Wednesday, December 3, 2008

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 Freyer and Don Smyth are some of the most talented prosecutors in the Nation and they've dedicated their careers to public service. (NOTE: For the record, Rob and Don were not "unrenewed" by Lykos. They both will be leaving of their own accord).

I am honored to work with them all. I'm equally honored to call them my friends.

As a side note, if you are planning on using the comments section of the post to speak badly of any of the aforementioned prosecutors, don't waste your time. Not here. Not now. I won't publish it. If you want to talk badly about me, knock yourself out.

And speaking of speaking badly of people, I'm highly confused by the angry rants of whoever is calling himself "Jeff's Dad". I've got no idea who he is or the reasoning of his very volatile rants on any blog that will post him. If you have a beef with me, I do wish you would tell me why. I will be happy to discuss with you whatever actions I committed that seem to have you so riled up. However, my guess is that your rants are probably more aimed at prosecutors in general, rather than me in particular.

Moving on . . .

Some people claim that my post yesterday was "whining" about getting the old heave-ho. If I sound like I'm whining, I don't intend to.

Are there things about leaving the Office that make me angry? You bet.

Do I have some anxiety about my financial situation for the first couple of months out on my own? I'd be foolish not to.

Am I going to miss the camaraderie and friendship of the Office? I would have to be dead on the inside not to feel that loss.

But am I crying in my beer because I really really really wanted to work for Pat Lykos?

Um, not so much.

Yes yes. I know that it now sounds as if I have shifted from "whining" to "sour grapes"? Oh well. If you don't like what I'm writing, feel free to check out another website. Or you can stick around and rant about the Blogger you love to hate. Doesn't really matter to me.

The bottom line is that leaving the District Attorney's Office is a big change in my life on every level, and I've got a lot to say about it. Hopefully I can refrain from being too repetetive about it, but I find it kind of cathartic to write about this stuff.

And finally, Joe Owmby and I were interviewed by Phil Archer from Channel 2 this morning, and I stated my unshakeable belief that these firings were politically motivated. If you have some strange desire to see my pasty bald head in action, you can click here. When it comes to being on TV, I'm certainly no Will Womble (NOTE: Inside joke.) Don't get me wrong, as far as I'm concerned, a political firing is pretty much fair game (as long as it doesn't violate the 1st Amendment).

I nearly spit out my beer when I saw that Lykos flatly denied that any of the firings were politically motivated. She added the beautiful statement that she wasn't going to say anything bad about us (thus implying that there are a lot of bad things to say, but she is rising above such pettiness).

Yeah right.

I got a certified copy of my personnel file just in case Lykos wanted to insinuate something like that. It has all my evaluations. It has all my trial statistics. What it doesn't have is any reprimands, disciplinary actions, or complaints.

There weren't any.

I tried around fifteen murder cases. Two capital murders (one death/one non-death), and many many sexual assaults of children, aggravated robberies, and other felonies. My trial record was 51 convictions, 2 acquittals, and 2 hung juries.

And keep in mind that out of all those listed prosecutors, I was the most junior.

NOTE: Before anyone starts beating me over the head for "you prosecutors only caring about convictions", let me say that I do believe that trial statistics actually are important in evaluating a prosecutor. They certainly aren't the end-all-be-all by any means, but they are indicators. If a prosecutor has a really lopsided trial record, they are either a) not properly evaluating their trial cases or b) they aren't getting the job done in trial. Both are things that prosecutors need to be able to do.

My point is that I don't think there was anything in my file or about my reputation as a prosecutor that would warrant my ultimate termination.

But I did support Kelly Siegler against Pat Lykos (and I would do it again).

Coincidentally, the folks I'm walking out the door with supported her too.

Like I said, a political firing is fair game for the most part as far as I'm concerned. All is fair in love and war, and all that good stuff. I'm not whining about that.

I just find Lykos' assertion that the terminations weren't politically motivated is about as disingenuous as . . . well, pretty much everything else Lykos has to say.


Anonymous said...

I still can't believe this is happening. She lied to everyone's face and now all those that still work at the HCDA office will never be able to trust her, period. She is a liar, and we have it in writing to prove it.

I don't think anyone has an idea of what a profound loss this is for the office, the County and the victims. Murray, you are and always will be a class act. I have enjoyed working many an intake with you - (you were never lazy and answered phones - unlike others).

