Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Transparency and the Toxic Avenger

I had an interesting conversation with a couple of good friends this morning that I found to be rather thought provoking.

We were discussing the irony over Pat Lykos' campaign promises of "transparency" within her District Attorney's Office and the fact that she decided not to renew my contract because of this blog. I guess that "transparency" under the Lykos Standardized Dictionary means only those things that illustrate what a damn fine job she will be doing.

She will fire or demote anyone who dared to even look at another candidate during the D.A.'s race. She proved that over the past few days with her administrative decisions that, amongst other things, had her demoting prosecutors from specialty positions such as White Collar Crime, Appellate, and Consumer Fraud in favor of some of her political cronies.

Yeah, I have a strong feeling that her view of "transparency" will leave some longing for the good old days of the McCarthy era when it comes to being able to speak freely and voice your opinion of the Office policies.

Hell, even today I learned that someone that I considered to be my friend was railing against my "toxic blog" in an e-mail to all the misdemeanor prosecutors. That kind of hurt, but I guess those types of things are going to be expected in the days to come under the Transparent Lykos Administration.

So, I guess for the purposes of this post, you can refer to me as the Toxic Avenger.

Now, at the risk of sounding like I'm whining, I'd like to point out a few things:

#1 - I knew from the second I started this blog that I would be fired if anyone other than Kelly Siegler was elected. I didn't care because I stood up for what I believed in, even though there was professional risk involved. As I've mentioned time and time again, I don't regret that in the slightest. (NOTE: I'm sad to see that the new first assistant isn't quite as willing to stand up for what he believes in, even if it is a professional risk to him.)

#2 - I, ultimately, endorsed Pat Lykos over Clarence Bradford in the general election, and (believe it or not) I don't regret that, either. I liked Chief Bradford on a personal level, but the ultimate direction he wanted to take the Office wasn't a good one, in my opinion. I know it disappointed a lot of my readers, for which I'm sorry. But, as I said back then, what was best for me wasn't what was best for the County. I stand by my endorsement of her over Bradford, regardless of what has happened to me personally.

#3 - I am truly saddened to be leaving the job, although I am optimistic that it may end up being good for me in the long run.

#4 - I am keenly aware of the fact that this Office existed long before I came to it, and it will exist long after I leave. Although several excellent prosecutors got canned, there are still a Legion of excellent prosecutors that remain. Ultimately, the Job will get done, and it will still get done well.

#5 - Items # 1-4 do not in any way, shape, or form change the fact that Pat Lykos is a blowhard politician who is already showing the County that she is firing and demoting people based on her own political vendettas and public perception that is not accurate. In a Nostradamus-like moment back in March, I predicted this type of thing occurring under her Administration.

My friend, Grits for Breakfast, pointed out to me that given what I had written about Lykos that it would be difficult for her to develop any type of trust between the two of us. That's a very valid point, and I don't disagree.

But here's some food for thought:

There are very few things in life that I've been particularly good at, but being a prosecutor is one of them. I don't mean to sound egotistical, but I think I served this County well during my tenure. So did Craig Goodhart. So did Luci Davidson. So did Mike Trent. So did Vic Wisner. So did Bert Graham. So did Joe Owmby. So did all of the prosecutors that got demoted this week.

These were prosecutors who tried Cop Killers, Baby Killers, Rapists, Robbers, and a whole host of other violent offenders.

And we all tried those cases well.

So the irony of the situation is that back in October I endorsed Lykos over Bradford because I thought it was the best thing for the County, even if it wasn't in my own best interest.

Sadly, our newly-elected District Attorney is making her firings and demotions based on what is in her best interest rather than the County's. At least partially because she doesn't take well to being criticized.

The bottom line is that Lykos has already broken her campaign promise of transparency before she has even taken Office. Those of us who got fired weren't fired because of our job performance ratings. We got fired for opposing or criticizing her. In some cases (such as Vic and Joe), the firings were based on a public perception that they somehow did wrong in their jobs (which they didn't).

Yes, Patsy, your administration is clearly going to be very transparent in the days to come.

Just probably not in the way that most people assumed you meant.


