Thursday, December 11, 2008

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 and this blog as "toxic", a disagreement with someone doesn't make them a bad person, nor diminish their reputation as a prosecutor.

Donna, as many of my friends who work for the D.A.'s Office (and read this blog), is in uncharted territory with a newly elected District Attorney coming in. I would imagine that those who survived the "purge", nonetheless remain frightened and paranoid about what acts they may or may not commit to incur the wrath of their newly elected leader.

Donna made a stand that said she was loyal to the Office, and there wasn't anything wrong with that. Yes, it felt a bit judgmental towards me, but, in the end, I don't think I can really blame her for it.

As the Lykos/Leitner Administration takes over, there have been firings and demotions on a daily basis. These changes are very frightening to everyone. Especially to those who have families that they need to support. Showing loyalty to the new boss is a wise move in keeping your job when dealing with Lykos.

I guess what I'm saying is that I don't fault Donna for what she wrote in her e-mail, even if it was kind of sad. My fault is with Lykos and Leitner for fostering an atmosphere of uncertainty that would cause her to feel the need to write it.

This blog is going to continue, and I hope that people will continue to read it. I'm sure that, to some degree, it will continue to be controversial, as well.

Ultimately, I hope that prosecutors who read it won't be scared to be caught reading it. This Office is a good office, and I don't think even Pat Lykos can screw that up entirely. Odds are that if you've passed the dreaded Bar Exam and have become an attorney, you are probably a grown up, too.

I hope that, at some point, the atmosphere in the Office will change to the degree that people will feel the freedom to express themselves without bowing to the pressure of what they think Lykos would be pleased with. Maybe Lykos and Leitner will develop a thick enough skin to realize that they are going to be disagreed with on occasion -- and they should stop scaring the bejeezus out of their fellow prosecutors.

At the end of the day, good prosecutors are the ones who don't fear doing what they believe is right, regardless of the ramifications. I would strongly encourage Lykos and Leitner to take in that fact and let the prosecutors under them know that their door is always open to different points of view. Doing so will help in developing strong prosecutors who realize that Justice is their master, not the Elected District Attorney.

In the meantime, I would just like to say that I think that Donna Goode is an excellent prosecutor and a good administrator.

And, in the end, although she may no longer feel the same, I still consider her my friend.


Anonymous said...

Good post. Donna is a great asset to the office and I thought you were a little hard on her. I think her email was saying that your blog was toxic ("Murray Newman's toxic blog") not that you are toxic. She also is right in a way. Your blog got you fired. That is kind of toxic and other people, for whatever reason, don't want to be tied into this blog.

I also think she was pissed that someone went and posted an email of hers on a public forum.

Anonymous said...

Seriously, Murray?
That was a bit juvenile. You claim she is a "damn fine prosecutor and public servant," yet you write that Donna sent the e-mail in a fearful and cowardly attempt to save her job. Could it be that Donna wrote what she honestly believed? In the past, your blog was heartwarming, compelling, and authentic. Lately, it HAS become toxic. (Oooh, I wrote it, and I'm not even afraid of being fired!) Seek and ye shall find, Murray. Keep looking for the crap that fuels your anger, and you'll only find crap. And then you'll spout out that crap. Who cares whether Leitner told the baby prosecutors they could wear pantsuits? It's not important. You're quibbling over the mundane. Please stop indulging your bitterness. You're only hurting yourself. Try looking forward rather than spitting in the wind behind you.

I prefer the old Murray. Please bring him back. Aren't you grappling with how your thinking might change once you are representing the very people you would have prosecuted? Aren't you considering what you'll have to learn, or what you'll have to forget, or what you'll have to ignore, or what you can finally recognize?

Seriously dude, get a grip.

A Harris County Lawyer said...

Anon 1:08,
If I'm in trial and my opposing counsel does something inadmissible, wrong, or unethical, will I just be "bitter" if I object?

joelr said...

I don't know any of the players, but I don't think it should be news to any grownup that good people do bad things, from time to time. This should not, I'd think, be a horrible shock to either a criminal defense attorney or a prosecutor.

common sense said...

The Donna Goode issue is not whether or not you like her. The Lykos mantra has been transparency and "restoring ethics" to the DA's office. Censorship and veiled threats fly in the face of that.
The baby prosecutors are the future of our office and they see Donna stripping away their spirit and individuality. Leitner can justify his recklessness by pinning it on Lykos, that's what political whores do; but the apolitical baby prosecutors don't understand why Donna is acting out in the manner she is.
I never thought it would really get this bad this fast....I can't do 4 years of this. Murray, you are more lucky than you know.

Anonymous said...

If I'm in trial and my opposing counsel does something inadmissible, wrong, or unethical, will I just be "bitter" if I object?

This is what I've been hinting at. Come January 1, you're one of the bad guys. A liberal. A politically correct lover of child molestors and murderers.

AHCL--doesn't that make you question the integrity of some of the people that have been singing your praises all these years if all of a sudden they're turning on you?

Anonymous said...

OMG! I rarely read the blogs, because I'm busy doign my job but I heard about this Donna stuff so I decided to check it out.

