Showing posts from 2019

Supporting Other Candidates in a Kim Ogg World

Around 9 a.m. on December 24, 2008, Acting Harris County District Attorney Ken Magidson called me into his office and told me (for the second time in a month) that I was fired. "I'm firing you for what you wrote on your blog.  It's too much." He actually uttered those words. Under the circumstances, I was caught off guard.  I was already planning on that day being my last at the Office and taking comp time for the remainder of 2008.  My contract wasn't going to be renewed so I was done effectively at midnight on December 31st, anyway. But getting fired cost me some money.  There was no taking comp time if you didn't work there anymore.  I think all in all, Magidson's decision to pull the trigger as an early Christmas present cost me around $4,000.  Given the fact that I was going through a divorce and had child support looming, that was kind of a kick in the financial crotch. Over the past eleven years since that fateful day, I've revisited t

Episode Four: A Glimmer of Hope - a One Act Sci-Fi Play

SCENE:  The Star Destroyer Jefferson hovers over Downtown Houston.  It has been two years since the Death Star was destroyed by Harvey and workers are now occasionally working to make it fully operational again.  [INTERIOR] The Observation Bridge leading into the Imperial Throne Room.  Two Imperial Officers are standing outside the entryway to the Throne Room, speaking in hushed whispers. VICE ADMIRAL MITCHAM:  Corporal Leitner, do you have news? CORPORAL LEITNER:  Yes, Vice Admiral, and I'm afraid it is all bad. VICE ADMIRAL MITCHAM:  How bad? CORPORAL LEITNER:  Bad enough that I'm afraid to tell her.  She's been in such a terrible mood since firing Denholm the Hutt. VICE ADMIRAL MITCHAM:  Yes, I know.  I had hoped that firing Andrew Wan-Kenobi would have cheered her up some, but it hasn't.  As it turns out, most of the Jawas were big fans of his and when she struck him down, he became more powerful than she could have possibly imagined. CORPORAL LEITNER: 

A Tale of Two Firings

As I alluded to at the end of Friday's blog post about The Belated Firing of John Denholm , the former Intake Division Chief was not the only person who found himself on Kim Ogg's chopping block last week.  On Monday, Ogg fired Section Chief Prosecutor Andrew Smith from the Writs Division following a heated argument with Smith that occurred Thursday. Unlike Denholm, Andrew Smith was a longtime prosecutor from within the Office who actually earned  his position as Section Chief through years of hard work, intelligence, and honesty.  Unlike Denholm, he wasn't fired for anything improper or racist.  Unlike Denholm, Kim Ogg didn't spend eight days deliberating over whether or not she was going to fire Andrew.  She decided to fire him on Thursday evening.  The only reason he wasn't fired on Friday was that he had taken a sick day.  When he returned to work on Monday morning, he was promptly given the opportunity to resign or be fired.  On principle, he chose the

Carvana Makes It Official

In the midst of all the chaos and scandal going on over at the Harris County District Attorney's Office this week , um, month , um, year, um entire Administration , lately, it is nice to see some positive news coming out the Criminal Justice World. Former Bureau Chief Carvana Cloud has announced her official candidacy for the Democratic nomination for the Office of the Harris County District Attorney in 2020. Her official website is . As I mentioned in a post last week, I think the world of Carvana as a person with honesty, integrity, intelligence, and kindness.  I was a fan of hers when she was a brand new prosecutor, and I have always remained a fan and a friend of hers.   When Kim Ogg hired Carvana to be in her Administration, I thought it was the best move Ogg could have possibly make, and I was glad to see Carvana promoted to Bureau Chief earlier this year.  As you probably know already, Carvana announced her immediate resignatio

The Belated Firing of John Denholm

So, after eight days of looking desperately for excuses not to have to fire careful deliberation about John Denholm, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg fired the former Intake Division Chief.  As I'm sure you know, Denholm was thrust into the spotlight earlier this week after rejecting charges on an attempted sexual assault case because the victim on the case might possibly be "an illegal." Ogg had apparently hoped that the story of Denholm's absolutely inexcusable behavior would blow over with a little time.  Unfortunately for Ogg and Denholm, however, statements from the Houston Police Officer's Union (HPOU), the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), and Texas Congressman (and former Harris County Assistant District Attorney) Gene Wu have made it clear that the story was not going away.  The story broke on television a few nights ago and Keri Blakinger followed up with an article in the Houston Chronicle .  This morning, the Washington Post  