Ron in Houston said...

The people who had experienced Lykos knew what the voters were getting. I'm glad you're still pointing out what a political windbag she really is.

Anonymous said...

Murray, I am a misdemeanor prosecutor who received Donna Goode's email calling your blog toxic. I was very disheartened with what she said. First of all, she indicated that she is going to have to be careful with what she puts in email because it could end up on the "toxic" blog. Like my 10 year old nephew says, "NO DUH, DONNA."

For whatever reason, Donna has found herself in good standing with the new administration (she IS a hard working prosecutor from what I have heard). But, the fact that she sends us an email calling you toxic is disturbing. I guess that is sort of the shot accross the bow. Does that mean we aren't supposed to be seen with you. With Lykos' clear insecurity (demonstrated by demotions and firings), if I am seen with you does Kate Dolan refuse to promote me, or even worse fire me.

I also find it ironic that when I was trying to get a job with this office, all the turmoil started over what, EMAILS, DONNA. Sheez.

While I have no business as a prosecutor telling Donna what to do, let me give her a professional suggestion from someone who is a part of the email generation:

Don't send an email that you wouldn't want to see on the cover of the Chronicle. Just ask your old buddy Chuck.

Also, please don't dictate who we can associate with, judge us by our perfromance. Sorry for ranting.

Anonymous said...

Dear AHCL,
Toxic Donna, Bureau Chief of the Thought Police and esteemed leader of the Troll's Brown Shirts has played her hand. Troll transparency has been revealed as a meaningless sound bite for "it's" new administration. Why is everybody so surprised? The 1st order of business needs to be a ban on all CLE classes dealing with "Deception Detection"....God forbid the Kool Ade slurpers open their eyes. I hope Bernstein doesn't read this blog anymore....wouldn't that be a hoot.

Ron in Houston said...

Anon 7:40

This old windbag calls what Donna is doing brown nosing.

anonymous c said...

Anon 7:40, I greatly admire your integrity!

jigmeister said...

Despite my dislike for Pat Lykos' demeaner and lack of trial experience, and my friendship with Jim Leitner, I hope they take a little advice. Stop doing what you are doing. Look at the discord you are sowing. Pull the personnel together and let them know what vision you have for the office and how that will benefit the community and the personnel.

The firings and demotions have fueled the black market morale killer. The timing and personnel involved make it obvious that the firings were solely political and not based on competence, a review of evaluations, or job performance. An objective review would have taken you in a completely different direction. In other words, there is dead wood that could be trimmed, but you are cutting into the heart of the tree.

I know that there are many other senior prosecutors (District Court Chiefs and above) that are on the fence about whether to stay and can tell you that the economy is the primary reason they are staying. Murray's blog isn't toxic, but is a window you should be looking through to judge the effect you are having on the morale of the staff. If you don't stop and you lose those fence sitters, the tree will be on the ground and it takes a very long time to grow another one.


Anonymous said...

FYI: the Brown Shirts were a reference to Hitler's secret police. They ruled by fear and intimidation.
I guess that was before your time...history tends to repeat itself so you'll get 1st hand knowledge this go round if you cross the wrong people.

Anonymous said...

Let me throw my cent and a half from the law enforcement side. There is a fine balance of the relationship between law enforcement and the DA's Office. We, those of use who file hundreds of cases, and most of them felonies, know the good ones from the bad ones (prosecutors). With this new administration, Some people have made comments about who to trust now. I used to defend the DA's Office as a whole, but now I use words like, "well, most are pretty good." It is disheartening.

Anonymous said...

I used to defend the DA's Office as a whole, but now I use words like, "well, most are pretty good." It is disheartening.

This shows that there is more than just a fine line in the relationship between the two offices.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7 40,

You are a prosecutor because you want to do what is right. If you ever feel as though you have to choose who you are friends with, you should leave the office. Murray is respected by most and I am willing to bet even Donna Goode respects him. She is, just as Leitner, succumbing to the pressure of a new adminstration. That is life and that is the way people are, not all, but most. That said, I can't blame Donna as she has prosecuted her whole life and chose the job not the administration as Jim did. Donna is probably insecure over her disaster of a trial against Slade. That said, she did choose to engage Murray and those who support what is right, so I don't feel sorry for her one bit.