I'm a baby prosecutor and Donna Goode, and no one else, for that matter, has the ability to ruin my morale. That training was a bit of DA bashing, and based on what was being said, mostly useless, because I don't think that people are really that stupid or unaware, that they are doing the things the panel discussed. It did come across as DA bashing and Donna sent out an email saying she was sorry because that was not her intent. Her email was a good thing. She was willing to address the concerns of her employees. That is called being a good leader. All of this stuff that has followed has been blown way out of proportion. Donna is no Ted Wilson but she hasn't done anything to give folks in misdemeanor anything to complain about.

Any misdemeanor DA that's worried about Pat Lykos or Jim have their priorities out of whack. Baby DA's should spend a little more time worrying about how to make a good RIP call and conduct an affective voir dire and less time worrying about the fact that the folks they interned for, or have kissed up to, will no longer be around for them to ride their coat tails to the top of the office ranks. Learn your job, do a good job, spend less time reading blogs, and maybe you'll get to where you deserve to be on your own accord.

OUTRAGED said...

ANON 1017,
Ah to be young and naive again....good for you! I wish I could go back to those days of idealism and not face the reality of politics. You are correct and politics suck....I wish the office was, as you rightfully expect it to be. Good luck.

Ron in Houston said...

I think jigmeister said it best in the last post.

What has happened has only sown some bad seeds.

It's rather a shame to see colleagues saying negative things about each other.

Anonymous said...

Anon 108,

"And then you'll spout out that crap. Who cares whether Leitner told the baby prosecutors they could wear pantsuits? It's not important. You're quibbling over the mundane."

You have some real issues. I believe Murray's point was that of all the things Little Leitner could have addressed the pants/skirts topic was a bit "mundane" and not relevant to the real issues at hand.

baby prosecutor said...

Is it true that the baby prosecutors will be doing all expense paid "externships" at the DA's office in Manhattan next year after Ms. Lykos gets back from her training class? That would be a great way to boost morale at the office!!!!! Maybe we can all go to L.A. County after that? Now that's strait, my brother.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with 1:08 Anon. I think that is a reasonable assessment of the situation from Murray's perspective.

I give the M-man highmarks for his courage of saying what he feels, not under the cloak of the identity of anonymous, and of being man enough not to blame Donna for either his or her own situation.

I've gotten to know Murray over the course of the past year, and I find his passion for humanity motivating and I share many of his views on criminality.

I've known many such fine persons who were prosecutors who became excellent defense attorneys. The kind of fellow who would tell you that "I wish I were prosecuting that defendant" when they hear of a heinous criminal in the news.

The kind of defense attorney who doesn't want to adopt his clients, or at least doesn't portray that he wants to adopt them and that they are his bestest friend when speaking in front of a jury.

You know the kind of defense attorney I'm talking about. The one who wouldn't leave his client alone in the same room with his wallet, briefcase or cell phone out of fear that the crook might steal his stuff. But get in front of a jury and they act like the defendant is not only his long lost brother but contender for Time's Person of the Year award.

They call their client Joe "their friend" in front of the juries. We all know that if Joe or his family/friends/church didn't have some significant amounts of good old american dollars, that this type of attorney wouldn't be representing them, much less be "their friend".

The best Houston criminal defense attorneys I know dont' do it that way. They have that quiet dignity when they walk into the room. Their charisma and professionalism projects before they even speak. It is that air of respect and dignity that pervades not only their presence but their practice and their actions in court.

They are always prepared. They are great lawyers, great questioners, great evidence lawyers, and even after prosecuting a long trial with them defending, you want to go have some drinks with this guy because he is so damn interesting to be around.

When they prevail over your case, you feel as if it were a fairly fought trial, because it was. The legal theories and witnesses they produce are not frivolous. When they argue, you can't take too many notes because you are mezmerized by their speaking abilities.

If and when I become a defense attorney, that is the type of lawyer I want to be.

There are just a few defense attorneys like that in my book. Mike Hinton, Mike DeGeurin (sp?), Mike Ramsey, and Chris Tritico are a few but there are many others.

I strongly suspect Murray will be the latter rather than the former.

Good luck, Murray!


joelr said...

Pardon the ignorance, Tex, as I'm neither an attorney or a defendant, but just -- as are we all -- a potential consumer of a crimdef attorney's services . . .

. . . if, in his or her professional opinion, an attorney thinks that it's in the client's interest to behave in front of the jury as though the client (who, we'll assume, is as horrible a person as there could possibly be -- factually guilty, dishonest, doesn't use deodorant, beats his children, molests goats, and once said a mean word about a cop) is a wonderful fellow, who is only waiting the formality of kicking off before the inevitable canonization, doesn't the attorney have the obligation to do just that?

I dunno, but were I the guest of honor in a court, I'd kind of want the prosecutor, when it was all done, to have lost, and I'd be bothered not at all if he didn't respect or like the guy who persuaded the jury that I got to go home when it was all done, even if the arguments and the witnesses happened to be, in the opinion of the frustrated prosecutor, utterly frivolous.

