Showing posts from March, 2011

A Second Blog

I was recently invited by the Houston Chronicle 's Dwight Silverman (via Lisa Falkenberg) to join the Chronicle's  blog section on . So today, I'm starting a second  blog over with the Chronicle.  It's called "Criminal Background", and you can reach it by clicking here . To be clear, nothing is going to happen to this blog. There are some rules and parameters that I have to follow over with the Chronicle that will necessitate it being a little more toned down than what we talk about over here, so please keep that in mind (ahem, Rage). I'm excited about the opportunity to reach out to more readers through the new blog.  We may have more "insider" debate on this  blog, but I think the Chronicle blog will be a chance to educate more people about how the Criminal Justice System works in Harris County. I'll need y'all's help.  Please help me with your input (either through the comments or your off-blog e-mails) on

Not-So-Simple Signs of Faith

Controversy has erupted within the ranks of the Criminal Justice System over the past week as it was brought to light that Criminal County Court at Law # 4 Judge John Clinton had apparently been mixing a bit of Church and State with some of his probationers.  The story landed on KHOU last night .  Both Mark Bennett and Paul Kennedy have done some very thoughtful and well articulated blog posts on the issue and I agree (in most part) with what they've written. The issue seems simple enough on its face. If a Judge is adding conditions that include reading a Christian-based book, it seems rather indisputable that he is no longer keeping Church and State separate, right? Sure, a defendant on probation in Judge Clinton's court would probably love to read a book rather than do the manual labor of community service, but as Mark and Paul aptly point out, this could cause a whole host of side ramifications for people -- from the possibility of non-Christians having to do their c

The Budget Crunch Settles In

The effect of the budget shortfall has hit home over the past two weeks at the Harris County District Attorney's Office.  The Office, like all the other county offices, is having to do significant cutbacks on their operating budgets and that has unfortunately led to layoffs.  They hit the support staff first, with members of the Central Records team being terminated a week or two ago, and then a few secretaries this week and last.  Today, there were three prosecutors who were laid off (NOTE:  I'm not going to put their names on here, and if you are leaving comments, I ask that you don't either). The budget crunch isn't the Lykos Administration's fault, but they have a big job ahead of them -- they must continue to keep up with the massive amounts of cases in the courts and they have to do so with dwindling personnel. It is time for a shake up in the Office's Organizational Flow Chart.  They need more prosecutors in the courtroom and less in their offices in

Tonight's Reasonable Doubt

Tune in tonight (3/24/11) at 8:00 p.m. for Reasonable Doubt with me and Todd Dupont . Our guest tonight will be Troy McKinney .  We have been off the air for the past few weeks, so we have a lot of things to talk about. As always, you can watch it on live streaming video by clicking here .

Death by Injection -- In Concert

For those of you looking for something to do tomorrow, Harris County's Greatest Band Comprised of Prosecutors and Defense Attorneys, will be getting together to play some music. That's right, Death by Injection, featuring Bill Delmore, Scott Durfee, Doug O'Brien, Glenn Gotschall, David Mitchum, and Hal Kennedy will be playing at The Press Box Bar tomorrow (Thursday, March 24th) between 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.  The address is across from Minute Maid Park at 209 Jackson Street, between Congress and Franklin. If you're still Downtown after work, drop by and listen to the guys play.

Pat Lykos and the First Amendment

The Lykos Administration issued an update to the D.A.'s Office Operation Manual on Wednesday advising her employees on the etiquette that they must adhere to if they are either running for or supporting any political office in the upcoming elections. Now, please keep in mind the irony of having Pat Lykos, who acted with all the social graces of a toothless, one-legged barfly in a Louisiana roadhouse during the 2008 election, advise anyone  on the proper way to conduct an above-board campaign.  She took more comp time off from her county job to campaign and campaign dirty than probably any other candidate on the trail. But the new Lykos policy for her employees seems to be a threatening new memo that infringes on all of their First Amendment rights.  Here are some of the highlights: 1.  The first paragraph of the policy prohibits any campaign material from being handed out or displayed at the Office.  That particular part is nothing new, but the Lykos policy goes a step furthe

War Stories

Earlier this week, I had the chance to grab a drink with Troy McKinney  and a couple of other lawyers.  During the course of the evening, Troy and I started swapping some of our favorite War Stories that have come out of being in the Criminal Law arena, and it occurred to me that some of those lesser known stories don't get told enough. In the midst of our jobs as prosecutors or defense attorneys, the subject matter can often be depressing, gory, and stressful.  We can have anyone from the Judge to the D.A. to our clients to the media breathing down our necks and second guessing our every moves. But there are moments of levity and downright laugh-out-loud humor that happens every day in the courthouse as well, and those are what I define as a War Story.  One that is much more likely to have everyone laughing at your missteps than praising your successes. Criminal lawyers have some of the best War Stories (with the possible exception of cops).  Face facts, if you're at a s

Lisa Falkenberg's Article from Yesterday

Most of you have probably already read this, but in case you missed it, the Chronicle's Lisa Falkenberg did a great article yesterday on the D.A.'s Office's handling of the Tata case. In case you missed it, you can check it out by clicking here .

Gonna Be a Long Week

It is always nice when you get around to checking your mail first thing Monday morning to find this in it.   Hope y'all's week is off to a better start than mine.

I'll Take Diversions for $1000, Alex

In a story on CNN today , Pat Lykos announced that she will be asking a court to declare George Rodriguez factually innocent of sexual assault charges that he was previously convicted for. The move comes seven years after Rodriguez was freed from prison by a Court of Appeals and one day after she was called into question for the Office's possible fault in allowing Jessica Tata to flee the country to escape responsibility for the deaths of four children.

Just Saying

Yesterday, Channel 13 reported that when they went by Jessica Tata's house to interview family, construction crews were already working on repairs to the house (four days after the fire). Channel 11 reported that a classmate said Tata set fires when she was in high school . I sure as hell hope somebody at the D.A.'s Office is subpoenaing when the hell the work orders for that construction were placed.

Let's All Play the Blame Game!

With Jessica Tata absconding off to Nigeria (and totally undermining my attempt to achieve a more Ghandi-like view of the Criminal Justice System with my previous post), a War of Words has broken out between the Harris County District Attorney's Office and the arson investigators with the Houston Fire Department.  It was inevitable, really.  The deaths of four children and no one to hold accountable for it is a tragedy, and God forbid a tragedy ever happen that we couldn't blame on somebody, right? So, let's do a quick breakdown on some of the things that are notable with the Tata escape. Point 1 --  There is generally nothing wrong with the D.A.'s Office wanting to make sure a case is well-built before accepting it from a Police Agency. Houston Fire Marshal Richard Galvan is blaming prosecutors for Tata's flight because they were being too picky about what they wanted done on the case.  Galvan cites that investigators with the Arson had to make four approache