Her thoughtless email about Murray may shed some light on the issue she had with Brian Rogers the chronicle reporter during the Slade trial. Those who know Donna, and were around her, know that she called Brian every name in the book for reporting about her behavior in open court. She ecouraged prosecutors not to talk to him because he was dishonest..... Maybe Brian was just writing something Donna didn't like? Sort of like what Murray? Just a thought.

Then I wonder why Joe Owenby gets fired for something taken totally out of context and Donna, who does something legally unethical, doesn't? She is promoted. So, what is the criterea to be a leader in the new administration?

By the way, who is the lawyer appointed to the cop killer? Maybe he is friends with Jim? I bet Mike Deguerin wouldn't have kept Donna around.

Anonymous said...

What did Donna Goode do in the Slade trial that was so "terrible"? I am often leery of the Houston Chronicle's veracity and very new to the office.

Anonymous said...

If you are going to be the Toxic Avenger, are you going to wear a uniform? If so, cape, or no cape?

maybe you could do a poll:

Should the toxic avenger wear a cape:

1. Of course
2. Never
3. Depends on the rest of the outfit.

Anonymous said...

You are a prosecutor because you want to do what is right.

And Murray is now going to only do what's wrong?

What are you people going to say about him the first time one of his clients goes free due to a bad warrant or illegal search?

Anonymous said...

Anon 116,
All of the great super heroes with the exception of Spiderman wore capes....so Murray, you'll have to get fitted for one soon.

Anon 133,
Sign up for Logic 101. You are simply projecting when you state your implication. All prosecutors striving to do good does not necessitate ALL defense attorneys seeking to do bad.....your personal agenda and integrity should not be impugned on Murray's character....he is better then that.

Anonymous said...

This is what I found regarding the Goode comments. Seems pretty reckless to me. The "toxic email" seems to be more reckless behavior considering everything that has happened. Does Pat discipline her employee for the "lack of professionalism"? Let's go snookems, show us what you got.

I am also quite surprised one would offer 25 and get a hung jury.


Mark Bennett said...

I said early on that the idea of Pat Lykos as DA appealed to the anarchist in me. So far she's overwhelmingly exceeding my expectations.

Keep up the good work, Judge. You're doing a heck of a job!

Anonymous said...

If Mark Bennet is enjoying this, it can't be good.

Anonymous said...

Let's see Donna's toxic blog email. The irony would be delish!

Anonymous said...

HPD 101:

Answer my question. What will you think of Murray if he gets one of his clients off because of a bad warrant or illegal search? Will he be a liberal PC'er then?

Mark Bennett said...


A few will have a change of heart, but I expect that most of Murray's anonymous knee-jerk pro-government anti-defense commenters will stop loving him when he starts representing human beings with the zeal with which he now represents the government.

I'll bring the popcorn.


Anonymous said...

ANON 351,
Justice is colorblind and neither the prosecution nor the defense has an exclusive on it's administration.
Murray is a man of great character and I expect that won't change when he becomes a defense attorney.
Your original question was nonsensical in that a defendant being exonerated due to a bad warrant or an illegal search is doing the correct thing NOT the wrong thing.
The issue of judicial ethics would rest in how that determination was reached.
BTW, have you signed up for a logic class yet?

Anonymous said...

I suspect Donna's "toxic" email is being double deleted and recalled ala the chuckster..... And I also suspect the "brown coats" as described above, will have the computer jockeys looking for outbound emails to see who sent it to Murray... So, I don't anticpate the "toxic" email gracing the blog. I also suspect Donna is not threatening people "in written form" now either.

TxGoodie said...

I vote for cape, tights, and, of course, a yamika.... might as well go out with a bang...

Anonymous said...

