Friday, August 31, 2012

Big Jolly's Take on the Oliver Ballot Debacle [UPDATED}

UPDATE:  I have heard that Lloyd Oliver's suit has been sent back to State Court.

While Big Jolly and I are still in post-Primary counseling after the D.A. election, he has written a very interesting (and alarming) take on what is going on with the battle between would-be HCDA Democratic Candidate Lloyd Oliver and the Democratic Party.  He also talks about the possible ramifications of what could happen in November.

Check it out by clicking here.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

New Post on Community Supervision

I did a blog post on the Chronicle blog about the Community Supervision debacle being looked at in the 208th this week.  You can read it by clicking here.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Shoulder Diagnosis

After last Friday's graceful dismount from the boat dock at my parent's lake house, I stayed in the water for several minutes trying to figure out how badly I had hurt myself.  In an attempt to test the range of motion on my left arm, I tried moving it slowly, backward and then forward.  I immediately felt such excruciating pain that I thought I was going to pass out.

Afterward, I remarked to Emily and Luke that it had been a long time since I had cried due to physical pain, but the pain I had just experienced moving my arm after the fall was about the closest I had gotten in a couple of decades.

I had an MRI on Wednesday afternoon, and the doctor called with the results yesterday.  Emily took the phone call and explained the results to me and my mom when she got off the phone.

EMILY:  It's not good, babe.  Apparently, when your shoulder hit the edge of the dock, it dislocated and broke off between 1/3 and 1/2 of your shoulder socket.


EMILY:  You are definitely going to have to have surgery and probably some type of bone graft.

MURRAY:  Insert Expletive Here

EMILY:  He also said he can tell by looking at the ligaments that they are stretched, and it was dislocated but it's not anymore.  So somehow, you dislocated your shoulder and managed to "relocate" it.

MURRAY:  Really?

EMILY:  Yes.

MURRAY:  It must have been in the water when I tried to move my arms.

EMILY:  Yeah . . . why are you smiling?

MURRAY:  I re-located my own shoulder?!  That's like some serious Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon stuff.  That's freaking awesome.

EMILY:  Sigh.

Because it was just like that.

Except for the part where I almost cried.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Tonight's Reasonable Doubt (8/23/12)

Please join me and Todd Dupont for tonight's Reasonable Doubt at 8:00 p.m. where our special guest will be our friend, Jen Gaut.  We invited Jen earlier this week to talk about Asset Forfeiture, but I'm sure we'll be talking about much much more given this week's events.

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

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Now You See Them. Now You Don't.

Since the primary elections wrapped up at the end of May, I've been getting complaints about the blog being boring.  I kind of anticipated that happening, and quite frankly, was looking forward to a little peace and quiet for a bit.  It freed me up to spend more time gravely injuring myself fighting insects.

As I've mentioned before, however, when it rains, it pours when it comes to subject matter for this blog.  Rarely has that been better exhibited than this week at the CJC.

Yesterday morning, around 9:15, word quickly circulated through the courthouse that 177th District Court Judge Kevin Fine was resigning his bench effective immediately.  As noted in Brian Rogers' article, Judge Fine had a controversial tour of duty on the bench, and had chosen not to run for re-election.  The timing of his departure was a surprise.

I plan on writing a little more about Judge Fine in the future (when it stops raining topics),  but for now, I'll just say this -- good for him for going out on his own terms.  Whether you loved him or hated him, he did it his way, and I'm glad that he ultimately got to walk out the way he wanted to.

As shocking as Judge Fine's departure was, it is eclipsed by today's news that Democratic Party officials had successfully knocked Leapin' Lloyd Oliver off the ballot in November.  I blogged yesterday that a lawsuit was afoot to get the thrice-indicted candidate removed from consideration, but I wasn't expecting the suit to be successful.  Today's news was a big shock.

The legal blogs are abuzz over this news, and as my friend Thomas Hobbes posted on yesterday's writing, this issue is far from over.  Mark Bennett is already rallying to the defense of -- not Lloyd, really -- but the principle that a lawsuit shouldn't be able to trump the will of the electorate.

Look for the issue with Lloyd being on the ballot to heat up in the days to come.