The Implosion of Kim Ogg

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg is having a rough year. It started back in February when she incurred the wrath of the Texas Criminal Justice Commission by having the audacity to ask for funding for more prosecutors at the Office .  As it turns out, Ogg's progressive supporters don't want money spent on more prosecutors, because they believe it only leads to more prosecuting.  They preferred that any extra money received by the D.A.'s Office be spent on rehabilitative programs instead.  Ogg defended her request by pointing out that overworked prosecutors were no gift to Justice either, and she repeated her request several more times throughout the year. As it turns out, she was using some seriously fuzzy math when making her non-progressive plea for prosecutors.  In June, Houston Chronicle  reporter Keri Blakinger called out Ogg for using misleading stats to inflate the number of cases each individual prosecutor supposedly carried.  So, not only did Ogg violate

Voice-To-Texting With Clients

Thanks to the miracle of Siri and voice-to-text technology, a road trip to Brazos County can usually provide an opportunity to catch up on returning some phone calls and text messages. Unless your voice-to-text technology is as bad as the one I use. ME:  I have already talked to my investigator about your case.  He will be calling you shortly.  His name is Roy Underwood. SIRI:  Texting [CLIENT]: "I have already talked to my investigator about your cats.  He will be calling you shorty.  His name is Roy Underwood." Ready to send? ME:  No!  Change message. SIRI:  Okay. ME:  I have already talked to my investigator about your CASE.  He will be calling you SOON.  His name is Roy Underwood. SIRI:  Texting [CLIENT]: "I have already talked to my investigator about your case.  He will be calling you too.  His name is boy underwear."  Ready to send? ME:  No!  Change message. SIRI:  Okay. ME:  "I have already talked to my investigator about your CASE. 

Caseload Overload

Monday's Houston Chronicle  had an article from reporters Keri Blakinger and Zach Despart entitled " Harris County judges criticized over pace of court-appointed lawyer reform," detailing Rodney Ellis' and the rest of the Harris County Commissioners' Court's push to have a Managed Assigned Counsel (MAC) Program forced upon the Harris County Criminal District Courts.  (NOTE:  A copy of the article is on the Chronicle's  paid content website at this link but I could not locate a copy of it on  If you don't have the paid website, you'll have to get a copy of Monday's paper or just trust me on this one.) Harris County's felony judges have come under fire from Commissioner's Court members for not moving fast enough to abolish the longstanding practice of judges appointing lawyers to represent poor defendants. The article details much of what I discussed in this post about the MAC back in July.  As I wrote then, the Harris Cou

Temple Trial Takeaways

As you doubtlessly know by now, the punishment phase of The State of Texas vs. David Temple  ended in a mistrial on Friday after jurors failed to reach an agreement on an appropriate punishment for the man they easily convicted of murder. I've heard from multiple credible sources that the split between the jurors was 10-2, with ten of the jurors demanding Life in prison for the man they convicted of killing his 8-month-pregnant wife, Belinda, by placing a shotgun to the back of her head and pulling the trigger.  The remaining two jurors were holding out for something far less and neither side seemed willing to budge from their position despite almost two days of deliberations. A jury that convicts but then deadlocks over punishment is not unheard of, but it is fairly uncommon.  Since Temple was convicted of a 1999 murder, the law of 1999 applies to the case.  Back then a person could receive probation for murder, so Temple could technically receive it, as well.  Due to this, th