Anon 314:,

I read the abc local link. It appears Donna was discussing a plea bargain or offer in open court and within earshot of reporters. That is highly unethical. Plea bargains are to be kept confidential. Donna says her excuse was that the comments were "off the record". Donna is a very experienced prosecutor, i.e., she has been there a long time. She knows better. That sure seems worse than having a blog, what she did directly impacts her cases. What Murry does has nothing to do with his cases.

Anonymous said...

Dear 1637 hrs aka Mark "Mr.Cynical" Bennett,
All defense attorneys do not check their ethics in at Hell's gate.
I expect Murray to do great in the private sector not only because of his excellent court room presence but also because of his strong sense of decency and ethics. Maybe some of Murray's character will rub off on that sector of the defense bar greatly wanting in that regard.....we can only hope. Dust off some of your theology books...all is not lost for you yet, have faith.
The Colonel

Anonymous said...

Whoa 314,
I hope the Troll doesn't read this blog anymore. Donna is sure to get little Jimmy's Axe if she does.....and if Alan Bernstein or Brian Rogers read and report she's toast as well. Live by the sword die by the sword.
When the economy picks up I'm outta here.

Mark Bennett said...

Col. Bear,

If you had paid the slightest attention to the things that Murray has said about the defense bar you'd know that the vast majority of the lawyers that Murray will be joining, like the vast majority of the prosecutors that Murray is leaving behind, maintain the highest ethical standards.

That defense lawyers are by their nature unethical -- that more than a very few defense lawyers "check their ethics at Hell's gate" -- is a myth that, I have observed, several of Murray's readers subscribe to. Those readers will now have to invent some myth for why Murray is different: that Murray is somehow more ethical than most defense lawyers, or that his work as a prosecutor makes him more ethical than anybody, for example.

In other words, more ignorant knee-jerk pro-government claptrap from the chron.com refugees who think that reading the newspaper and watching Law and Order qualifies them as experts on legal ethics and the criminal justice system.

Keep on telling yourself whatever stories you need to maintain your image of the world. . . WADR.

Anonymous said...

List of Non-cape wearing superheros:

1. Aquaman
2. The Flash
3. Ironman
4. Spiderman
5. The fantastic four
6. Wolverinie
7. all 4 ninja turles.

In this day of diversity, don't be a hater. You can still be a superhero without a cape.

Now, lets look at this question and apply it to Murray. Due to his pale skin, his choice of colors are limied. Also, he is old and out of shape. That being said, he MUST have an outfit that does not show much skin (please, cover up the gut).

How about a mask? I vote for a mask similar to a Mexican Wrestler (maybe some horns and hair).

Anonymous said...

ANON 554,
A marroon full body hooded latex super hero suit would be perfect for Murray,to wit:
1. it would honor his Aggie roots;
2. it would protect him from a variety of STDs;
3. it would keep him warm on those lonely nights;
4. and it is well deserved.
Good luck my dear friend....

Anonymous said...

What is this email you speak about? Tex would love to see why Donna thinks Murray is toxic.

As much as I hate to admit it, Mark was right about the anarchy thing.

Anonymous said...

What's happening to the DA Investigators? Heard that the X-Sheriff's are coming over to take over....

Anonymous said...

I was starting to really doubt the integrity of this blog, the continuing bashing, hatred and negativity.

And then Anon 5:54 PM saves humanity by pointing out super heroes without capes. And he totally redeems this blog by pointing out the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles did not wear capes. Holy shit!!!! They didn't!!!! I spent an hour researching it, and sure enough, all they had was their protective shell (and karate skills).

Good job Anon 5:54 PM, your research and knowledge has saved this blog, and maybe humanity.

Now if only Splinter were leading the office.......

Anonymous said...

In other words, more ignorant knee-jerk pro-government claptrap from the chron.com refugees who think that reading the newspaper and watching Law and Order qualifies them as experts on legal ethics and the criminal justice system.

You just described HPD 101 to a T.

Ron in Houston said...

The Old Windbag:

What is that, so veiled fucking threat?

Bow to Snookems or the brown shirts will be paying you a visit?

Hey Snookems, you may be able to not renew Murray, but you can't screw everybody in Harris County!

Fucking douchebag.

Anonymous said...

