Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Reasonable Doubt (3/29/12)

Please join me and host Todd Dupont on Thursday, March 29, 2012 for Reasonable Doubt, where our guest will be Democratic candidate for District Attorney, Lloyd Oliver.  Yes, Lloyd Oliver.  Lloyd is currently challenging Zack Fertitta for the Democratic nomination.

Not many folks know about Lloyd's platform, policies or ideas, and all polite questions will be welcome.

As always, you can tune in to watch it live streaming at 8:00 p.m. by clicking here.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Great Post by Mark Bennett

I'm being lazy today and outsourcing my blogging duties to Mark Bennett's Defending People.

He's got a really good article on the D.A.'s Office today.  Check it out by clicking here.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Joe Vinas on Reasonable Doubt

For those of you who missed Joe's appearance last Thursday on Reasonable Doubt, he did a great job.  Here's the instant replay.  Look for a special guest appearance in the first half hour, by the way.

Reasonable Doubt, March 22, 2012, Joe Vinas from HCCLA on Vimeo.

Disconnect [UPDATED]

For those who have been rumbling that the disconnect between the police agencies of Harris County and Pat Lykos' District Attorney's Office is strictly political, perhaps this story being aired by Channel 11 and other news agencies might give you an alternative perspective.

It seems that every summer we hear of at least one tragic case of a child dying because he or she was left alone in a hot car.  For every one of those cases, there are numerous other ones where fortunately the child wasn't permanently harmed.

Some of those cases should most definitely NOT be filed.  Although leaving a child in the car unattended for any amount of time is never a good idea, a five minute lapse in judgment while Mom runs into the cleaners doesn't necessarily warrant a felony charge of Abandoning a Child.  Somewhere along the slippery slope that runs between that scenario and a man who leaves two infants in a car while shopping for a firearm, one could argue that charges should be filed.

At the scene of the crime, the responding officer is usually a fairly decent set of eyes and ears in helping the Assistant District Attorney at Intake decide whether or not charges should be filed.  What seems pretty clear in the news piece from Channel 11 is that the Precinct Five Deputy Constable who responded did his part by calling the case into Intake.

What isn't as clear is why the charges were rejected.

There could be a host of reasons.  Perhaps since the children did not appear to be in physical danger, the Assistant D.A. decided to take more time in investigating before filing it.  Maybe there was some other intervening factor.  I don't know.  I wasn't there.

But this case does illustrate what the police unions were talking about when they issued their vote of No Confidence in Pat Lykos.  The communication has apparently broken down between the police and the Office and that can't be good for anybody.

[UPDATE:  I heard from several friends at the District Attorney's Office who gave me a little more background into this case and the information provided to the D.A.'s Office at intake.  The prosecutor who took the call is a highly respected, knowledgable and fair Assistant District Attorney.  According to my sources (who, just FYI was not the prosecutor in question), the case was discussed at length with the Deputy Constable at the scene.  They went over the Code and the elements needed to be proved and the Deputy apparently expressed that he did not feel the children were harmed or placed in danger, thus charges were not accepted at that time.  Furthermore, it is my understanding that the case was referred for further investigation.]

Friday, March 23, 2012

"Reasonable" Accommodation

There was not a tremendous amount of news coming out of the CJC this week other than today's revelation that Lykos political hire and judicial candidate hopeful Lana Shadwick is moving to the Grand Jury Division (upon her request).

Now, as much as I love the fact that those political hires made by the Pat Lykos Administration pretty much get to dictate where they want to serve within the Office, I feel it is worthwhile to point out that this is the fourth slot that Lana has served in since arriving at the Office in 2009 (with little to no experience as a prosecutor).  Ms. Shadwick has already bounced from Child Abuse, Family Violence, and Appellate during her brief tenure at the District Attorney's Office.

Please keep in mind that although 99.9% of all prosecutors at one point or another spend at least some time in the trial bureau, Shadwick drew a special exception from Pat Lykos.  Perhaps Lykos thought that having the ex-wife of a prominent former Judge would provide some sort of political benefit for her down the road, and therefore there was no need to make her work in the trenches.  You know, the Shadwick name is recognizable and all that.

Unlike the other political hires that Lykos made (Leitner, Bridgwater, Chow, Barnhill, Morris, etc.), Shadwick wasn't hired to work in the upper-Administration.  Rather, her hiring is more of a blatant example of trying to find job placement for someone to draw a steady government salary without actually having to put them in charge of anything.  The unfortunate experiments of putting Shadwick in Child Abuse and Family Violence failed miserably, but she has managed to spend the past couple of years in appellate, quietly refraining from doing too much damage.

