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Showing posts from January, 2009

"Counting Scalps" Revisited

Almost a year ago, as the Republican Primary was cranking into gear, Pat Lykos went before the Chronicle editorial board and said: "We need a change in the leadership there. It shouldn't be about counting scalps [number of convictions]. It has to be about the rule of law and quality of justice." Her implication was that prosecutors in the Harris County District Attorney's Office were just out for convictions and nothing else, which was something I strongly disagree with (both now and then ). During last year's campaign, it was something that Lykos roundly criticized the D.A.'s Office for. Now that she's taken over the helm on the 6th floor of the CJC, it looks like Pat has had a change of heart, and has decided it actually does matter what the Office conviction rate is. Prosecutors who suffer through the dreaded "two word verdict" (that would be a "Not Guilty" for those of y'all not in the Biz) are now required to do a "

The Houston Press Article

About a week ago, I did an interview with Randall Patterson of the Houston Press for an article that came out today entitled " A Digital Bathroom Wall for Pat Lykos ". The interview lasted about two and a half hours and covered a range of topics from why I wanted to be a prosecutor in the first place to working under Chuck Rosenthal to the HPD Crime Lab scandal to the blog to my disdain for Pat Lykos . Although I enjoyed the conversation with Mr. Patterson, one can't help but be concerned about giving such a lengthy interview without knowing what direction the article was going. I have to admit that the article today wasn't exactly what I thought it was going to be. Although I wasn't misquoted and nothing was written completely out of context, there are several things in it that I'd like to address. Mr. Patterson blended things I said in the interview with things I've said on the blog along with what commenters have said on the blog and he wrote his a

Intake Sign Up

Back in April, I did a couple of articles on how the Intake System and the Probable Cause Court System worked at the Harris County District Attorney's Office. One of the things that I didn't cover back then was the madness behind the method that went into assigning what prosecutors were going to cover what shifts for either P.C. or Intake. First, a little background on the shifts themselves: Outside of the regular 8-5 weekday shifts, additional prosecutors are needed to cover the night and weekend shifts. Since only chiefs can work Chief Intake and Probable Cause Court, that means that, at most times, there are two Felony Chiefs on duty. On week nights, Chiefs are needed to work a Five to Midnight and a Midnight to Eight schedule for both Intake and P.C. On the weekends, the shifts change a little bit. A Chief works from Midnight to Eight and then another is needed to work from Five to Midnight at the Intake Position. For some reason, a Chief is not called for betwee

Pragmatism & The True Believer

During my time with the District Attorney's Office, I can honestly say that the vast, vast majority of all defense attorneys that I had the pleasure of dealing with were hardworking, ethical, and rational groups of professionals. Unlike on shows like Law and Order or other silly legal dramas, their wasn't seething animosity. Cases were discussed rationally. Search issues discussed. Witness testimony debated. Negotiations were entered into. If cases were set for trial, they were set for trial because either a) a good defense attorney felt that it was in their client's best interest; or b) their client wouldn't listen to their advice. But on occasion, prosecutors dealt with members of the Defense Bar that we labeled as "True Believers" -- a handful of defense attorneys who knew no such thing as a guilty client. It didn't matter if their client had been caught on video, identified by a pack of nuns, and gave four audio-taped confessions. Dammit, the

Rookie Observations

Well, I've been a Defense Attoney for a few weeks now, and I've come to realize that there was some merit to what Mark Bennett (who is for some reason claiming this blog is humorless) said when he pointed out that former prosecutors becoming members of the Defense Bar are starting out as rookies. Here are just a couple of things that I've noticed over the past couple of weeks: 1. Prosecutors just think that they hate the CJC Elevators- yes, that morning commute from the 4 th or 5 th floor up to your court in the morning can often last longer than your commute into work from, oh, say, Katy, but if a prosecutor remembers all their materials, they only have to make one trip up and one trip down. Defense Attorneys have to hop on and off of elevators all freaking morning long. That brings us up close and personal with Stupid Elevator People much more often than the State. For those of you who would encourage my cigarette smoking butt to try the stairs every once in awhile,

Yet Another New Blog

I came across another new blog today that seems oddly familiar and funny. Check it out. A link has been added on the right. Welcome to the Blawgosphere , Mr. Seaton .

