Thursday, August 27, 2009

Comfort the Disturbed, and Disturb the Comforted

Well, I guess all of you Lykos haters are going to have one more thing to hate her for.

I don't know anything about what happened other than what I read in Kennedy's blog, but I'm glad to see the establishment is on notice that things are not business as usual.

Look out ADA's, you might just be next if you keep failing to disclose evidence...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Another Exoneration

Well it's not a case from Texas, but this is a good example of how widespread the problem of junk science in criminal courts is.

Although arguably, fibers "resembling" other fibers and an ass print on the side of a truck aren't exactly science. If judges were honest, cases this vague would be dismissed outright. Too bad most judges are former prosecutors who have been indoctrinated on the way to close cases with or without good evidence, and the rules of evidence seem to be suspended in favor of the prosecution in their courtrooms.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Social Contract Refresher

`We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common Defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.'

Guess which part of this is relevant to some of the most pressing issues out there today. It's about time Republicans stop ignoring people once they're past the abortion risk, and start caring about them as citizens.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Looks Like The Harris County DA Forgot to Destroy All the DNA...

I know I said I was done, but I guess someone in Houston needs to point out that people continue to be exonerated in Harris County. Grits, referencing the New York Times, points out another HPD crime lab fiasco.

This story may have appeared in the Chronicle or elsewhere locally, but I haven't noticed it. I haven't looked too hard though.

Many believe that a regional crime lab may eliminate this problem. I don't think it'll go away until we start prosecuting DA's who prosecute despite such exculpatory evidence.

They didn't know it was exculpatory, you say (I'm looking at you Seaton)? Well, how can a prosecutor push a case where he hasn't examined the evidence? He doesn't know forensics, you say? Then he shouldn't be a DA.

This evidence was obviously exculpatory. Hell, the serology didn't even match, and that's far less specific than DNA. If the blood type doesn't even match, or secreter v. non-secreter is off, then how in the world can they prosecute that case?

Because they want to close a file, and have no interest in justice.

I look forward to any response from the ADA's out there that doesn't include derogatory name calling. Honestly, please explain why this prosecutor and lab tech shouldn't be prosecuted for sending an innocent man to prison for 23 years. Anyone who can justify this is about as un-American as a person can possibly be.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Montaue County Sheriff Update

Aw, mannnn. The former Sheriff of Montague County who ran a whorehouse for a jail just pulled a Ken Lay.

What a cop out.

Charles Hood Update

Looks like Charles Hood might get a new trial.

It's interesting that the state's argument isn't that the affair between a judge and a prosecutor is improper, it's that the affair was common knowledge and therefore the defendant just waited too long to bring it up on appeal.

What a load. All this talk about safety, and justice, and fighting for what's right, and the lawyers for the state can only slavishly parrot procedural rules and not concede to what would truly be justice in this case. Kind of reminiscent of the State of Texas arguing to the Supreme Court of the United States that it's OK to execute someone later proven to be actually innocent because he's already had his trial.

Prosecutors have a long way to go before they have any real idea of what justice actually is.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

More Brady Violations

I've mentioned before that it's tough to write in the same area that Scott Henson does because you can't find a light post, tire, or fire hydrant in the neighborhood that he hasn't peed on already, and here's another excellent example.

I posted briefly on Gary Alvin Richard's case yesterday, but Scott's post takes it one step further.

It now appears that the crime lab had several conflicting results, but only reported results that they deemed favorabel to a conviction. Even based on technology existing at the time Richards could have been excluded based on the secreter/non-secreter results. But those were trashed until over 100 cases were recently dusted off to verify HPD crime lab results.

Now, if you're up on this subject you'll remember that Chuck Rosenthal adamantly opposed a review of these cases. So it's telling that we got a hit so early in the process, and today an innocent man has been freed. It's also telling that the DA's office is somewhat equivocating on whether or not this shows actual innocence. I guess they're still using the Roy Criner case as an example of what they think they can get away with at the CCA. To his credit, the defense lawyer praised the DA's office for their cooperation.

The real question: Who's the real bad guy in this one? Without a doubt the crime lab techs are, because they provided false evidence. BUT--did the crime lab tell the DA about all of the conflicting results back in '87? If so, and they withheld it, I think this case is one that gets a DA convicted for withholding Brady material and sending an innocent man to prison.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Jury Suggestion

I'm going to have to read the Austin paper a little more often, it's chock full o' goodies. Like this little gem, where a judge doesn't particularly mind the fact that a juror personally contacted the son of the murder victim in he case in which he's serving as a juror. Now, that's a fairly clear violation of the Jury Charge, but everyone seems to be looking the other way.

The juror says: "I was convinced by that conversation that the defendant should get life in prison and not be sentenced to death."

The judge says: "Instructions schminstructions, I see no problem here."

