Wednesday, June 30, 2021

The "Genius and Miraculous" District Attorneys' Office

Oh man.  


Just when I think she can't be a more shamelessly self-aggrandizing politician, she pulls something new out of her little white Boss Ogg hat.

Today, she released a pre-recorded message to her Assistant District Attorneys that was chock full of pure political awesomeness as she laid out her plans for solving the backlog of criminal cases in Harris County, Texas.  At one point, she literally applauds the work of her office as "nothing short of genius and miracles."


If you would like to watch it in its entirety, here it is.

NOTE:  If you are reading this on an iPhone, the video may not play, but you can get to it by clicking here.

If you don't have thirty minutes to enjoy Kim Ogg celebrating herself, here are some of the highlights:

Highlight # 1 --  Even a Pre-Recorded Kim Ogg keeps the Commoners Waiting

Even though everyone is back in the building after receiving their vaccinations, Kimbra decided that she would best reach the members of the Office with a video message rather than a general assembly.  That makes sense.  After all, the rank and file is busy trying to work on that case backlog and who has time for an afternoon meeting, when a pre-recorded video can more efficiently get the message out, right?

But this mandatory pre-recorded meeting goes on for over TEN FREAKING MINUTES before Kim takes the stage with her campaign motivational, rally-the-troops speech.  It's a freaking PRE-RECORDED MESSAGE.  Seriously?  Y'all don't know how to, like, trim out the first ten minutes with iMovie or something?

It's moments like these that I'm so glad that I'm not at the office anymore.  If your name ain't Mick Jagger, I'm not waiting on your ass to take the stage.

Highlight # 2 -- Move over Chris Pratt, the Guardians of Justice are Here

Approximately two minutes after Madonna has taken the stage Ogg begins speaking, she immediately begins addressing the difficulties facing her Office.  And, of course, that starts with blasting the Defense Bar.

At the 12 minute, 12 second mark (she started talking at the 10:14 mark), she begins with throwing insults at the Defense Bar:
. . . unlike the DEFENSE BAR, whose only duty is to THEIR CLIENTS . . . GUILTY OR NOT! . . . prosecutors are tasked under the law with protecting everyone's rights, in our search for the truth in every single case.

And then she finishes with . . . .wait for it . . . 

. . . And that's why I call us the Guardians of Justice!

Photo created by Luke Newman


Highlight # 3 -- Blame the Judges and their Low Bonds

So, apparently, the real masterminds behind the "Crime Wave" affecting Harris County are those damn judges who are letting everyone out of jail.  At the 13:30 mark, almost a full minute after blasting the Defense Bar, Star Lord Kimbra goes after the Judiciary.

While we know that 55 hundred violent offenders are in jail awaiting trial [TRANSLATION:  "waiting on discovery"], tens of thousands more are out on bail.  At least four thousand of them are repeat and violent high-risk offenders on ankle monitors.  Let's get them to trial!

Seriously, go back and watch how Kim sounds like a high school cheerleader when she exclaims that "Let's get them to trial!" part.  It's plain silliness.  Like she just came up with that idea and is suddenly yelling "Go team! Go!"

But wait, there's more.

She takes a potshot at Pre-Trial as she continues to levy the blame for the carnage and maiming (yes, maiming) affecting Houston on these damn low bonds.

We've seen defendants commit crimes even while wearing ankle monitors and we know that we're rarely notified. It's these repeat and violent offenders, freed on insufficient bail, who are contributing to the crime wave that's killing, injuring, maiming Houstonians.

Highlight # 4 -- the Emergency Case Backlog Reduction Program

Once done blaming everyone but herself (and also, strangely, Covid) for the backlog, Kim gets down to business by rolling out her new idea called the Emergency Case Backlog Reduction Program. 

This new and innovative program authorizes overtime and extra pay for prosecutors to examine cases and determine whether or not they are serious or violent offenses.  If they are not, offer Diversion Programs that help move less serious cases.  

What a fantastic idea.  Wish I had thought of it.  Better yet, I wish she had implemented it at, you know, like at the START of the pandemic.

Although I'm all for prosecutors reviewing bullshit less serious cases, her "program" seems to be like a bit of overkill to me.  Overtime to evaluate cases?  Here's a novel idea -- how about asking prosecutors to hear out defense attorneys in court when they point out that a case is either weak or not serious, instead?  It's really not all that complicated.  

