Monday, March 2, 2009

They're heeeeeeeeere . . .

Today proved to be the arrival of a most anticipated day for the Defense Bar, as the Harris County District Attorney's Office finally began the process of providing copies of offense reports to Defense Counsel.

Now having been a member of the Defense Bar for a little over two months now, I do feel slightly disingenuous applauding the arrival of the ORs so wholeheartedly. I've only been forced to take notes for two months, while most members of the Defense Bar have had to do so for years, after all. That being said, I was extremely excited to be the charter member in the 177th District Court this morning to get to sign off on the confidentiality agreement one signs in getting an offense report.

Those who read this blog know that I am no fan of Pat Lykos, but I have to give the D.A. credit for pushing through this initiative and getting the ORs out there. Her move actually will make the criminal justice system move at a faster and more effective pace. It was an idea thought up by others, but it did ultimately happen on her watch.

So, I say good for her.

There is still some small confusion on the actual execution of the plan. The offense report I received had the addresses and Social Security numbers blacked out and redacted. Some other defense attorneys that I spoke with said the names of witnesses and complainants were blacked out entirely. But hey, it's Day One. Some things will take some ironing out. I was happy just to have the OR.

I received an off-blog e-mail from a citizen asking if the ORs were available to defendants and the general public.

The answer to that is a resounding "no".

Citizens involved in traffic accidents can get copies of accident reports, but the offense reports still belong only to prosecutors, the police, and now, defense attorneys.

I know I can be quite vocal in my distaste for Pat Lykos and the Gang that Couldn't Shoot Straight, but tonight, I will actually give them an ovation for doing something good.

Good job, guys, on a good policy decision.

But don't get too used to the flattery.


Anonymous said...

I look forward to the defense bar bitching since each court will handle this a little differently. I could care less if the DC has a copy - in fact, the good ones only have to read it once or twice...they listen to what the witness says on the stand!

I think you will see a lot of DA's wasting time redacting and then photo copying which will just lead to more burn out and less preparation the cases. I for one would have voted for letting the DC copy the entire OR on their own dime and if anything gets leaked they get black balled.

Rage Judicata said...

Be interested to see a copy of the NDA.

Could a defense attorney refuse to sign the agreement and just hand-write the "confidential" information by looking at the file?

Can't a defendant get a peek at the file?

All this privacy stuff seems neither here nor there to me.

Anonymous said...

how does the defense bar getting ORs make the system move faster?

It seems like the additional paperwork for ADAs already working 70 hours a week will only cause a longer delay in moving cases. Instead of completing to-dos or real lawyering, the ADA will be making copies and redacting information.

I guess we'll see the real effect, for good or bad, on the docket numbers 3 months from now.

Anonymous said...

Was releasing ORs to the defense bar actually one of Lykos' campaign promises or did she, as she historically does, steal it from one of her rivals and then take credit for the idea? Either way it's a good step if handled appropriately.
As for a vintage Lykos "idea", how is the redecorating on the 6th floor going? Now that all the useless and unsightly file cabinets are gone (who needs file cabinets in a DA's office)when will we get to see her interior design acumen? More importantly, what is the status of the 6th floor smoking lounge? We are getting an earful of chuckles from the defense bar and judiciary regarding Lykos' incessant basement smoking with her boy Leitner in tow to take notes on such important issues as to with fabrics would be most soil resistant and avant garde for the 6th floor.

Anonymous said...

I saw the article in the comical about drivers. Wasn't that on your site first? Also, why didn't they mention the Judge Lykos' driver? I think he is paid more than either of the drivers.

Anonymous said...

hey murry I am a peace officer in harris county i dont know you but hell i like this blog. if you need any comments from the police section when i'm sober I can write a comment here or there

Anonymous said...

The real result of this (particularly in misd courts) is going to be pre-offense report offers by the ADA's. It is not uncommon to work cases out on day 1, but if defense attorneys require the ADA's to procure and redact the offense reports before they work a case out, you can bet that a 10 day possession of marijuana offer will start looking like 6-8 days or maybe just time served. Just wait...

Anonymous said...

What I've been told is that the copies given over will be redacted (my guess: probably by an office clerk or intern trained for the job); however, defense counsel can ALSO take notes directly from the file, thus filling in the blanks.

I intend to write my notes right on my copy of the OR, filling in the blanks directly. It is nice to see that the DA's department is putting so much effort into exercising futility. Nobody likes a fat and sloppy futility, after all.

NoMoreNoloContendere said...

In 1999 I tried to purchase a copy of an Offense Report and was asked. "What's That?" and was corrected that it was called an Incident Report. Note: This Incident Report is now famous (all 10 pages) due to it being included in the book "The Griffith Files - 1984 & Beyond"