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Showing posts from October, 2009

Adios, Amigo

Tomorrow (Friday, October 30th) will be my friend, Mark Donnelly's last day at the Harris County District Attorney's Office before he heads off to work at the U.S. Attorney's Office. To say his departure is a loss for the D.A.'s Office is a tremendous understatement, but given the way he was treated by Pat Lykos , the move comes as no surprise. I first met Mark when I was a Misdemeanor Chief during the Summer of 2001. The offices at 1201 Franklin had been abandoned in the wake of Tropical Storm Allison and we were operating under Flood Conditions out of the old Early Voting location on Texas. He was a rookie prosecutor who had the audacity to wear some sort of prissy little bow tie to work. It was a pretty bold move for a rookie, and I decided to harass him about it. If I recall correctly, he had no hesitation about hurling back a barrage of bald jokes in response. Even though it was totally at my expense, it was hysterical. Mark pretty much fit right in from

Brady & Over-Reliance on an Open File

Prosecutors and Defense Attorneys alike were buzzing about on Friday afternoon, discussing the hearing in the 180 th District Court over whether or not prosecutor Denise Oncken had wilfully withheld Brady information on a Sexual Assault of a Child case. At issue was whether or not the head of the District Attorney's Child Abuse Division had failed to notify defense attorneys Bill Stradley and Lisa Andrews that the child victim in the case had initially stated she had been sexually assaulted by a black man when the Defendant in the case was white. As noted in Brian Rogers' article, Judge Van Culp ruled that the exculpatory evidence had indeed been withheld, but since it had been discovered before the trial was over, the error was harmless and therefore no mistrial would be granted. That's a good thing for the District Attorney's Office because if a mistrial had been granted due to prosecutorial misconduct, Glen Kahlden (the Defendant) would be a free man. The Sta

The Not Ready for Prime Time Player

It's tough being one of the spokespeople for the Gang Who Couldn't Shoot Straight. Your boss doesn't understand the law and good policy making. You don't understand your boss. You have to go on camera and defend what your boss is doing. It's kind of like the Perfect Storm -- just ask Jim Leitner, who found himself in front of Channel 13's Ted Oberg this week to answer some questions about the District Attorney's new policy of reviewing vehicle fatality cases. The problem is that (as I pointed out in this post ) there doesn't seem to be any guidelines for what cases make the grade for Pat Lykos and crew and what cases don't. So, poor Jim Leitner was pretty much a deer in the headlights when Ted Oberg came a calling for an explanation on the cases. Bless his heart, Jim didn't even make it past "State your name" before he apparently decided to bail out on the interview. Clearly violating the Office's earlier motto of "Look

Ghosts of Cases Past

Something that occasionally arises when you are a former or current Assistant District Attorney is the scenario where you are out and about in town and get flagged down by someone who recognizes you. I'm not talking about somebody that recognizes you from the TV or the newspaper, but recognizes you from a case that you worked on that involved them. When a current or former prosecutor gets the question "Aren't you a D.A.?", one thing flashes through your mind very quickly -- "Does this person love me or hate me?" Odds are that if you are encountering someone you once prosecuted or one of their family members, you could be dealing with a potentially dangerous situation (depending on the outcome of the case). Luckily, this situation has yet to happen me. But if you are seeing someone who you had as a victim or a witness on a case, the results can usually be very pleasant, or in some cases pretty funny. Coming back from lunch today, I was flagged down by a

A Tale of Two Cases

A couple of years ago, under the Chuck Rosenthal Administration, a specialized "team" was created that was specifically designed to assist in the investigation of automobile fatality cases -- those involving alcohol and otherwise. The group of prosecutors, under the leadership of Warren Diepraam , was called the Vehicular Assault Team (or VAT) for short. (NOTE: Personally, I found the alternative of Fatality Accident Review Team to be more appropriate only because of the acronym it created, but my idea never "officially" caught on). Prosecutors would be sent out to make the scene of auto fatalities to advise and assist the police officers as they were investigating the case. Although it may seem like an automobile fatality case would be a relatively simple one to investigate, nothing could be further from the truth. The assistance of prosecutors was something that could definitely be used in the drafting of warrants and making charging decisions at the scene.

Absence from the Keyboard

I've gotten a couple of complaints about my lack of posting lately. And by "a couple", I mean two. Thanks to Feroz and Kiatta for your enthusiasm towards the blog. I actually sat down and started writing a new post on Monday, but then a family medical emergency sprung up and I had to head to out of town ASAP. I'll get around to typing up something new soon. Anybody got any proposed topics?

Lise Olsen's Weekend Article

In the participation with the Chronicle's latest zealous campaign for a Public Defender's Office (which has already been approved), writer Lise Olsen assisted with this article over the weekend talking about indigent defendants spending inordinate amounts of time in jail. As usual, the Chronicle is missing their mark on the cause of the over-lengthy stays, but in this case, Ms. Olsen seems to have gone really overboard with some mischaracterizations and outright inaccuracies throughout her story. The first problem with her article is that it flat out just misses the boat. If the Chron was looking for why Defendants remain in jail for so long they can blame one main factor -- the enormous caseload of pending cases in each and every court in Harris County. It's been awhile since I last looked at the actual case counts for the individual courts, but before I left the D.A.'s Office, most courts were running between 900 to 1000 cases pending, on average. When you sta