But apparently the pressure of being in the Appellate Division has proven way too much for Lana, especially since she is trying to run a campaign for judge against the vastly more qualified Kristin Guiney.  Word from the campaign trail has been the Guiney has been outclassing Shadwick so much during Republican events that now Lana won't even show up to events where her opponent will be present.  At some point this week, Shadwick requested to be moved to the low-pressure position of Grand Jury prosecutor.

Grand Jury prosecuting ain't a real tricky job.  Quite frankly, if you still have something to do in your Office that will go past noon, you are probably doing something wrong.  It is the very definition of a "cush" position.

But the pressures of the campaign trail were so demanding on Ms. Shadwick that she asked for some reasonable accommodation, and Lykos gladly complied.  Please keep in mind that Assistant District Attorneys Ryan Patrick, Brad Hart, Joe Vinas and Renee Magee have all somehow been able to run for office without asking for a lighter caseload from the boss.  Then again, they weren't Lykos Political Hires.

If you think I'm sounding even more annoyed than usual about this particular move, you're right.  I'm highly disgusted by it.

I have a hard time understanding why the Lykos Administration would make accommodations for Shadwick so that she could campaign more effectively.  In light of the fact that they wouldn't make any accommodations for Shirley Cornelius when she asked for consideration in light of her severely handicapped son, it bothers me tremendously.

I saw Lykos this morning, actually.  I was headed to interview a client at the jail, and she was outside smoking a cigarette, with Hannah Chow following diligently at her side.  I heard from a friend of mine that at about the same time, he saw Lana Shadwick getting her car washed.  I wonder if she took comp time to do so.

I'm sorry if these criticisms seem petty, but they really freaking bug me.  I thought the District Attorney's Office was supposed to be a place where people worked together to do the best job possible for the administration of Justice.  It isn't supposed to be some sort of political incubator where the main purpose is to help foster political allies.

Lykos and Shadwick just took cronyism to a whole new level.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Tonight's Reasonable Doubt (3/22/12)

Join us tonight at 8 p.m. for Reasonable Doubt with me and Todd Dupont.  Our scheduled guest in Republican candidate for the 174th District Court Joe Vinas.  Note, I say "scheduled" because he still had a  potential scheduling conflict that he had to resolve.  Hopefully he will be able to work it out and be on the show.

Over the next coming weeks, we hope to have all the candidates in contested primaries on the show.  We've extended invitations to Pat Lykos and, yes, even Lloyd Oliver to be on the show for the D.A. race.  All episodes with candidates will get posted on the blog.

So, join us tonight at 8 p.m.  You can watch it live streaming online by clicking here.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Pat Lykos on the Penal Code

This speaks for itself.

Pat Lykos' answer seems to be in direct contrast to Sec. 481.115 under the Controlled Substances Act.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Zack Fertitta's Appearance on Reasonable Doubt

It was recently brought to my attention that I failed to put Democratic Candidate for Harris County District Attorney Zack Fertitta's episode of Reasonable Doubt on the blog after his appearance last month.  That was an oversight and I apologize to Zack for the tardiness of this video.  I hope to put all the candidates we interview on the blog.  

Reasonable Doubt, February 9, 2012, Zack Fertitta from HCCLA on Vimeo.

Now, we are just waiting for Pat Lykos and Lloyd Oliver's appearances.

***NOTE:  Dupont's beard is not getting shorter.  The videos are just getting out of order.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Judge Mike Anderson on Reasonable Doubt

Several of you have written in asking if there is a way to see Judge Anderson's appearance on Reasonable Doubt from last Thursday.  Now, thanks to the technological work of Franklin Bynum, there is.  See below.

Reasonable Doubt, March 8, 2012, Judge Mike Anderson from HCCLA on Vimeo.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Final Field & A Potential Departure

As I pointed out a few posts ago, the primary for Texas is Tuesday, May 29th.  When the powers that be set that date, it temporarily re-opened the field for any aspiring candidates that wanted to run for public office.  That temporary re-opening ended yesterday at 6 p.m. with only one addition to the races involving the CJC.  Someone named Antonio Benavides added his name as a Republican candidate for the 177th District Court, facing off against Assistant District Attorney Ryan Patrick.

Given the fact that Ryan has been running a polished campaign from the very beginning and nobody seems to know who the late-arriving Mr. Benavides is, I don't know that this race will be too hotly contested.

None of the other judicial fields landed any additional candidates, which I'm sure leaves that lovable lunatic and grammar rock star, Don Hooper, furious.  He's been waging a private war against his ever-growing list of enemies that pretty much consists of him generating on-line discussions with himself and butchering the English language in the process.

