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Showing posts from July, 2008

An Update on My Friend

Earlier this month, I told you all about my friend "Jim" from high school who had shown up at the CJC looking for me after a six-year absence. If you will recall, Jim had some serious mental issues that had arisen from years of drug use, and had now manifested in a deep sense of paranoia. The target of Jim's paranoia was his father. I had called Jim's dad after Jim left the CJC and just let him know what was going on. For all I knew, Jim's dad could have been looking for him. Jim's dad was keenly aware of all of Jim's problem, but like me, he had no idea what to do about it. He was frustrated and saddened, and had no idea why his son had so much hatred for him. He also had no clue as to what to do to help his son. I talked to him for awhile about civil commitments and mental health warrants, which I know virtually nothing about. I told him to talk to a family lawyer, or even a psychiatrist about what could legally be done about Jim. Jim's

Bibles, Witnesses, and Corroboration. Oh my!

Mark Bennett's post last week about the "One Witness Rule" question during voir dire has (as I could have predicted) evolved into an argument about whether or not "one witness" to a crime should ever be legally sufficient in a court of law. Grits for Breakfast went all Biblical with the argument by pointing out that Moses, Jesus, and the Apostle Paul couldn't be on a Harris County jury because Biblical passages require at least two witnesses on every dispute. Now, I will freely admit that I'm no Biblical scholar (I will sit back and wait for Pro. Victims to chime in for that), but it has been my experience that every time a person has cited the Bible as their moral authority for a position, someone a lot smarter than me can find a quote from the same Good Book that contradicts it. Or, at least, they can point out dozens of other Edicts that come from the Bible that seem beyond ridiculous in this day and age. Quite frankly, I usually stay away from

Condolences

Our condolences go out to Harris County's First Assistant District Attorney, Bert Graham, on the loss of his father, Herbert Graham, this week. The Houston Chronicle wrote an article about Mr. Graham , and he sounded like an amazing man. It is always incredible to hear about couples that were married for 71 years. That's just astounding to me. Bert has had a rough past couple of months. His brother passed away in December, quickly followed by the scandals of the Office, and his parents' ill health. In the middle of all this, he took over as leader of the District Attorney's Office and guided the prosecutors through a pretty tumultuous time until Ken Magidson took over. This whole year Bert has exhibited grace under pressure and been a good leader at the same time. Bert, your dad sounded like an incredible man. I bet he was pretty damn proud of his son, too.

Children at the Courthouse

Okay, one of the things that really bothers and upsets me that I see at the CJC is the presence of children there. It isn't that I don't like children. I adore kids. But it breaks my heart to see them at the courthouse. A five-year-old doesn't need to be made aware that Daddy or Mommy broke the law. Parents should be a child's hero for as long as a parent can convince them to. Kids damn sure don't need to see their parents taken into custody. And don't get me started on all the germs floating around that place. It happens every day. You will see the wife of a defendant toting along their small children to court, so that she can be present during his court proceedings. I know the common answer to this will be "well, they probably couldn't afford a baby sitter". I agree that is, most likely, true, but dammit, those mothers should put a priority on babysitting their children at home rather than babysitting their husbands in a courtroom.

Kelly Siegler Writes Again

Kelly Siegler authored another post on the Women In Crime blog website (which if you haven't read yet, you should. It is really really good.) The topic, I'm sure will generate a lot of conversation, because it stands for the rarely asserted position that prosecutors aren't too aggressive, but, in fact, often not aggressive enough. Now, I'm sure that this proposition will have Mark Bennett, Grits for Breakfast, and PJ spitting coffee on their latest edition of the ACLU Newsletter. Critics of prosecutors (especially those prosecutors in Harris County) are much more fond of pointing out how prosecutors will attempt any hurdle just to convict, but there is a flip side to that tired old argument. Sometimes prosecutors are reluctant to take on cases where they are going to have difficulty proving that case. One of my friends who is a prosecutor seemed to take offense at that premise, but I think that everyone who has ever been a prosecutor would have to admit to pl

I Hope the Message Gets Past the Spam Filter

Employees at the Criminal Justice Center got the below e-mail today from the folks in charge of building maintenance: RE: Official Notification – FIRE ALARM TESTING – Criminal Justice Center Simplex- Grinnell will be conducting fire alarm TESTING on Wednesday, July 23 from 10:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. in the Criminal Justice Center, 1201 Franklin St. Please disregard all alarms. In the event of an actual emergency, you will be notified by Facilities and Property Management by e-mail and/or P.A. system. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. Which prompted the following e-mail response from Pro. Victims: Seriously? Really? If there is a real emergency, some one will send me an email? Or they might also use the PA? I wonder who we trust to not cross the wires on that issue. Maybe after the smoking pile of rubble stops burning, FPM will all look around and say - I thought YOU were sending an email. No, I thought YOU were using the P.A. An email, for God's sake? REALLY??

Brilliance!

I had decided this morning that I was going to write some tongue-in-cheek piece this evening about the Criminal Justice World if Left to the Devices of my friend, Mark Bennett. However, before I could actually jot down a single idea, I was upstaged and outclassed by a commenter on Mark's Blog who posts under the name of Tarian . Tarian's post, which incorporates pretty much every Blogger and Commenter on both Mark's blog and on mine, is witty and nothing short of brilliant. It targets the commenter known as " PJ " who is probably one of the most Liberal and anti-State commenter in the Blawgosphere . Even though I'm certain that Mark probably disagrees with 99.99999% of the post, he had to admit it was well done. If you haven't seen it yet, check it out here . Sheer brilliance.

