped altogether. So, now I've learned to just check my comments box on the computer at least twice daily. Then, the mother of all blogging catastrophes happened this week when my laptop crashed altogether. I kept getting messages about the "device" I had installed wasn't allowing the computer to start up. I found this to be very interesting since I had not installed any devices on the computer since . . . uh, ever. Thankfully, a good friend with a lot more technological know-how

Side-Lawyering

One my readers, whom I'll call "J.D." was kind enough to alert me to this article out of Dallas. It seems that Craig Watkins has been doing some side- lawyering when not busy being a "PR Dream" for prosecutors. It would be really nice if prosecutors could earn some extra income by drawing legal fees for side jobs like, say, doing a divorce for a friend, or writing a will. But the law says that you can't. You just have to stick to that ultra-high paying government salary (and the side perk of being universally loved). (NOTE: Please read this mini-paragraph with as much sarcasm as you can muster.) But not only is District Attorney Watkins doing some side- lawyering , he's also assisting in a little bit of mortgage fraud. I'm willing to give D.A. Watkins the benefit of the doubt and say that I really doubt he knew he was aiding in mortgage fraud. However, he should have known better with the whole side- lawyering thing.

The Harris County Jail Website

The Chronicle is reporting in an article today that that there is a new website out about what life is like in the Harris County Jail. The new website is: http://www.harriscojail.com/ It's worth a read.

The Char Bar

For those of you who know me and know who I am, you're probably surprised that I haven't done a post on my favorite drinking establishment in Downtown Houston before today. Come to think of it, I'm kind of surprised, too, given how much I love the place. The Char Bar (aka Duke of Hollywood Tailors) was originally a tailor shop that first opened in 1936. Owner Mike Shapiro, and his son, Jeremy converted and added the "Char Bar" element to the tailor shop in 2001. You can still get your tailoring needs met there, but the primary reason most criminal lawyers gather there is to enjoy a beverage. While the drinks and conversation are flowing, Big Weldon Renfro will be happy to give your shoes the best shine in town. On any given weekday afternoon, you will likely find an interesting mix of prosecutors and defense attorneys swapping war stories and talking with each other. There are good discussions and debates over the law, and maybe even the occasional mutua

Quiet Time

Sorry I've been a little quiet over the past week. I've had a lot going on. I will try to post a little more regularly in the future.

Mack Arnold's Fundraiser

Tonight there was a fundraiser for Mack Arnold at El Tiempo on Richmond. There was a fantastic turnout from the Defense Bar, the Prosecution, and several judges. Mack was there, and he looked great. As usual, he was sharp as a tack. It was really great to get to see him. For those of you who didn't get a chance to attend, it isn't too late to donate. The information you need is in the right-hand column, and PayPal is available on Mark Bennett's website . It was a great evening tonight.

My Personal View of Brady

When I was a kid, I aspired to be a football player. (NOTE: I really stunk at football.) Back when I had delusions of grandeur of being an offensive lineman (at 5' 11" and 140 lbs.), I remember my dad telling me a story of a lineman in the pros. He told me that the lineman was so good that when he took the line before the snap, he would tell the defensive tackle across from him exactly what he was going to do -- and then he would do it. There was no trickery. There were no misdirection plays. He would just knock his opponent on his ass. For some reason or another, that story that my Dad told me (way back when) always comes to mind when I think about compliance with Brady . As a prosecutor, I never had any reservations about laying out what I had. Hell, I normally would/will give a defense attorney a complete copy of my exhibit list and my witness order, in addition to keeping a completely open file. If there is something that the Defense Bar can do to manipulate it to a

Kelly Siegler Takes a Shot at Blogging

Check it out -- http://womenincrimeink.blogspot.com/2008/06/theres-no-such-thing-as-closure.html

And the Next Sign of the CJC Apocalypse Will Be . . .

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Out of a field of four, highly unlikely events, you, the Voters have decided that the most likely event to occur next (thus being the next sign of the CJC Apocalypse) will be that none-other than Dr. Victor Jay Wisner will end up on the cover of Gentleman's Quarterly Magazine. For those of you who don't know Vic, the man is a fashion trendsetter of the highest caliber. Some of the hottest fashion tips of the Fall that we can get from Vic include: 1) several staples will always handily fix a torn inseam. 2) if a tie was fashionable during the Nixon Administration, there's no reason it won't work now. 3) worn-out elastic on socks can easily be replaced by office-grade rubber bands 4) a tear in the seam of your suit jacket will not easily be noticed if you keep your arms at your sides. 5) when the rubber bands on your socks fail, there's nothing wrong with making your pasty-white calves visible to a jury. AND FINALLY: 6) there's nothing wrong with delivering a clo

Outside Interests

Sometimes, believe it or not, prosecutors actually have interests outside of their jobs. Sometimes they are pretty damn good at their outside interests, too. Take for example Sylvia Escobedo Newman, who is quickly making a name for herself as a photographer in her spare time. If you get a second, check out her website at: http://www.sylvianewmanphotography.com/ .