What am I missing?

Anonymous said...

What am I missing?

You're missing the fact that most juries see through phony "my friend" trial tactics by lawyers. It looks and sounds like baloney.

It worked for McCain on mindless republicans, but it doesn't work on juries.

Paul B. Kennedy said...

Well put. I wish more people in power understood that you can disagree with each other and still be on the same side.

I have friends in the DA's office and while we disagree on some matters, I still consider them my colleagues in the fight for justice.

Mark Bennett said...

Aren't you grappling with how your thinking might change once you are representing the very people you would have prosecuted? Aren't you considering what you'll have to learn, or what you'll have to forget, or what you'll have to ignore, or what you can finally recognize?

If you can't squeeze at least four blog posts out of that paragraph, I'm revoking your membership in the League of Extraordinary Bloggers.

Anonymous said...

"Baby DA's should spend a little more time worrying about how to make a good RIP call and conduct an affective voir dire"

This particular baby DA needs to spend more time worrying about learning the English language and using it properly, to wit: the difference between "effective" and "affective."

Mark Bennett said...

How do you know he didn't mean "affective"? Affective works too.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:08 here. Whoever Anon 9:35 is, well, let's just say he is not me. Anon 9:35 would do well with some perspective.

AHCL: you write, "If I'm in trial and my opposing counsel does something inadmissible, wrong, or unethical, will I just be "bitter" if I object?"

You're not being bitter for disagreeing with Donna. You are being bitter for calling her a coward. Just as you're not being bitter for objecting at trial, but you are being bitter if you object and then claim opposing counsel did it so she wouldn't get fired.

You are being bitter and juvenile by claiming that anyone who supports the new administration is a coward. You are being bitter by assuming that Donna sent her e-mail in a cowardly attempt to keep her job.

Indeed, the brave thing to do now is to re-energize the troops and bring dignity back to an office that may be losing it. That's not cowardly. It's realistic and brave. If you were still at your post, wouldn't you try to do just that?

If you want to attack the current administration, then let's hear it. But keep your attacks to things that have substance, not to the mundane matters like whether someone could have held a meeting more effectively.

Anon 11:07: I have issues? Please clarify.
Anon 11:07, you write that "I believe Murray's point was that of all the things Little Leitner could have addressed the pants/skirts topic was a bit 'mundane' and not relevant to the real issues at hand."
That was just my point, Sherlock. Murray is quibbling over whether Leitner should've addressed other topics. That is quibbling over the mundane.

Tex: I agree. Murray is a highly respected, intelligent, and warm person. His past blog entries reflected that. His recent blog entries do not. I'm attacking the recent blog entries, not the man.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: please bring the old Murray back.

Anonymous said...

Anon 753,

You are bitter and I can't respond to your logic because you have none. How is it the old Murray. Do you mean sensoring posts? You belong with the new administration honey.

Anonymous said...

No Mark, "affective" does not work too. The term affective does not even begin to make sense, since affective is a psychological term which refers to a certain group of mental disorders, and any prosecutor conducting an "affective" voir dire has a whole other set of problems which would probably require medication. The word "affect" on its own refers to displays of emotion, such as "he had a flat affect," which, when placed in the context of the original post, also makes no sense. Or you could take it to mean to have an effect on, such as "i will affect the outcome," which also makes no sense in the original context. Sorry, I don't mean to be snippy, but it bothers me to find supposedly well educated people that don't seem to know their own language.

Mark Bennett said...

There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy, 0024.

As much as others' poor word choices might offend you, correcting them uninvited is poor manners when you're correct and doltish when you're wrong.

English is a dynamic language. English dictionaries are not prescriptive but descriptive. We don't have an Academy (like the French and the Spanish have) telling us how words must be used. One of the joys of the language of Shakespeare and Milton and the Bible is that words can be pressed into new duty.

Nothwithstanding that, if you had troubled to crack a decent dictionary (if you're going to be correcting my usage, I recommend the unabridged OED) you would have found that affective has meant "of or pertaining to the affections or emotions; emotional" since 1623 -- long before its adoption as a term of art in psychology.

"Affective" might not be the best word to describe a voir dire that's about emotions (rather than, or as well as, law), but it has distinct advantages over the alternatives: first, it's more interesting; second, it might cause people to think and learn; and third, it might draw out some wannabe language maven who will proceed to make himself look like an anonymous doofus by issuing an ignorant correction. That in itself is worth something.

Maybe your point is that "affective voir dire" doesn't make sense because jury selection shouldn't be emotional or pertain to the emotions; maybe you think that juries make their decisions based on logic rather than emotion. If that's the case, I'm disinclined to correct you.

Kevin Whited said...

So the question I have is.... what sort of RSS feed monitor has the DA's office set up?

Somebody in the office gets to updates on my blog that way, and has for a while. I assume many more go visit the local blawgs.... have you all noticed this from your referrers?

I would assume if some blogs are toxic (and ours hasn't been too kind to Ms. Lykos), they wouldn't show on the DAO's proprietary RSS feed scraper...