Bonus: In Harris County the state would be kicking and screaming about this, because they couldn't give the guy the needle.

No matter who came out better, the fact is that personal conversations with witnesses, the son of a murder victim no less, was highly improper. What is it with Austin sentencing hearings? From prosecutors hiding witnesses to jurors talking to witnesses, they just can't seem to get it right.

Dear Arthur Seaton: Here's Another Example For You, You Lying Sack Of [Redacted]

Here's another nail in the coffin for your constant claims that nothing needs to be done to improve the way forensic evidence is used in criminal trials.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Proof That Republicans Are Institutionally Stupid

And I don't mean your every day Republican, most of those guys are just simpletons who have been duped into voting Republican because they bought into the lie that Republicans care about the average Joe--neither party really does. But, by "institutional" I mean the GOP, and those who blindly press its agenda without reason or thought.

Exhibit A: Babara Bachmann, who like Rush Limbaugh believes that Obama spread the swine flu to the US. On top of that, she says it's funny that Obama and Carter both had it hit the US during their terms--when it wasn't Carter, it was Ford. And what does she think, God hit the US with the swine flu because we elected a Democrat? That's one weak-ass God who afflicts us with a plague that doesn't kill anyone. Hell, at least when Robertson an Falwell blamed 9/11 on The Gays people actually died.

Bachmann, please die now. Thanks.

Prosecutors: Desperately Seeking Exceptions

While it would seem obvious to most lawyers that you shouldn't be able to search a person's vehicle incident to arrest using the officer's safety as an excuse when the guy is in handcuffs and already in the police car, and then based on the results of that search arrest the guy for something unrelated to why you pulled them over in the first place, it took the US Supreme Court to tell the various states that in the future they'd probably better make up better excuses to violate the 4th Amendment.

There have been several discussions around the blogs on what Gant means, but mostly from the defense side. Is there a difference between the two perspectives? Not really, but it's just interesting to see the same discussion from the prosecutor's side.

There's not a whole lot of gnashing of teeth, because as a few prosecutors point out they always have the inventory exception. So, never fear cops and prosecutors, you just have to wait until the "inventory search" (yet another exception that has helped swallow the rule, assuming you actually have any belief in the Constitution) before searching a vehicle for evidence and arresting the guy for something that had nothing to do with the broken tail light or unsafe lane change that you pulled him over for in the first place.

God forbid you do your work ahead of time and actually get a warrant for evidence of the crime that you're really searching for when you pulled the guy over in a pretextual stop in the first place. Restoring the 4th Amendment completely would just make your jobs too darn hard, I guess.

On a side note, there are plenty of other gems in prosecutors' comments on various topics. One poster claims to have challenged defense lawyers to post some of the most often witnessed ethical violations by defense lawyers, but nobody took him up on it. Imagine that, on a board more biased than FOX News people don't want to contribute grapeshot to the cannon that will only make them fodder. The same guy goes on to note that he's more than happy to present prosecutors' weaknesses, and includes Brady violations as the number one violation by prosecutors. I imagine Arthur Seaton will be crying himself to sleep based on that revelation. But the real catcher--the guy used Ted Stevens as his example! Sure, what was done to Stevens is worthy of investigation and if necessary prosecution. But that kind of thing happens on a daily basis across the country and Harris County is certainly no stranger to it, but there's no way a prosecutor is going to admit that evidence was withheld from the average black criminal defendant. I mean, Canadians are never wronged at trial, but Republican Senators? Man, those guys are persecuted every time.

For Chrissakes Mexico, Not Everything Is Our Fault

I guess Mexico sees that Obama is traveling up and down this hemisphere conceding to complaints of third world leaders, so they're now blaming the swine flu on us. What, weren't our guns killing you fast enough? Oh yeah, the triggers were being pulled by Mexicans. But we all know that you won't blame yourself for your own problems, so go ahead and go after whitey up north for everything. I guess I'm going to have to start blaming Canada for snow.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Chuck Rosenthal Couldn't Be Bothered To Track Down 600 Murderers

I'm iffy on Lykos, I'll admit. She's made marginal advances toward her campaign promises, and some, like providing the offense reports that were already open to defendants, are of marginal benefit. She's made no gains on diversifying the office, but I could care less about that. If black/Hispanic/other lawyers will make good prosecutors, hire them. If not, don't. Her statements to the press and some of her in-house antics have been objectly stupid. But, all you usually hear is complaining no matter who's in charge, and I still think that most of the people leaving to date are leaving not because they can't do their jobs but because they are so entrenched with the Rosenthal era that they're used to doing whatever they want and having no one question them on it. So when they think they're going to have to play on a level field they're taking their ball and going home. Can't have that conviction rate dropped by a diverse jury, or providing all of that Brady material you know.