As my mentor, the late, great Ed Ziegler once said:  "We're pole vaulting over mouse turds, here."

Instead of yet another Ogg Program, how about just returning some discretion to the trial bureau so that your rank and file prosecutors aren't scared of getting fired if they dismiss a case or offer a pre-trial diversion?  Just a thought.  

My favorite part of her diversionary program is the warning she gives at the end:
The defense needs to respond.  After all, it's in their clients' best interest.

Um, yeah.  The first time I let a grandstanding-ass-politician like Kim Ogg tell me what's in my client's best interest is the day I need to hang up my law license. 

Diversion programs are very nice resolutions to the cases the State can actually prove, but if Kim thinks attorneys are going to be flocking to those programs without evaluating the cases against their clients first, she's really banking on a large batch of ineffective defense attorneys.  Diversion Programs are not a substitute to fighting a bad case, just fyi.  In addition to having the tool of a diversion program, Kim needs to make sure that her prosecutors know that they can dump a piece of crap case without repercussions, as well.

Highlight # 5 -- Experience Matters, if there is any of it left

Kim then moves on to those serious and violent cases that won't be eligible for a diversion program, and she calls upon "our most experienced chief prosecutors, now serving in vertical and specialized prosecution units" to help the newer prosecutors try serious cases.
Take charge, Senior Prosecutors.  Help us make this program work!

There is no doubt that experience matters and Kim is right to call upon the senior prosecutors to help combat violent crime.  There's just one small problem with that...

She's fired or otherwise run off the vast majority of them. 

Whether it be the thirty-odd prosecutors she fired before even taking office, or the ten or so chief prosecutors that she ran off during her absolutely idiotic Pandemic Witch Hunt last year, experience is in extremely short supply at the D.A.'s Office these days.  The definition of a "senior prosecutor" has never been looser in the history of the Office.

She's 100% correct in saying that senior prosecutors are needed during this time of crisis.  Unfortunately for all involved, there just aren't very many left.

She closes this ridiculous speech by giving a motivational rallying cry:
Team, we have a big job ahead of us, but the STATE is ready!

Those of us who practice in the CJC know that under Kim Ogg's leadership, nothing could be further from the truth. 


Anonymous said...

You forgot the mention the part where she mentioned a plan to not accept cases anymore until officers had all the evidence. I highly doubt that will actually happen or include things like bodycam and there was not a date stated. I know we’ve all been fooled before on promises from KO on almost every issue and feel a bit like lucy pulling away the football, but fingers crossed. Getting bodycams and all evidence when the case is filed would really help more than anything else stated.

Also, you phrased it as diversion programs for non-serious and violent cases, but if I remember correctly she stated the “informal diversion” is for “non-victim cases.” No idea how she will define “non-victim cases.” Are UUMVs, Trespass, or theft 3rd victim cases? Technically, yes, but a theft 3rd from Walmart, while technically a victim case is a case that should be last of this program. Depending on how this is defined, there may not be many of these cases in felony court.

All and all, there was a lot of talk in this statement, but no details for a program that starts in just over a week and the devil is in the details.

Unknown said...

Murray, this might be your funniest blog post ever (and you've had many great ones). Loved it.

Murray Newman said...

Anon 9:34 p.m.,
Yeah, I did leave that part out. There was so much other material that I guess I just skipped over it. That whole part of the plan isn't going to work either. She knows it.

Downey said...

I bet if I could pick 10 judges and 30 prosecutors I could solve mi he of the ‘backlog.’

Anonymous said...

George Soros is certainly getting his moneys worth!

Anonymous said...

