Thursday, January 31, 2019

The State of the Criminal Justice World

No, I did not quit blogging.  I've just been really lazy busy lately.

It has been over two months since my last blog post and much has changed since I wished all of the candidates well on Election Day.

In all honesty, I kind of wanted to wait for some time to pass after the election before I wrote again.  A lot of good friends lost their benches and it really didn't feel like the right time to point out that I was pretty sure that was going to be what happened.  Couple that with being off on a couple of Cold Justice shoots, a minor non-cancer-related-surgical-procedure-that-we-shall-never-speak-of-again, an increasingly obstinate 5-year-old, an awkward Christmas, and having to put down one of the family dogs, and I just haven't really had the time or energy to write.

So, fast forward to today, and we've got some interesting things to talk about in the Criminal Justice World.

1.  The New Judges 
As of this morning, I've appeared in front of five of the new District Court Judges and four of the new County Court at Law judges.  The experiences have been very positive.  The judges have all been attentive, courteous, and thoughtful.  In my pre-election analysis, I had said that the majority of the races had qualified candidates running against other qualified candidates.  Therefore, it isn't too big of a surprise to see the judges hit the ground running.

I do feel compelled to point out that new 183rd District Court Judge Chuck Silverman (who I was pretty harsh toward in my pre-election write up) showed that he had a sense of humor about my write-up, and he has been very professional and kind to me in my appearances in his court.

2.  A Judicial Scandal Brewing?
One of the new judges is already in the middle of a scandal, apparently.  I'm not naming that judge right now because nothing is official, but I've heard from multiple credible sources that he is under investigation.  The allegations are that, in open court, he grabbed the arm of an attorney's assistant in an attempt to physically remove her from an area of the courtroom.  The assistant felt pain and has lodged a complaint.  Whether or not that complaint will lead to criminal charges remains to be seen, but everyone is talking about the incident.

3.  The HPD Shootout
I was in Idaho when I learned of the five Houston Police Officers who were wounded in a shootout during the execution of a Search Warrant that left two suspects dead.  The search warrant was for a quantity of heroin and the fact that no heroin was found after the smoke cleared has people talking.  While the District Attorney's Office operates as a 24/7 resource for officers seeking search warrants, this particular one was written by the officers and then presented to a city magistrate for a signature.

There's nothing illegal about that, but in my opinion, the search warrant was a little sloppy.  The warrant was a "No Knock" warrant because a Confidential Informant told police that one of the occupants of the house had a 9mm semi-automatic on him.  No 9mm (or any other type of semi-automatic pistol) was recovered during a search of the crime scene, which means the C.I. was pretty much 0 for 2 for things he described to the author of the warrant.

My prediction is that a full-fledged investigation of this case is going to lead to some embarrassment to HPD but probably no criminal ramifications.  It sounds like they may have sent in a questionable Confidential Informant to make a controlled buy and that got five officers injured and two other people killed.  I'm also going to go out on a limb here and predict that some of the injuries to the officers are going to have come from friendly fire.

4.  Joe Gamaldi
I don't know Houston Police Officers' Union President Joe Gamaldi personally, but he is quickly making his predecessor, Ray Hunt, look like an introvert.  Gamaldi has been front and center of all things involving HPD cases and he has been extremely vocal.  In the past year, he's taken on Kim Ogg and the District Attorney's Office, judges who don't set adequately high bonds (in his opinion), HFD, and, as of this afternoon, HPD Police Chief Art Acevedo.

In the wake of the HPD shootout, Gamaldi made the statement that "dirtbags" were being put on notice, as were groups that disparaged police officers:
If you’re the ones that are out there spreading the rhetoric that police officers are the enemy, just know we’ve all got your number now, we’re going to be keeping track of all of y’all, and we’re going to make sure that we hold you accountable every time you stir the pot on our police officers.
I'm not exactly sure what Gamaldi means by "hold you accountable" but some are taking it as a threat to groups like Black Lives Matter.  I understand that HPD and BLM may not be big fans of each other but this seems to be a threat to the 1st Amendment, in my opinion.  Most HPD officers that I know seem to really like what Gamaldi is saying.  Everyone else seems to think that Gamaldi may be the one who is "stirring the pot."

5.  The CJC Building
Nothing has changed here.  I mean nothing.  The building is still a disaster that needs to be demolished.

So, that's all I've got at the moment.  If you have anything else you want to talk about here, let me know.


Anonymous said...

How about Joanne Musick and her evaluations? Changing evaluations by lowering the scores and/or adding negative comments on evaluations of black employees? Who else? One official HR complaint filed. But plenty more to come. This will likely be swept under the rug.

Anonymous said...

How can she change the eval numbers retroactively? The document is supposed to be signed by the chief and the subject before it goes to the division chief, so to change the numbers would either require some shady photoshop alteration or all new signatures.....

Anonymous said...

I am a little confused about how that is supposed to be happening. The eval is supposed to be signed by both the subject and chief, and often the division chief has already signed off on it before the subject receives the eval to sign.
So to change it retroactively either requires some very shady photoshop editing, or a whole new round of signatures. Does anyone have any actual details on the claim?

Anonymous said...