The big news coming out of the end of filing time is that no third person spoiler entered the race for District Attorney, leaving it a head-to-head match-up between Pat Lykos and Mike Anderson.  I'm not a political science major, but Lykos has got to be a little uneasy knowing that there won't be a runoff like the one that got her into office in 2008.  It will be interesting to see how it shakes out without Jim Leitner to play the spoiler.

Speaking of Leitner, my e-mail and phone started blowing up yesterday afternoon with reports that Leitner had turned in his letter of resignation effective June 1st (which is coincidentally the first Friday after the primary.)  Obviously Jim and I don't have our nightly chats anymore so I cannot absolutely confirm that, but it sure was coming from multiple sources that have been credible in the past.  It was also very specific.

Things are getting curiouser and curiouser.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Reasonable Doubt with Judge Mike Anderson (3/8/12)

Please join us on Thursday, March 8 at 8 p.m. for another Reasonable Doubt with host Todd Dupont and me.  Our special guest will be Judge Mike Anderson, who is running for Harris County District Attorney.  Judge Anderson is the second of three candidates (four, if you count Lloyd Oliver) to appear on the show, and we are excited to have him on.

As always, you can tune in to watch it live streaming by clicking here.

And speaking of Judge Anderson, he's got a new commercial out with a familiar face on it.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Andy Tobias

We learned the sad news yesterday that longtime former-Assistant District Attorney and Division Chief Andy Tobias passed away.

For most people who worked at the District Attorney's Office within the past ten to twenty years, we all knew Andy as the head of the Grand Jury Division.  However, Andy's career with the Harris County District Attorney's Office spanned over thirty years and there was nobody in that Office that I can remember (before or since) that better exemplified the love of the job.

Andy bridged the gap between the "Old Dog" prosecutors (and their stories of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s) and those of us who were fascinated by the legends that came before us.  He never seemed to tire of walking around the Grand Jury afternoon telling us war stories about things that happened both in and out of the courtroom.  He loved talking about prosecuting the Max Soffar case back in the 1980s.  He truly was a walking history book when it came to the Office.

In his role as the Grand Jury Division Chief, Andy also supervised the Grand Jury interns who came to work for the Office from the surrounding law schools.  Getting a spot working there was a coveted position  in law school and it seemed like everyone who interned for Andy ended up in criminal law -- many as prosecutors, but others as defense attorneys.  There was an enthusiasm for criminal law that he exuded.  In the later years of his career, he supervised many of us that literally had not been born when he first became a prosecutor.

But the biggest thing that Andy represented in my mind was how much the Harris County District Attorney's Office was a family.  In addition to be a great job and a calling to strive to do the right thing, the people that we worked with were so much more to each other than any other workplace environment.  No body exhibited that more than Andy Tobias.

He kept working at the District Attorney's Office long past the point of being eligible to retire.  He proudly pointed out that he was losing money by staying at the Office rather than taking his retirement.  We calculated it out once and realized that was true.  He was actually losing a significant amount of money by not retiring.  He also liked to point out that he had suffered a major heart attack years earlier and even "died on the table", but couldn't wait to get back to work as soon as possible.

I don't know that anybody loved his job and the people that he worked with as much as Andy Tobias.  To me, he represented a bridge of history from a long-gone era, and working with him made me feel like a part of the Office's history.

My deepest sympathy goes out to his family.  I will keep you posted when funeral plans are announced.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Primary Is Officially Set

The Houston Chronicle is reporting that we finally have an official date of May 29th for the primary election in Texas.  I can't say that I've been following the debacle over re-districting all that closely over the past couple of months, but I do feel that I can speak authority in saying that it was all jacked up.

Additionally, the filing deadline for elected positions has been extended from now until March 9th.

I'm not a politician, but I've heard varying opinions over whether a late primary helps or hurts incumbents.  I have no idea what the correct theory is, but I do know that now more than ever, it is time to get out the word on who to vote for.

As a side note:  when we reach May, I will become even more insufferably persistent in making sure that you all got out there and voted for Mike Anderson, Kristin Guiney, Joe Vinas, and Renee Magee in their contested races.

Mark your calendars.

A Lesson From History

A friend of mine recommended this story from the past that has a lot of ties to the present situation at the Harris County District Attorney's Office.  It makes for some interesting reading for a variety of reasons.

You can check it out by clicking here.  (NOTE:  It took a while to load on my computer which may be because of the age of the article.  Have patience.)

Tonight's Reasonable Doubt (3/1/12)

Happy March to everyone.  Please join us for tonight's Reasonable Doubt with hosts me and Franklin Bynum.  Our special guest will be Todd Dupont (even though he has yet to acknowledge it).  We're on at 8 p.m., and you can watch it live streaming by clicking here.

The Contested Primaries 2024

In addition to the extremely heated battle for Harris County District Attorney, there are only a handful of other races within the Criminal ...