Congressman Ted Poe

Former Judge and Active Congressman Ted Poe had a scare when a plane that he and fellow Congressmen were flying on had a mechanical failure during flight today . Thankfully, everything turned out okay and nobody was hurt during what must have been a terrifying experience. When I was promoted to Felony Two, my first assignment was in Judge Poe's court, and that's a fact I'm very proud of. Although I was scared to death of him, I liked being in that court and trying cases in front of him immensely. It's a fantastic conversation piece to be able to say that I tried my first murder case in front of THE Judge Poe. I'm happy that everything turned out okay today for him and the other passengers. But I have to wonder if he is going to order a sign to be painted on the plane saying: "I'm a Bad Plane. I take unexpected nose dives. Stay away."

The One Witness Rule as Gamesmanship

Mark Bennett did a post on the "One Witness Rule" last week, describing the prosecutorial question to a jury as "sneaky", "unfair", "inelegant", and "gamesmanship". Here's how the "One Witness Rule" question generally poses itself in voir dire in it's raw form: "Assuming that one witness and one witness only testifies, and they cover all of the elements of the offense, and that witness proves the elements to you beyond a reasonable doubt, the law says that you can convict. Can you follow that portion of the law?" One of Mark's descriptors is that the question is inelegant. Boy, he got that part right. It is a tough question for a juror to wrap their mind around. And dammit, us Texans are known for our freaking elegance, if nothing else. But I disagree with him that the question is "sneaky", "unfair", or "gamesmanship". The question is, very often, an important

My AHCL Email Account

Awhile back I finally created an e-mail account that would give readers an opportunity to write in if they didn't want to post something publicly. I am glad I set up the e-mail because it has facilitated a great many conversations and explanations. Unfortunately, I'm very bad about responding to all the e-mails I get "off blog". I don't mean to be rude by my tardiness, but sometimes other things just get in the way. Every couple of weeks, I go through the inbox and try to answer those questions that I can. That being said, I also receive several questions that I can't answer for varying reasons, which is why I'm writing this particular post. I hope that people will still write in when they don't feel comfortable posting. Here are some of the things, however, that I can't answer or do when somebody writes in: 1. Answer a Question about a Federal Case- my realm is the Harris County Criminal Justice Center which deals with the Laws of the State o

This Just In from Waynce Dolcefino

Apparently last night's Channel 13 Undercover Report by Wayne Dolcefino revealed this story that you could have only learned from being a loyal viewer of KTRK : It seems that last month there was a fire of some sort at the CJC . I had no idea . I guess Wayne decided that going through the trash behind the Sheriff's Office was getting stale with the viewers so he had to go and report some really old news. Way to stay on top of things, Wayne!

Bernstein's Article on Clarence Bradford

My buddy Alan Bernstein was back writing on the District Attorney's race this morning with a less-than-complimentary article on former HPD Police Chief Clarence "C.O." Bradford . Now, I personally found the timing of the article a bit odd, since the election is a little less than four months away, but who really knows what goes on in the minds of Chronicle personnel? The article is certainly not kind to Bradford: "Bradford is void of experience in criminal court, other than as a crime investigation witness or humiliated defendant." The article also goes on to say: "The county never has elected an African-American to a law enforcement job." Um, I think Harris County Constable for Precinct Seven May Walker may disagree with him on that point. But anyway, the article goes on to list his problems with the crime lab and the K-Mart raid and seems pretty much like a slam piece to me. It does list him as a good administrator , with former Houston Polic

A Good Man

Remember that guy in high school that you were friends with that was your "bad friend"? The one who smoked weed (and probably did more) earlier than anyone else? The guy who had actually been to Juvie or Rehab? The one who everyone else thought was so cool because he was the guy who just didn't give a crap what his parents, teachers, or the police thought? The James Dean of your high school? The one that the girls wanted to date to piss off their parents, and the one that guys wanted to be like to show that they could be "bad"? That guy in high school was my best friend. For the purposes of this post, I'll just call him "Jim". Although we lost touch a couple of years after high school, and actually had some personal differences that led us to not talk to each other for about eight years, you don't forget the people who held the title of "best friend", no matter how old you get. Today, after having not seen nor heard from him in e

Out of the Loop

My posts have been a little few and far between lately because of some personal things going on in my life. I'm working on it, so hopefully I will be back with a little more regularity in the near future. There were some great articles for discussion this weekend that would have made great posts, but I kind of missed the boat. So here's my discount version: Story # 1: Rick Casey's column on a visiting judge ordering urinalysis on acquitted defendant: As much as it pains me to agree with Papa Smurf on anything, I have to admit that he's mostly right on this one. What in the hell was the judge thinking? Long story short: A visiting civil court judge, presiding over a criminal trial orders the Defendant to have a urinalysis while the jury is deliberating. The judge makes her intentions known that she will allow the results to be admissible during the punishment phase, should the jury reach it. The jury acquits. Judge makes her take the urinalysis anyway, at t

Guns and the People Who Shoot Them.

I've been pretty quiet about the Joe Horn case and the Grand Jury's No-Bill of him this week, because, quite frankly, I don't think I had anything all that original to say about it. I have absolutely no sympathy for the two burglars that he killed, but I'm also not someone who considers Horn to be a hero. I thought the Grand Jury did the right thing in returning a No Bill (especially when you look at the alternative being an indictment on Capital Murder). But the things that Horn said on his 911 tape trouble me, and they bring to mind the fact that there are plenty of people in this world who legally own firearms and are just chomping at the bit to get a chance to use them. These folks scare the hell out of me. My Dad served three tours of duty in Vietn am as a Marine Corps Officer, and he killed a lot of people. He never really talks about it, but he doesn't shy away from discussing it either. He took me hunting once because he thought every father and son shou