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As I'm kicking back on the couch and watching some Justice League cartoons with my son on this lovely Sunday afternoon, I'm reminded of the fact that right now the Offices of the Harris County District Attorney over at the Criminal Justice Center are probably full of prosecutors working on cases -- Prosecutors who are missing time with their families, and missing some NFL Playoff games to try to get a jump start on the coming week. The weekend is about the only time that a prosecutor can come even close to catching up on the massive caseload that they have. On a typical weekday (even assuming a prosecutor isn't in trial), getting some work done for a prosecutor is difficult, to say the least. The first half of the morning is stuck in court docket, and it is not unusual for docket to run well past 1:30 in many courts. If a prosecutor does take a lunch, they come back with two and a half to three hour left in the regular work day. This time is usually spent returnin

Congratulations to Mark Bennett's Defending People

Congratulations to Mark Bennett and his blog Defending People for winning the American Bar Association's 2 nd Annual Blawg Poll in the category of Criminal Law. Mark is being very humble about the Award, but I think we can all agree that (whether we agree with what he writes or not) that he is an excellent and very cerebral writer. The Award is well deserved. Congrats Mark!

Keeper Cases

Whether a criminal attorney is a prosecutor or a defense attorney, there are some cases that you know are headed to trial the first time you ever read over them. There is just something about the facts or surrounding circumstances of the case that tells you, based on your experience, that the only way that case will ever be resolved is through twelve citizens of the county telling the Defendant what their judgment is. From a defense perspective, that doesn't present much of a continuity issue. If you are retained or appointed on the case, you will be handling that case unless your client decides that they don't want you working on the case on their behalf. But from the prosecution side, it can very often be a problem due to the fact that prosecutors are continuously rotating through different positions in the Office in Harris County. In the Felony hierarchy of the Harris County District Attorney's Office, a Felony Chief (handling Capital murder cases) will often stay in

There Should Be a Law . . .

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One of the fringe benefits of having a small child is that a parent who is with said child can have the opportunity to use the "Family" Restrooms at public facilities. In such large facilities like, say, Reliant Stadium or Houston Intercontinental Airport, these can be a thoughtful oasis in the middle of chaos that can provide a bit of relief when either you or your child needs to, um, use the facilities. One of my pet peeves, as a parent, however, has come in those situations where I've desperately needed the use of the Family Restroom, only to find that it is occupied. Occupied, not by another desperate parent seeking asylum, but by some inconsiderate jerk or jerks that just figured that they were entitled to their own moments of privacy. The most egregious of these situations happened last season at Reliant Stadium where I was dealing with the Mother of All Diaper Blow Outs (my kid's diaper, not mine), and spent twenty minutes waiting outside the door while a dru

Inauguration Day

Now that I've started the New Year off on the right foot , I can get back to being me again. At this writing, there is about one hour left until the Mandatory Lykos Inauguration, and for some reason, I can't shake the feeling of being a little bit sad about that. It absolutely sickens me that my former-colleagues at the District Attorney's Office are going through what they are going through. These are people who were (and still are, in many ways) my mentors. They are friends. They are family. But more importantly, they are professionals who have earned the right to be treated with the respect that they've earned during their service to the District Attorney's Office. Each and every one of them has more trial experience than Pat Lykos, and they have more heart than Lykos and Leitner could ever come up with on their own. And yet, they are now forced to cut their vacations short and show up for a mandatory swearing in ceremony. I'm willing to bet that we

Happy New Year!

I refuse to start the New Year off with a negative post. I want to set the tone for a good and positive year that will be MUCH better than the last. I am currently visiting my Mom in St. Petersburg , Florida, and my three-year-old Little Man is with me. He's drinking hot chocolate (even though it's about 70 degrees outside), and I'm having coffee. He's watching cartoons, and I'm typing this while looking out over the bay. Mom made bacon and sweet rolls for breakfast. Life is good.