Ron just demostrated that Murray is not filtering. Don't blame Murray, Donna. He is just letting the good times flow. Well, you can blame him, but that would be blaming him for sensoring. This is a sensor free environment, you know, the kind the Troll promised she would have and attacked Kelly for not having. Jimbo Short, we are waiting to see you step up to the plate on the cop killer. I think we have all seen enough facts that warrant death, or, are you just afraid of what your Brown Shirt's husband will do.

Anonymous said...

To Anon 7:03 - I have heard the same rumor about x-sheriff's officials coming over specifically Major Don McWilliams...

Anonymous said...

Mr. Bennett,
The cavalier arrogance you displayed reveals a blatant repressed anger and insecurity that you need to get a grip on.
Preparation, awareness of your surroundings and the ability to appropriately evaluate the strengths and vulnerability of the opposing threat are obviously not your forte.
Work on your delusional grandeur...few buy it.
Take a big breath and re-read my comments and your critique....you simply are dim.
As for Mr. Newman, character does count. At the end of the day Mr. Newman's success will rest on not only his exceptional trial skills but also his integrity......you may want to watch and learn.

Anonymous said...

ANON 846,
What a witty repartee!

Mark Bennett said...

"Repressed anger . . . insecurity . . . delusional grandeur . . . dim."

Heh. A hundred words murdered by Col. T.S. Buffoon, III (ret.), and not a truth to be found.

Keep believing whatever gets you through your days and preserves your self-image. It doesn't hurt anyone but you.

The truth, though (for those who love truth) is that Murray is a good, ethical lawyer entering a field dominated by good, ethical lawyers.

I expect him to catch on fast, fight hard for his clients, and do well.


Anonymous said...

In keeping with the spirit of tranparency, I would like to know who was demoted under Pat and who are these cronies you claim will replace them?

Anonymous said...

Mr. Bennett,
Except for the truth regarding Mr. Murray Newman's anticipated great success; you,sir, to coin a cliche, can't handle the truth.

Anonymous said...

Mark: The delusion works both ways. I can't tell you the number of times I've heard the phrase "he never left the DA's office" leveled at one or more defense attorneys that didn't ascribe to the "true believer" cult.

Personally I never felt the need to be a "true believer" to be an effective advocate, and frankly, being a combative, disagreeable feller never got nobody nowhere -- and rarely helps clients. You know that there are a few folks that feel their excrement don't foul the air in the defense bar, but it takes all kinds.

The first time Murray stands up for an ADA or a (Republican) judge in mixed company it wouldn't surprise me much if such natterings go on amongst some of the bar.

-Eric M.-

Mark Bennett said...

Col. Buffoon III (Ret.),

That's the best you can do?

I'll charitably assume a) that you don't come across as nearly as much of an asshat when you're discussing things about which you actually have some knowledge; and b) that you have a dog that loves you, which in the end may be all that really matters.

-- Mark the Dim.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Bennett,
No need to dispatch an F-111 to vaporize a gnat.
Peace. I have no real quarrel with you.
The desecration of HCDA and the aftermath to some very good people, such as Murray Newman, pisses me off more then you do. I would prefer to direct more appropriate wrath to the gutter rats responsible for this injustice. It's your call....

Mark Bennett said...

Peace, then.

I wouldn't use the word "desecration" (there was nothing holy about the Office 12 months ago), but if the last two weeks are any indication, you can anticipate 47 more months of posts on my blog about the fuckwittedness of the new administration. Lykos will be good for the Houston legal blogging world, if for nothing else.

Mark Bennett said...

P.S. that's me being "more diplomatic". How's it working?

Anonymous said...

Most recently demoted was Lester Blizzard. He was the head of the Major Fraud Division and is regarded as the go to prosecutor in the state for Major Fraud cases. Leitner passed on the news as usual. Lester is not speaking about the incident according my sources. He is also being courted by many defense attorney and firms to run their fraud defense divisions. That sure was a boneheaded move by Mr. Leinter. Keep in mind, Lykos has zero understanding of personell, that is where little Jimmy comes in. I have quoted the troll below:

the link: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/casey/6107599.html

"In order to beef up the office's white-collar crime efforts, "I want to meet with Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, for advice. He is the best DA in the country, and he tries very complex white-collar cases."