Tip- everyone recognize they are part of the reason for this COVID backlog. State is at fault for failing to train new ADAs on case evaluations and efficiency and failing to turn over discovery timely. Defense is at fault for not keeping discovery on track- yes we may have the duty to comply with Brady in the end and to make sure discovery is complied with, but a reminder other than a blanket discovery request attached to an e-mail specifying the specific evidence d/c does not still have that I know competent d/cs know exist based off a quick scan of the report and it hasn't been turned over ( either due to a prosecutor who procrastinates or is inefficient or an incorrect belief that crucial discovery has been turned over on an old case an ADA just inherits ) would go a long way. D/Cs who do this time and time again with no response should cc supervisors to hold those people accountable too. Again not required but presumably in your clients best interest to prevent someone from sitting in jail or remaining on bond for months longer than necessary. Failing to do anything but sit and bitch in ineffective ways is part of the reason for this backlog. Certain Judges are at fault too for giving bond after bond making this CJS a revolving door for repeat bond offenders. I mean, I bet a good chunk of the backlog are NLVs on bond that competent bond reform judges like Warren, jones, Lacayo and other good judges would never do

Everyone is to blame and failure to recognize this makes you one of the bigger problems. At least Kim ogg is trying

Nathan Hennigan said...

Re: Anon at 5:45 pm

Defense attorneys have no role in helping prosecutors send people to prison more efficiently. Generally, our role is the opposite. In some cases, it might be in a client's best interest to remind prosecutors to do something. In most cases it certainly is not. The backlog is not the fault of defense attorneys. Nor is it our problem. Prosecutors decide what to charge, prosecutors decide what to dismiss, prosecutors gather evidence and turn it over, prosecutors decide what to offer. This is squarely your problem and responsibility. Go ahead and fix it. Or don't. But recognize that it is Ogg's job to do so. Which is why I know it won't get fixed.

Anonymous said...

".....Bunch of jackasses, standing in a circle."-Rocket

Anonymous said...

KO has a fine track record of failed politically motivated prosecutions: Dr. Hasan Gokal and the entire Arkema debacle just to name two.

Anonymous said...

I get what you are saying and I understand defense has no duty to be the prosecutor's "parent" and remind them what they have or haven't done. I just have never seen a situation where it hurt defense to do that. However - Having been through both administrations, Harvey and now this, I just know that this is going to take more than just the State and quite frankly it has never hurt defense on any case I can think of to go that extra "mile" and remind the ADA about a lingering issue/to do. Before covid as a felony 2, I didn't need that reminder like felony 3s do. Post covid as a felony 2, I cannot lie and pretend I don't. We do need it. And that should concern you. But do as you please, you're role is very different and I understand. It was more of a suggestion

Anonymous said...

I, like most everybody who reads or comments on this blog, am a former DA who worked in the office for many years and under several administrations. I understand that DAs have alot of work and this has been made much more difficult with the huge backlog of cases. However, what's frustrating to me and many other defense attorneys is that alot of this is of the DA's office's own making. For one, way too many cases are being accepted at intake that would struggle to get past a directed verdict, much less be proven BRD. And once these cases get to court, they languish for months clogging up the docket because many of the courtroom DAs either haven't been taught how to properly evaluate a case or are too damn scared to dismiss anything. So many marginal (at best) cases are remaining on the docket that they're sucking away the DAs' time from prosecuting good cases. Additionally, the recs I've been getting from courtroom DAs, at times, boggle the mind. When clients know a jury almost certainly won't give them more time than the offer and, likely, would give less, what incentive do they have to plead? I certainly would never encourage my clients to take many of the offers I've seen, even when I believe my client will be found guilty. If you want to make the docket numbers go down, start making fair offers that defendants have an incentive to take. It's that simple. And for the love of God, DAs PLEASE start responding to emails and calls. The gaul of Ogg to blame the defense bar for not being responsive... What a joke! I have literally BEGGED for offers and discovery well before court and gotten nothing. Regularly, I email 4 and 5 times before getting a response from DAs if I get one at all. I've counted as many as 10 emails on several occasions before I just gave up and took it up with the DA in front of the judge. Believe me, defense attorneys want to move cases too. But how can we be expected to work out a case when we can't get a response from a DA??? And it's such an office-wide problem. I seem to have this issue no matter what court I deal with. There are certainly some DAs who do a great job of getting back but, as a general rule, my experience has not been positive. I am aware that everyone in the system needs to do their part to make the criminal justice system work and I don't mean to be solely picking on the DAs. We all could improve. However, the DAs are the ones who accept the cases, provide the discovery, make the offers, and have the ability to dismiss the cases. If they aren't effecient at doing any one of those things, the system breaks down. Right now I don't think the DAs office is doing any of these things well. Until they start spending the majority of their time prosecuting the cases that truly matter and stop wasting all of their time on cases that either they can't make or aren't that serious, the backlogs will be here forever. Discretion can go a long way in getting rid of this backlog. I wish the DAs would start to use some.