My only worry now is seeing you across the table, knowing I am no where near your skill level and that an ass kicking is imminent.

Maybe this is a sign from above that your life needed a different direction and, if anything, you will able to spend more time with Luke - your loss is his gain.

While I hope you continue to blog, please don't sway to far to the left and begin bashing DAs (other than Lykos).

I have no doubt you will be very successful defending those wrongfully accused, and those rightfully accused you will get the best deal.

And you never know, maybe Ken will run in 2012.

I will help you move back in.

Anonymous said...

I hate to see you leave the office. You are extremely talented. However, I disagree that supporting Kelly Siegler was the reason certain people were fired. There were others who worked much harder and were seen just as often on the stage with Siegler.

Each person fired has his own "claim to fame" that may have conflicted with Lycos' view of a new DA's office except for Bert who may have been unjustly cast as the mascot for the old regime or regimes due to his many years of service.

I will not go into my personal opinion of each fired person's undoing as you have asked your readers not to. For you, I think it was this blog. As thoughtful, well written, and entertaining as it is, it has also been very critical of Lycos. You would be hard pressed to find a manager of a company that would keep on an employee a) that is so critical of him or her and b)that has the public's ear (or eyes) the way you do. Public support is going to be an up hill battle as it is.

I have heard her firings referred to as a "political hatchet job" but the phrase hardly seems to fit when less than 10 attorneys were let go in an office of over 220 and many of those 220 were ardent Siegler fans.

I think it would have been wise for her to keep you and ask you to knock off the public critisism but then I wouldn't get to enjoy your blogs.

Anonymous said...

I too, am truly sorry that you have been asked to leave. I enjoy your blog and I have nothing to do with the county judicial system. I am, however, a county employee.

Several of us in my office look forward to your blogs ~ they are amusing to read. We were all waiting for your next installment of elevator people.

I hope you are able to enjoy the holidays and start off the new year with a wonderful new opportunity.

Please post a re-direct if you begin a new blog!

God Bless!

Anonymous said...

While I hope you continue to blog, please don't sway to far to the left and begin bashing DAs (other than Lykos).

I take issue with the assumption that just because he's a defense attorney now he's "to the left."

Was Thomas Jefferson a leftist? Is the Constitution a 'liberal' rag and those who defend it are never conservative?

This is the type of ignorance that permeates prosecutors across the country. The notion that political polarity has anything to do with justice is absurd.

Anonymous said...

There was someone very special in your life that loved journalism and writing. Your amazing talent as writer must come from your special bond with him. Maybe this is a sign that you should follow your heart in that direction for a while. He would be very proud. However, I know that whatever you decide, he already is.

So am I.

Ron in Houston said...

I don't know that I agree political firings are fair game. I suppose you can say that with limited budgets you sometimes need to lose a few people in order to get the ones in you want in leadership.

Maybe the county needs something like the federal system where rank and file continue while above a certain level serve at the will of the new administration.

I just think it sucks and is par for the course with Lykos. I'm also with you, I didn't hear her denying the "political firings" but I probably would have spit out my beer also.

Give me a break, does she really think people are that stupid?

Anonymous said...

You assume that Pat Lykos thinks like a normal human being. She is psycho, and you people that are gone might be the lucky ones. I would never work for that psychotic bitch for any amount of money. She would have had to chase my ass down the street to give me a termination letter because I would have been running out the door the day she got elected.

Corky said...

The way I read it State law currently prohibits civil service protection for members of a District Attorney's office. I personally think this should be changed. I am not an attorney nor did I stay at a Holiday Inn last night but I did sleep with an attorney at a Holiday Inn Express but that is a different story.

I heard that Pat Lykos was rejected for membership in the Manson Family in the late 1960's for being too antisocial and nasty - Is this true?

If you do join the defense bar , Please don't be the next Rocket Rosen, one is too many. Please don't be offended if you read this Rocket, it was a joke but then you don't know who I am. MUHAHAHAHA.

Just for the record - Did Will Rogers ever meet Pat Lykos?

Good luck Murray.

Anonymous said...

