I'm sure by now that you have learned of the horrifying murders of Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, in their home yesterday. This follows on the heels of the January 31st murder of Kaufman County Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse and according to the Dallas Morning News, the murder of Colorado prison official Tom Clements may also be related.
I was in trial when Mark Hasse was murdered. I was saddened to hear about it, but I didn't give a lot of thought to his death being part of a larger scheme. The media rumbled about the possible involvement of the Aryan Brotherhood, but I don't pay much attention to what the media's preliminary accusations lead to. I still recall vividly all the news reels of April19, 1995 when the news wanted to first blame the Oklahoma City bombing on Al-Queda.
As the news comes in about yesterday's murders, the idea of Aryan Brotherhood involvement seems to become much more credible.
I've been involved in Texas criminal justice in some form or another since 1994 and I have never seen anything like this. The murder of prosecutors in retaliation for the jobs that they do is something you would expect from the Zetas in Mexico -- not the United States. The fact that it could happen in such a small county as Kaufman brings to light that it can happen anywhere.
I never considered the job of being a prosecutor to be a dangerous one. In the nine years I spent at that job, I had a concealed handgun license, but I never carried a gun. I never felt the need to. I locked my doors at night and kept a gun in the nightstand, but that was because I lived in Houston. I didn't feel that being a prosecutor put me at more of a risk of being a target. Quite frankly, I've angered many more defendants in my role as their defense attorney than I ever did as a prosecutor. Defendants become more angry at the defense attorney who delivers the news that the prosecutor won't dismiss their case than they do at the actual prosecutor.
And don't get me started on the animosity that a divorce attorney can inspire in even the most law-abiding of citizens.
Yes, there have been incidents of violence against prosecutors in Texas. No one has forgotten about the defendant who attacked then-prosecutor-now-Judge Marc Brown in the middle of a trial. Nor have we forgotten the murder of Gil Epstein in 1996. However, those were isolated incidents.
The murders of the Kaufman County prosecutors is a declaration of war.
And like with all wars, nothing good will come of it.
I wish I had something more profound to write. I wish I could say something that could possibly provide some sort of reason or sense to the tragedy of Kaufman County, but I can't. I've said before that the world is a dark place and it is becoming increasingly darker.
My thoughts and prayers are with the McLelland, Hasse and Clements families. I hope that all of those responsible for these murders are swiftly brought to justice.