I don’t understand how Joanne has changed evaluations of Felony 2s and 3s when she’s never evaluated the Chiefs she supervises?

Anonymous said...

RE: The HPD shooting. It's no secret Kim Ogg has been itching to prosecute HPD officers. If they stumped their toe on this deal, she's ready to jump. The fact that she has been so quiet on this makes me wonder how long it will be until she pounces. The cop haters, her voter base, are already on this so it can't be too long before she weighs in. And typically that means, she will be against the officers. Guess we'll see.

Anonymous said...

On another forum/blog, someone pointed out that the various activists were just as quick to try and shutdown officer Gamaldi's free speech, using their influence on city chief Acevedo. Their pressure resulted in the chief telling the world how the officer was way out of line and the two "would talk" which in local-speak means a dressing down as I recall it's been described. Had the officer made some specific threat of harm or official action to a specific person or group, I'd expect he be taken to task as well but the usual political rhetoric from a union leader is hardly the substance of actionable speech.

I don't think he's doing his group any favors by pointing out the reality that some local groups hate the police, that they jump the gun whenever they first hear about some event impacting their own, whomever that might be, or that they have routinely made far darker threats toward police than anything this union leader said. I say that because too many people locally have the idea that government employees like Gamaldi have no rights whatsoever to speak out. Such people are wrong of course and his rhetoric is understandable even if emotionally driven, but they influence many things that bear on members of the union so some diplomacy might work better for their cause. That none of the activists ever sees their own messages as equally hurtful to their causes is just the icing on the cake when it comes to their relationships with the police, there's just nothing to be gained by taking that approach.

So let the guy speak and if he steps over a legal line in the sand, by all means do what needs to be done but free speech includes saying dumb things and plenty of dumb things have been said by all involved. The same holds true for the union guy with the fireman's union that seems so intent on bankrupting the city or the police chief's call for arms control, most people can read between the lines to know each means well in their own way.

Anonymous said...

With Kim Ogg seen hugging anti-police protestors and Chief Acevedo having lunch and closed-door meetings, it's only a matter of time before the narrative changes against the officers involved in the raid. Politics have officially entered the building

Anonymous said...

@12:21 -- Don't hold your breath for any "insightful analysis" of misconduct. Remember when Beadle was reprimanded for when he made the front page of the chronicle for systemically sexually harassing young women? No? Perhaps they will have Joanne write an essay on Oscar Nominated Best Picture "Black Panther" and then award her an honorary degree from TSU to repent.

Anonymous said...

Now. A Chief has to send it to Joanne prior to presenting it to the 2/3. Joanne reviews it, makes her edits, then signs. Once she signs, the eval is locked in and cannot be edited by anybody but her.

Enrique V said...

Enrique V said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I was hoping you may shed some light on the recent activities in the David Temple case. I'm concerned the state may not retry it due to the amount of time that has passed and concern that they may not be confident of a conviction.

Murray Newman said...

Enrique V,
I'm not sure why the Chronicle keeps portraying the Temple case as if there is some doubt as to whether or not to retry it. The Attorney General's Office's prosecutors, Lisa Tanner and Bill Tanner, have never indicated that they have any reservations about retrying it.

The last update that I had on the case was that Temple's attorney, Stanley Schneider, was either trying to get off the case, claiming a lack of funding, or asking for additional counsel to be appointed to the case. He requested a continuance and the State (Tanner and Turner) did not oppose it.

The Chronicle acts like there is some debate over whether or not the case is going to be tried again. I have no idea why they are acting like that. It just isn't the case.

Anonymous said...

The reason is because Brian Rogers wrote the article. Rogers is an idiot.

Anonymous said...

Retry Temple, unlikely. Not to say he's not guilty, but there's enough questions so that no unanimous panel of twelve will convict. Musick wrote a pretty good essay about the case which gives you an idea of the defense that the prosecution will somehow have to overcome.

dudleysharp said...


You were missed.

Very sorry about the family pet. All pet owners know how it feels.

Very happy to read your comments about the new judges. Very.

I will miss many of the old guard.

Murray Newman said...

Anon 10:20 p.m.,
Musick's "pretty good essay" was based on information that his dimwitted then-partner John Denholm told him. I wouldn't exactly take that to the bank. Honesty and smarts are not exactly Denholm's calling card. The fact that Earl wrote that for the HPOU did not sit well with a lot of people who contacted me after it was published. Believe what you want, but Temple is going back to trial. Stanley wouldn't be running around like a chicken with his head cut off trying to get back up trial counsel if it wasn't.

Thanks for the kind words! Good to hear from you.

Anonymous said...

It was obvious that Gamaldi had planned to have his little fit far in advance of this incident. He was chewing on it and just waiting for the next officer to be shot so he go public with the remarks. Which he did before all the facts were known. Those words could come back to haunt him should an HPD officer harass someone whose speech he finds offensive. I can envision a nightmarish situation and even a lawsuit against him and the union, which is why Acevedo had to distance HPD from Gamaldi. The Chronicle reported one officer involved in the raid was suspended, so this entire episode could blow up into a huge mess. I have to admit from what's been made public thus far it looks like a bad raid which probably involved friendly fire. The chief said in his first statement that no bodycam footage existed, and in this day and age that is suspicious as hell.