Sure is a head scratcher, demote the real asset in that division and fire the best investigator. Off to a roaring start keeping her word.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Bennett,
Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't Chuck Rosenthal wear a "What Would Jesus Do" wristband during his despicable tenure as DA? Would that not constitute a "Holy" mission in spite of his scandal ridden administration? What a disgusting human being he turned out to be.
Notwithstanding, I am sad and angry that his narcissistic incompetence has hurt so many good people. In spite of his inappropriate leadership, so many at HCDA rose above his mire and still did a great job.....only to be tainted with his stench by an even more insidious self serving liar. I'm afraid Lykos will make Rosenthal look like a saint before it's over.
The Colonelgalistu

Anonymous said...

ANON 155,
Well wee little Jimmy "Lose at All Costs" Leitner is just living up to his namesake. After all, the intellectual midget terminated Pat Smith earlier. Pat was not only the best investigator at the office he was the best white collar investigator in the State of Texas which sure as Hell trumps the yankees of NYC....and we ain't talking baseball.
I wonder what the fallout on the baby prosecutors will be after the Troll's witch hunt is more widespread?

Anonymous said...

anonymous 243,
As a new or "Baby" prosecutor I am shocked at all that's going on at my office . I never signed on to be censored by fellow prosecutors on matters that weren't protected. Worrying about who I can and cannot have lunch with or what I choose to read are my business not Donna Goode's or anyone else's. Apparently her behavior is promoted by this new administration.....if that turns out to be true there will be a bunch of us that won't let the door hit us in the butt on the way out of here.

Anonymous said...

Mark Bennet,
We agree except Rosenthal's "WWJD" bracelet challenges your assertion there was nothing "Holy" about his tenure. Just kidding....but Lykos will make him look like a saint at the end of the day.
Happy Holidays,

Anonymous said...

Donna is apparently acting a bit histrionic about the blog. She is calling her closest "friends" and asking their opinions of her mistake.

She was described as an ugly chicken on meth.

Maybe she ought to go blonde. Sorry, Murray, I know you actually consider her a friend.

Mark Bennett said...

1551, there's gambling in Casablanca, too.

Col. Ber, I saw Richard Haynes today (and I ask you: who doesn't love Richard Haynes?). He was drinking out of an HCCLA coffee mug marked "WWPD - What Would Percy Do?"

Anonymous said...

I love that Col TS Bear and Bennet have now bonded. We may have world peace.

Mark Bennett said...

Heh. When HPD 101 and I see eye-to-eye, you'll know that the apocalypse is upon us.

Anonymous said...

Newman is a "winter" and maroon wouldn't work on him, but a nice icy burgandy might look quite fetching.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
Donna is apparently acting a bit histrionic about the blog. She is calling her closest "friends" and asking their opinions of her mistake.

She was described as an ugly chicken on meth.

December 11, 2008 10:06 PM

Let some of us who have not seen the email see it. How come someone doesn't cut and paste a copy here so we can all revel in it's greatness.

Ugly chicken on meth. Sounds like a dance we used to do in the 70's.

Anonymous said...

Judge Lykos has always been a pain -- rude, unprofessional, nasty, and verbally abusive.

I had the misfortune of working for her for a short time a couple of decades ago.

She never liked anybody who worked for her. She also spread lies at a judges' meeting about me. I heard about this third-hand. She said that I was not to be hired because I was "incompetent".

I could do nothing about this due to judicial immunity.

I was staying late working one day during a trial and she decided to hit me in the head with a rolled-up piece of paper.

Committing assault & battery on court personnel. I guess she thinks it's a game.

Again, I couldn't do anything about that either. She did several things to hurt me professionally at that time.

Thankfully I have not worked at the courthouse in some years. It drove me completely nuts. It ruined my health. I have high blood pressure & take medication for that.

She is incredibly insecure, obviously. Everybody I worked with was just trying to do a good job, without getting into her soap operas she made up.

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