Anonymous said...

The criminal system in Houston is beyond broken and it is not any one persons fault. The actual reality is that everyone shares in the collapse. Houston/Harris County Leadership is mostly inept. The Mayor, the County Judge, the Chief of Police. According to what is publicly known they have mismanaged money, focused on media coverage of “hot button” issues, and ignored the very real problem of the rise of crime. The DA’s office is incredibly mismanaged by people who have no real passion or heart for justice which is actually very necessary to inspire their workforce to do the soul crushing amount of work that is in front of them. Not to mention the lack of experience that is devastating an office that has seen a 91% rise in murder cases alone since 2019. Now when you combine the complete and under destruction of the DA’s office with the most experienced, knowledgeable, powerful, mostly hard core true believer defense bar what do you expect to get? The defense bar are the ONLY ones doing their jobs well and the system just doesn’t work when only one part of it knows how to be good. The Judges sitting are mostly (with the exception of some very fair minded people) are shockingly unqualified, inexperienced, and lack basic knowledge or understanding of criminal law. Like seriously, what does everyone expect when such a mostly out of touch and openly biased group of people were elected Judges to preside over cases they have never even handled professionally? It is a joke and would be laughable except their inability to understand basic legal constitutional concepts is actually getting people killed all over Harris County every single night. But they don’t care because the real reason Harris County has gone completely down the drain is that the “voters” chose all of this, and they will do it all again. The whole thing is just so sad.

Anonymous said...

So what is happening to the ones on probation who violate the terms of their probation?
Are these liberal judges issuing MRP warrants or are their probationers running around doing what they want?

Murray Newman said...

Anon July 12,
It depends on the violation. They will issue the warrants on new law violations and absconders. They aren't doing them so much on dirty UAs. They are bringing people in for conferences on less serious violations. It's definitely not a scenario where they are throwing people in prison as the answer to even small violations. That's a good thing.

Anonymous said...

I'm so done with the peanut butter gallery of local Republicans using the fact the Constitution requires reasonable bail as a political football against the current slate of Democratic judges. Being Democratic doesn't make them bad judges. There's far worse characteristics when it comes to judges so why not make a better argument? Because people who know nothing about our legal system get to vote for judges. Dumbest idea ever. It's insulting that I have to appear in front of some of these demagogues - just because they have the money to illegally litter their campaign signs in the public right of way. And now since the Republicans are seemingly gone forever in Harris County, new candidates with no prior party loyalties have no compunction about putting that big "D" right next to their smiling face in said illegally placed campaign signs.

In the bail bond handbook published by the Texas Association of Counties, it even neutrally states that bail is necessary as a practical matter to keep the jail population down. This is the real nuts and bolts of running a county. Most conservative voters don't know better, but the people perpetuating this BS certainly do.

With COVID bringing real, unmasked, and in person criminal jury trials to a halt (and even more importantly, civil debt collection as well), it was bound to happen that the jail would fill up. So you have to make choices about who you really need to keep in there.

One annoying example of this phenomenon is the murder of Corey Lennard Thompson. The family is trying to make so much political hay out of their dead son by bringing up the issue that the guy accused of murder was out on bond. The only thing he was out on bond for was some chickenshit assault case where he punched a dude over a dispute about girl. What is a judge supposed to do? Keep him locked up for two, three years until we can get to a misdemeanor assault trial? Most people haven't even thought through it this far.

Hey boomer, you're not for "law and order" if you tear down our legal system just because judges from the opposing party do their mandatory public duty in setting bail. If you're a real conservative, stop complaining about the fact bail exists. You want bail to disappear because you're desperate to make short term political gains in county politics? Be careful what you wish for.

Anonymous said...

Just one more thing...I miss especially the days Murray and Todd Dupont did Reasonable Doubt under the auspices of the HCCLA. God those shows were fun. Especially the candidates from the DAs race in 2012. The raw nature of the call-ins too. Back when Todd should have let Murray borrow half his beard for his head. Good times, man, wish ya'll were still doing it. All I can say is...Lloyd Oliver 2024!!!

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