Tales from the Old Days

From time to time, I'm reminded of a funny story from my days at the District Attorney's Office and I think that they might make for a decent blog post.  I was reminded of one of those moments this morning by former-HCDA investigator Steve Januhowski on Facebook, so I thought I'd share. Back when I was a new-ish prosecutor, a group of prosecutors routinely got together on Wednesdays after work for Steak Night at the Little Woodrow's on W. Alabama (sadly, it has since been demolished).  I coordinated Steak Night and I was pretty religious about attendance.  We usually had anywhere between ten to thirty people show up. I never missed.  If I didn't leave early from work, I was out the door at 5:00 sharp on Wednesdays. During my tenure as the Chief of County Court at Law #5, my secretary was the one and only Barbara Eaglin, who was a true institution of the Office.  She had been around for decades, if not centuries and was well known for her good-natured battles w

Conversations at the Elevator Bank

While standing at the elevator bank at the CJC this morning, a highly agitated lady waded into the crowd of people waiting, yelling out questions to no one in particular. LADY:  WHERE IS ANDREWS?!?!  CAN ANYONE TELL ME WHERE ANDREWS IS?! CROWD:  (SILENCE) LADY:  THEY SAID SHE'S ON SIX BUT I WAS JUST UP THERE AND SHE AIN'T THERE!  IT'S BULLSHIT!  SOMEBODY AROUND HERE'S GOT TO KNOW! ME:  Do you mean Judge Kelley Andrews? LADY (calming down some):  Yeah!  Her! ME (trying to remember what floor Court 6 is on):  Well, she's Court Six, so . . . LADY:  I JUST WENT TO SIX AND SHE ISN'T THERE! ME:  Well, there's a difference between the sixth floor and Court Six, I'm trying to remember . . . ANOTHER ATTORNEY:  I think Court Six is on the 11th floor. LADY (to other attorney):  THANK YOU!  That's all you had to say. LADY (giving me a dirty look):  I DON'T NEED SOME ARROGANT ASS LAWYER TALKING TO ME LIKE I'M STUPID. ME:  [SPEECHLE

Discretion and the MAC System

Like many criminal defense attorneys who work in Harris County, my law practice is a division of both retained and appointed cases.  In the ten and a half years that I've been on the defense side of things, my retained cases have increased, but I still take appointments on cases when my caseload can manage some new material. For those of you unfamiliar with how the appointment system works in Harris County, an attorney who is approved to take appointments has the ability to go on the Harris County website and list himself or herself as available for either an individual appointment and/or a "term" appointment for a day or a block of days on the calendar.  If a court needs an "Attorney of the Day" (a lawyer who will work in the court and represent up to five defendants needing lawyers on any given day) and the attorney has checked the "term" appointment box, that attorney will be eligible to be called up.  If a court needs an attorney for just a case

Joe Gamaldi's Press Release

The Houston Police Department held a press conference today announcing that they had re-arrested Andre Timothy Jackson for the 2016 murder of 11-year-old Josue Flores.  As noted in the Houston Chronicle : The indictment comes three years after police first arrested Jackson and charged him with murder — charges that prosecutors later dismissed over concerns they would not win at trial. Apparently, evidence which had been collected during the initial investigation three years earlier just now provided a DNA link between Jackson and Flores.  It is not clear what piece of evidence that DNA was collected from or who that DNA belonged to, but my educated guess is that a piece of evidence belonging to Jackson may have been found to have Flores' DNA on it.  Enter Houston Police Officer's Union President Joe Gamaldi.  Gamaldi has been relatively quiet since his infamous "dirtbags on notice" press conference in the wake of the now- infamous HPD raid that left two citiz

The Mad Queen

The CJC Community was shocked today by the announcement that Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg had fired her First Assistant Tom Berg .  There were rumors that a few other employees in administrative positions had also been fired. The move is surprising for a couple of reasons. The first reason being that Tom Berg has a stellar reputation for being a man of integrity, dedication, and knowledge.  He is a combat veteran who has dedicated his life to the Criminal Justice Center and he is very  highly respected amongst both the Defense Bar and the Prosecution.  Tom spent the vast majority of his legal career on the defense side of the aisle so I was somewhat surprised when he joined the D.A.'s Office.  I thought it was a great hire by Ogg and I said so at the time . Tom had a learning curve at the D.A.'s Office -- largely due to the fact that his primary focus of criminal law had been on the Federal side of things, as opposed to State.  He made a few missteps at first a