Obviously, I fully support Judge Mike Anderson for District Attorney, but there is something that feels rather undemocratic when Party leaders can make the decision to take Fredo fishing.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Lloyd and the Dems

Brian Rogers published a story this afternoon that I had been hearing rumblings about ever since Lloyd Oliver won the Democratic nomination for Harris County District Attorney.  In this story, Brian points out that former Democratic Party Leader for Harris County Gerry Birnberg has filed a complaint to have Leapin' Lloyd removed from the ballot as the Democratic candidate.

Per Brian's article, the reasoning that Birnberg cites is that Oliver stated publicly that outgoing District Attorney Pat Lykos "was such a good candidate that she 'would have gotten my vote.'"

Now that's interesting.  There are about two million reasons to not want Lloyd Oliver to be the Democratic face of the District Attorney's race.  Half of them can be found in this video.  His vocal support for Lykos, although odd, seems like the least of the reasons the Dems would want Lloyd off of the ballot.

The reality is that Lloyd Oliver is an embarrassment to whichever party he finds himself running with.  It just so happens that this election cycle finds him running with the Dems.

Late last year, it became clear that the Democratic Party of Harris County was concerned about the effect of having controversial Judge Kevin Fine on the ballot in 2012.  Now, I imagine they would gladly trade Lloyd in exchange for Judge Fine.

Lloyd is a disaster as both a candidate and as an attorney.

Any candidate who proudly boasts of his three indictments and then advocates for boxing lessons for domestic violence victims adds an anchor to what many political analysts believe is a sinking ship when it comes to the local Dems' chances in Harris County this year.

The most fascinating aspect of Brian's article is what he mentions at the end of the article:
[Harris County Democratic Chair Lane] Lewis, who is not a lawyer, said he is consulting attorneys on whether removing Oliver would mean he and precinct chairs would get to pick a new candidate or whether Mike Anderson, who beat Lykos in the Republican primary, would be running without an opponent.
This was the topic of debate with some friends this afternoon at Char a legal study group.

Supposing they were prohibited from replacing him, would other local Democratic candidates be better off with no candidate for D.A. rather than Lloyd Oliver?

My thought is that they would be.  My friends disagreed.

In my "armchair quarterback" opinion on local politics, I think the Democratic Party is looking at a rough road in November.  I don't believe that the Obama Enthusiasm that swept the county for the Dems in 2008 can be replicated for them. The backlash Republican Sweep of 2010 was dramatic, and the margins of victory in all of the 2010 races were incredibly decisive for the Republicans. While I'm not predicting the same margins of victory in 2012, I do think the Republicans will carry the day in Harris County.

The local Democratic candidates on the ballot aren't particularly controversial . . . until you add Lloyd.

Sheriff Garcia has had a pretty scandal-free three years.  Although some of the judges may not be the most popular to have ever occupied a bench, the most controversial of them isn't running again.  The candidates are all a pretty tame bunch on the whole.

There is no doubt that the Dems would have been ecstatic to have had Zack Fertitta on the ticket rather than Lloyd.

The question now is, "Would no candidate be better than Candidate Oliver?"

What do you think?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Of Insults and Injury

As anyone who knows me or reads this blog knows, one of my favorite hobbies is harassing my friends.  Whether it be mocking their "Hollywood career," their sweater vests, their hair, their unnatural back hair, or their lack of holiday cheer, I like picking on my friends in what I hope is taken as a good-natured manner.

In doing so, I would be very remiss if I did not have a sense of humor about my own embarrassments.  I've heard every bald joke, divorce joke, paleness joke, and pudgy joke that I can think of.

So, this past Friday, I inadvertently decided to give you some new material.

Emily and I took the Boy up to Camp Creek, which is my favorite place on Earth.  It is a tranquil lake north of Bryan where my parents have a lake house.  It redefines rustic.  There is no marina.  The ski area is tiny.  It is very quiet and peaceful there.

But no place is perfect.

There are plenty of critters running around there -- deer, possums, snakes, raccoons, and almost every stinging insect known to mankind.  Even my mom got bit by a copperhead once back in the '80s.