I'm concerned with those that were NOT fired. Some of the most unethical prosecutors in the office are apparently staying. Some of the ones that have been caught over and over again hiding Brady, unethically communicating with defendants, lying, speaking ex-parte with judges, etc. (I've come to Jan Krocker's court to find that the prosecutor had approached with a motion off-docket and had it granted -- no deying ex-parte there!!!) Why haven't those people been let go???

While I do agree that the DA's office needs a shake-up from top to bottom and a cultural re-organization, that's not what I'm seeing. I don't think too MANY people have been let go (and IMHO many of those that have been let go won't be missed) there are alot more that I'd like to see join the unemployment lines.

Mark Bennett said...


Good post.

Surely you've tried a lot more than 55 cases.

You're only counting the felonies?


Mark Bennett said...

0910, how many competent, dedicated lawyers have to be fired before you'll agree with me that it's a political hatchet job?

Anonymous said...

Mr. Newman, I am the one that submitted the comment that you refused to post because the people mentioned are your friends and you don't want them kicked while they are down. With all due respect, that is exactly what the people mentioned made a career doing: kicking people who were down. Now that I can put a face to the name, I dealt with you just 2-3 times during your career and always found you to be professional, reasonable and fair, and I can think of nothing negative to say about you. You did your job without any nastiness or obvious glee over someone elses' misfortune or bad judgment. I don't recall ever seeing you snicker or smirk when making plea offers. But the people I mentioned last night took obvious pleasure in not only kicking someone who was down, but made a point of trying to grind the person into the dirt and totally destroy the individual as a human being. Those of us that have dealt with these people from the other side for far longer than your employment lasted are only human to take a certain amount of satisfaction in seeing them brought down. I personally hope that some of your fired colleagues go through at least a little of the pain, fear, and humiliation that they have inflicted on others for years and years. If and when you become a defense attorney, you too will be dealing with ADA's whose behavior will be similar to those I mentioned in the rejected comment. I hope you will be as appalled as the rest of the defense bar has been for years. I hope that you already understand that most people are neither evil nor bad, but that they do stupid things because of ignorance, fear, desperation, or addiction. I hope you will try to get across to the prosecutors that you face that while your client deserves punishment for their actions, they do not deserve to be annihilated as a person, humiliated, degraded, and just generally destroyed in the present and for the entire future. I think you will try, because you didn't abuse your power when you had it, but several of your fired colleagues did every chance they got, and I, for one, am glad to see them GONE!
You probably won't publish this either, but understand that a lot of us feel this way. At least this time I didn't mention names, and I seriously doubt that if any of your fired colleagues read this, that that they lack the self awareness to believe it applies to them.

A Harris County Lawyer said...

I think I tried somewhere between 30 to 40 misdemeanor trials before coming up to felony.

Yes, our grandfather loved journalism with all of his heart, but ultimately even he had to start a printing business to make ends meet. You and I both benefited from his foresight very much.

Anonymous said...

Mark Bennett: for me to believe it was a "political hatchet job" I would have to see no clear reason for firing these folks outside of pure politics and if pure politics was the reason there would have been many more fired.

I voted for Bradford but that doesn't blind me from seeing that each of the fired persons (besides Bert) posed a potential road block to Lycos fufilling her promise of reform. She has missed quite a few if she is to accomplish that much needed house cleaning. If she does remove others to promote change, I still wont refer to it as a political hatchet job.

Anonymous said...

Mark Bennett: While I agree with you that every lawyer that was let go was competent and dedicated as are most lawyers down there, that hardly seems to be the issues people are concernted about when it comes to the HCDA's office.

Tenderfoot said...

Oh I agree with you. This is Harris County. Anyone who works here without civil service protections know how petty some agency heads are.

Anonymous said...

Don Smythe is not retiring, nor was he asked to leave the office.

The Phantom Bureaucrat said...

I disagree with the contention that this series of firing was anything short of politically motivated (and it sure wasn't "needed" contrary to the remarks by anon 10:30). Imagine a true leader, newly elected to office, presented with a lot of detractors that supported someone else in the campaign. They could fire the ones considered ringleaders and throw away decades of valuable experience or they could seek to prove them wrong, enhancing morale and taking the high route.

Needless to say, Lykos stuck with her tried and true manner (and will clearly go out of her way to be politically expedient in the future versus doing what most would consider the right thing).