Your Comments

Usually I get a hit on my Blackberry when you guys are posting comments, and I can publish them from the Blackberry. Lately, for some reason or another, they aren't going through to the Blackberry. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don't. When I go back and log onto the website, I will often have a whole back up of comments waiting on moderation. I found one this morning from Grits that he had sent yesterday, and I never got notification of it. So, if you post a comment, and it isn't going through, please let me know at my e-mail address.

A Stumble During the Walk on Water

While my friends Mark Bennett, Michael, Grits, and the entire staff of the Houston Chronicle have been whole- heartedly heralding Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins as the second-coming when it comes to prosecutors, one my readers, Qeenie pointed out this story from Wednesday's edition of the Dallas Morning News . Not surprisingly (as Qeenie pointed out), the Chronicle has yet to pick up this story. Go figure. During the love-affair that the media and others have had with Mr. Watkins, there has been quite a bit of coverage on him. From his discovery of the safe with Jack Ruby memorabilia to his strong support of a Conviction Integrity Unit to his suggestion of felony charges against prosecutors who withhold Brady material, Watkins has certainly become a Media Darling in a world where people typically don't like prosecutors. So why does everybody love Craig Watkins so much, even though he's a prosecutor? Well, uh, it could be argued that it doesn't seem l

Return of Writer's Block

I got a complaint today that I'm getting lazy since I haven't done much posting lately. The reason has been two-fold: 1) I left my lap top at work and didn't feel like dragging it back and forth; and 2) there hasn't been much to write about. Trust me, I love to write, but I've got to have at least some sort of a mild topic before I go off on a rant. Things are just kind of in a lull at the moment, I guess. If anybody has any topics that they would like to discuss, let me know.

Fire!

Immediately on the heels of the Great Rat Snake Crisis of '08 , visitors to the CJC were greeted this morning with the SECOND sign that the CJC Apocalypse is upon us. The first sign that something new was wrong was that the line to reach the elevator bank was backed up all the way to the metal detectors in the foyer, which, in turn, created a back up well out the door of the CJC . There were also fire trucks in front of the building. Um, okay, on second thought, the lines to the elevator backing up to the metal detectors and the presence of fire trucks in front of the building are actually pretty typical of any day at the CJC . Defendants do love to exercise their God-given right to pull the fire alarms in the hallway, unfortunately. But today, as it turns out, the presence of the fire department was actually necessary! In the early morning hours today, a small, accidental fire broke out in one of the offices surrounding the 183rd District Court on the 18 th floor of the b

Volunteer!

After reading some of the great comments in my below article on the Grand Jury, it occurred to me that an easy solution to the diversity issue on the make-up of Grand Juries would be if more people volunteered. It's simple, really. Just call up the court and tell the coordinators that you'd like your name to be considered the next time the Judge is putting together a Grand Jury. They'll take down your name and number, and I'll bet you get a call at the next time they pull together a panel. If a diverse group applies and gets rejected, let me know. Right now, the Grand Juries that are meeting are in the 180's series of District Court, I believe. So if you'd like to serve quickly, give calls to the Judges in the 200's (Collins, McSpadden , Carter, Hill, Keel, etc.). Just a thought.

The Grand Jury System and Time

Today's Chronicle ran a good editorial piece about the Grand Jury system, written by Joseph Richard Gutheinz , Jr. Gutheinz is a former grand juror who writes a well-informed and diplomatic article, while making the point that the grand jury system in Harris County needs to be changed. ( NOTE: Of course, the Chronicle couldn't tolerate a well-written article that was diplomatic and done by someone who knew what they were talking about it, so they had to attach the title that the system was "a bad joke" in the headline (which I don't think accurately reflects the tone of the article written by Mr. Gutheinz ).) It's an interesting trick to write about the Grand Jury process, because everyone involved is sworn to absolute secrecy about what occurs behind closed doors -- an oath that is taken extremely seriously. Mr. Gutheinz is correct in all his assertions, but I think it is worth noting that a lot of the problems within the Grand Jury system and who ser