The most rampant of these nuisances, however, are the wasps.  It is a constant struggle fighting them off.  They try to invade the house.  They are most prevalent at the boat house, however.

On Friday, I made the ill-advised choice to take on a wasp with a broom at the boat house.  Here is the crime scene:

The wasp had no problem dodging my feeble swipes with the broom.  He ducked back.  He dodged right and left.

And then he went straight for my exposed pasty white stomach.

Instinctively, I stepped back with my left leg -- only to realize (too late) that I was no longer standing on the deck.  My 215 lb. out-of-shape body went down like a sack of potatoes.  

It would have been a quick and harmless plunge into the water, except for my left arm (which caught on the walkway on the left of the picture) and my right leg (which caught on the walkway to the right of the broom).  I then tumbled into the water.

The whole incident happened in under a second (which is still twice the time that Womble had on screen in Pearl Harbor).  The results, however, are as follows:

Nothing is apparently broken, but the doctors in College Station told me that I need to get an MRI once I get back to Houston.  As of this writing, I can't lift my left arm up.  The doctor said something about my labrum being damaged.  Prior to Friday, I didn't know that men had labrums.

So, if you see me looking pathetic around the CJC tomorrow, you now know why.

Up at the lake tonight, I'm sure there is a proud wasp telling its family about the time it made a human vanish into thin air.

Sadly, this is not the worst run-in with a stinging insect that I've had at Camp Creek Lake.

I was once stung by a ground hornet when I was in 6th grade.

On the cheek.

On my birthday.

The day before school pictures.


Chris Daniel's Editorial

A few weeks ago, Harris County District Clerk Chris Daniel wrote an extremely informative and interesting article on the make up of Harris County juries.  I meant to do a post on it when it first came out, but I got a little side-tracked, unfortunately.

Mr. Daniel has clearly done his homework and pointed out a good starting place to help Harris County to build more diverse juries in the days to come.

You can read the article by clicking here.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Great Moments in Judicial Conduct

The Bryan/College Station Eagle is reporting the following remarks from Brazos County Justice of the Peace Michael P. McCleary, regarding the disposition of the body of Thomas "Tres" Caffall:

McCleary said on the Caffall's [sic] autopsy report, he wrote that only the family could pick up the body of the gunman.  Typically, he said, he'll list a local funeral home, as well as the family, so the body can be brought back to the area.
"In his case, I just put 'family.' I'm not going to let the county be out the expense of going and picking up his nasty-ass body.  If it cost us $200 to go pick him up, I'm not going to pay for it. The family can take care of that.  I have no sympathy for him or the family."
Wow.  I understand having no sympathy for a man who killed a Peace Officer.  I truly do.

But his family?



Monday, August 13, 2012

Bryan/College Station

I'm sure by now you have read about the tragic murders that happened in College Station today.  Highly respected and well-liked Constable Brian Bachmann was shot and killed while serving an eviction notice.  Another innocent bystander, Chris Northcliff, was killed and several others were shot by a 35-year-old mentally disturbed man named Thomas Caffall.

Most of you know that I grew up in Bryan/College Station, and I love that town and the people of it very dearly.  Although this type of violence is horrifying regardless of where it happens, reading about it happening in the town where I grew up makes the tragedy more intense in my mind.

In my mind, Bryan/College Station will always be the small town where I grew up.  It was where my grandparents lived.  It was where I went to church.  It was where I learned to drive.  It was where I went to high school.

All of the small and simple things that I don't think about on a daily basis happened there, and they remain intrinsically part of my psychological DNA.

Things like this don't happen in Bryan/College Station, do they?

Members of law enforcement there are treated with the respect of members of the military.  I can't remember one ever being wounded in the Line of Duty -- let alone killed.

It is a Community that will rally around the wife and family of Constable Brian Bachmann, as well it should.  It will lend its condolences to the family of Mr. Northcliff, as well.

Bryan/College Station will come together and heal -- just like it did after the Bonfire Tragedy in 1999.

One person who won't be mourned or missed in the Community will be Thomas Caffall.  Apparently his erratic behavior had long since alienated his friends and family.

Mental illness can often do that.

But Thomas Caffall, who went by the name of Tres, was part of that Community, as well.

