Yesterday's Houston Chronicle had this editorial in it, giving their views of Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland's ill-advised memo forbidding HPD officers from talking to Defense Attorneys without express permission from the prosecutors. As usual, the Chronicle's effort to suck up to the Lykos Administration makes it painfully apparent how little the editorial board knows about the Criminal Justice System.
But I'll get back to them in a minute.
The first thing that stands out is the response of the Chief, himself. In all honesty, I was kind of excited when Mayor Parker appointed Chief McClelland. I'm a big fan of promoting from within when it comes to law enforcement, because I think it makes for better leadership and respect between the Chief and the rest of the Department. I thought his memo was basically just a brain fart that he would retract when called out on.
I was wrong. Apparently the Chief never heard the old adage about the first thing you're supposed to do when you find yourself in a hole is stop digging.
His quote to the Chronicle astounds me.
"It makes you wonder if there's something improper going on between police officers and defense attorneys."
Are you kidding me, Chief? I knew that you weren't a big fan of defense attorneys from your memo, but did you really just suggest that your own officers are doing something improper?
And you're dumb enough to say that to the freaking media?!?!?
Well, apparently, the stupidity is contagious.
Because First Assistant Jim Leitner decided to weigh in on the topic.
Now, keep in mind, I've been taking it easy on the Lykos/Leitner administration lately because they hadn't done anything too profoundly idiotic recently. I had assumed that Lykos would disavow any knowledge or encouragement of McClelland's new policy.
I mean she is the one who campaigned on the platform of transparency, right? Surely ordering any and all police officers to clam up when it comes to defense attorneys would fly in the face of transparency, wouldn't it? I was kind of thinking old Patsy would give a statement that read something like: "Our Office would never discourage the free exchange of pertinent information between police officers and attorneys representing their clients. The Chief of police was not requested to issue this policy and our Office does not believe it to be necessary in the pursuit of truth and justice."
Instead, she sends out Big Jim, who gives a statement that is really making me think that running out in the middle of an interview wasn't such a bad move for him, after all. Here's the Office's official position:
"Harris County prosecutors will permit willing police officers to talk to defense attorneys, but will insist on being present for the interviews."
Are you kidding me with this crap, Jim? Seriously? You're going to insist on being present in all interviews. Hmmm.
Okay, well, then I'm going to insist on being present for all of YOUR interviews with police officers. How about that?
Wait. What do you mean I can't do that? You can only do that if you're a prosecutor? Oh, I see.
Now, it's one thing when the Chief of Police who isn't a lawyer starts writing stupid crap in a memo that borders on witness tampering, but now we've got Genius Jim, the 1st Assistant of the Harris County District Attorney's Office insisting that they be present.
Damn Jim, it was less offensive when us scumbag defense attorneys weren't allowed to talk to the cops at all. Now you want to babysit them to make sure that they are only telling us what you want them to tell us?
That's some damn fine transparency you've got there, Gang.
And last, but not least, let me turn my attention to our friends at the Houston Chronicle -- the D.A.'s Pets.
They have this to say about Jim's moronic statement:
This is a good solution, one that brings defense, law enforcement and prosecution together in the same room to exchange information and facilitate the fairest outcome of a case.
I'm so glad to hear that the Chronicle Jurisprudence Department has given it a stamp of approval.
What if a defense attorney wants to ask questions of a police officer that are part of his legal strategy and he doesn't want the prosecutor to know about it? The Code of Criminal Procedure says the defense doesn't have to tell the prosecutors where they are going with a case. Why does Jim Leitner get to override that?
You know what the difference is between Leitner and McClelland, though?
Leitner is a lawyer and a former defense attorney. He should know better than to encourage that type of behavior.
Is it unethical of him? Quite possibly.
Is it stupid of him? Absolutely.