When I was a little kid, my aunt and uncle were headed out of town for an extended period of time.  They had a black and white cocker spaniel named Rex that they asked my family to find a home for.  I was  kind of hoping my folks would let us make Rex a full-time pet, but that was not to be.  Rex was adopted by a family from my church.

For whatever random reason, I remember the day they came to pick Rex up.  The family had two young children -- a little boy and a little girl.  The boy was about four years younger than me and his name was Tres Caffall.

I remember him telling me that he was going to rename the dog "Max," which I did not approve of at all, at the time.  For some reason, I remember that Tres had a pretty significant runny nose when they came to pick up Rex/Max.  I don't know why I remember that.

But most of all, I remember that Tres seemed very happy to have a new dog.

I never really spoke to him after that.  He was much younger than me.  I saw him and his family in church from time to time.  Every once in a while, I would get an update on how "Max" was doing in his new home.

In later years, I would hear more about the Caffall family, and their son, Tres.

No matter how big Bryan/College Station gets, the rumor mill of my hometown will always keep its small town roots.

Tres Caffall had a hard life.  A tragic life.  If one wasn't already genetically programmed to suffer from mental illness, the things that kid went through would have certainly been enough to induce it.  I'm not going to go into the things that I heard he went through in his later years.

I don't write any of this to excuse or even mitigate what Tres Caffall did today.  Mostly, I'm just thinking out loud.

When the first reports released the College Station shooter's name, it sounded familiar.  I looked him up on Facebook and confirmed what I suspected.  Although it has probably been thirty years since I had that brief conversation about a dog, it was definitely that same kid.

And for some reason, that made me terribly sad.

He didn't have a lot of photographs on his Facebook page.  As the media pointed out, many of the pictures were of assault rifles.

But in his profile picture, there is a picture of a smiling man, who is hugging his dog.  I can only hope that somewhere in his tortured existence, he found some comfort there.

I know I'm rambling, but I keep thinking about it.

Maybe it isn't the time to express anything other than outrage about what happened today in College Station.

Maybe the time for pity for Tres Caffall will come later.  Maybe it won't.

He wasn't my friend.  I have no personal stake in this.

I just can't shake the bizarre feeling of trying to reconcile the pictures on the news with that memory of the kid who was so happy to be getting a new dog.

Maybe I'm just sad about what happened today in the little town where I grew up.

My thoughts and prayers are with the families of Constable Bachmann and Mr. Northcliff, as well as all those injured today.

And, it may not be the most popular thing to say right now, but they are with that boy with the runny nose, too.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Tonight's Reasonable Doubt (8/9/12)

Please join me and Todd Dupont tonight for Reasonable Doubt, where our guest will be our good friend and excellent Criminal Defense Attorney, Tucker Graves.  Tucker has been known to have an opinion or two and we look forward to taking your calls.  Listen as Tucker explains the Aggies' dominance of the SEC in the 2012 football season.

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

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Conversations Amongst Ex-Prosecutors

ME:  You know, I saw [Justice] Elsa [Alcala] try a Death Capital with Chuck.

EX-PROSECUTOR:  Chuck Rosenthal?

ME:  No, Chuck Barris of The Gong Show.

EX-PROSECUTOR:  Don't be an ass.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

A Fundraiser for Maddie

Although I try not to post stuff on this blog that doesn't deal with the Criminal Justice World, sometimes there are causes that come up that remind us that there are many more important things out there.  This week I was notified by regular reader Sue about a fundraiser this weekend for a young girl named Madison Gamble, who is suffering from a rare malignant form of cancer known as Epithelioid Sarcoma.

This weekend, Applied Safety Products, Inc. will be hosting a BBQ fundraiser for Maddy and her family to help offset the costs associated with her treatment.

If you can't attend, I hope that you will contact one of the names above.  Hopefully someone with a little more information about the fundraiser will post a mailing address where we can send a check.

Please give generously to this great cause.

Episode Seven: The Voters Awaken - A One Act -Sci-Fi Play

SCENE:  The Death Star orbits over Downtown Houston. [INTERIOR] The Imperial Council Chambers. EMPRESS OGG sits at the head of a long table ...