But if they have all of these huge arguments against Lykos, and to date I haven't seen any big ones that weren't really indicative of any new administration, what do they have to say about Lykos inheriting over 600 open murder cases from Rosenthal and Holmes, who evidently couldn't be bothered to follow up on them? I guess Rosenthal wasn't such a go-getter after all. Say what you want about Lykos in some areas, at least she's trying to go after this obscenely huge list of murderers that Rosenthal couldn't be bothered to track down.

Around the blogs anonymous ADA's are screaming and wailing about how unsafe Harris County citizens will be now that Lykos is in charge, which makes absolutely no sense when Rosenthal the Messiah was sitting on the files of some 600 murderers.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Pat Lykos Arrested?

I can't vouch for its authenticity, and quite honestly it seems a little fishy to me, but it appears that Pat Lykos has been arrested. Looks like the cops got to her before she had a chance to spruce up for the day.

Never Fear, Cuba Is Here...

I must confess that in my personal dealings with mayors across the state, few are as earth-shakingly stupid as Galveston's mayor. This is the same moron who decided that the evacuation for Rita really sucked, so she wouldn't make anyone leave for Ike, the largest and deadliest storm to hit the island since 1909. In fact, I saw her on television telling people not to leave because she thought the highways were worse than a hurricane. She also didn't explain to the morons on her island that years ago computer models showed the escape routes being blocked before the sea wall would be crested. Meaning that by the time her uneducated and ill-prepared citizens, largely due to her incompetence, thought to themselves "Duuuuuuuuuude, the water's gettin' high, I better get out of here..." the roads off the island were already gone.

So is it any real surprise that she ignored Bill White's urgings to evacuate yet is now trying to learn from Cuba? Let me guess--the response to anything by a militaristic dictator is to throw soldiers at it.

(Reads article.)

Yep. Wow, good luck with that. Seeing as how we've thrown all of our soldiers to the Middle East and lowered our recruiting standards to fat, old, injured criminals, my bet is that the soldiers guarding the island (assuming the feds can get them there in time) are as likely to loot the place as the people who already live there. Although, if those still on the island are 12 year old black girls playing in their front yards, the Galveston PD can lock them up. Assuming they don't get their asses beat by the girls, like the last time.

Dear Houston Chronicle: We Get It Already

We know, we know, Texas is a leading source of guns in Mexico. But guess what, Mexico is a leading source of drugs and illegal immigrants in the U.S.

Is it just your anti-gun stance that makes you recycle this story and slap a new date on it just to keep it closer to the top? How about a story on the fact that the guns were being imported by Mexicans? Or used by Mexicans? Against other Mexicans?

You think the place of purchase is the most news-worthy part of this story? In reporting on the DWI problem in Texas do you write about the evil beer stores?

You know, if Mexico didn't oppose tightening security at the border every step of the way, maybe both sides of the border would be safer.

Interestingly enough, there is plenty of information out there about how Mexico treats immigrants along its southern border. Ever think to ask why Mexico cracks down on its own immigration problem yet facilitates illegal immigration into the US?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

If You're a Catholic Parent in Galveston...

...I'd be a little worried right now. Cardinal DiNardo is corraling all of your kids into one convenient location for his priests.

We all know this is a money-saving plan, which is interesting given the new monstrosity in Houston that looks more like a prison than a cathedral. Oh well, with fewer parishes there will be fewer priests, and that's a good thing for Galveston kids.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

More HPD False Evidence

The title of this one is unimaginative, but I couldn't really think of a creative way to explain yet another corrupt link in the chain of Harris County Justice. I wish I could say it was unusual that Harris County DWI cases are highly suspect, except that just a few months ago about 2,600 other cases were thrown into doubt because a technician wasn't calibrating the breathalyzer machines like she claimed.

The new 13-county crime lab has been much-touted for use in DNA testing, and when DNA evidence is involved in a case it is crucial for both the prosecution to ensure they've got the right guy and the defense to expose it if they don't, but this is yet another case that shows that there's plenty of room to improve all procedures where evidence is an issue--in other words, in every case.

Simple Justice has an excellent follow-up on the Ted Stevens debacle that demonstrates this exact same issue at a different level. In Stevens' case the judge accepted the prosecutors' statements as per se truth, because they're the government and we all know the government wouldn't lie. This most recent HPD issue is more of a bottom-up problem, because cops on the stand are accepted as speaking The Word of God by juries, and they are accepted as credible even in cases like this where they clearly should not be. Why? Just because.

Criminal law is the last bastion of junk science in the courthouse. John Edwards made millions off of it in civil cases in an area that has been soundly discredited, and it has long been fought out in civil courts that scientific processes should apply to expert testimony. But in criminal trials we have only recently begun to expose the junk science of arson testimony, the Texas legislature is only now attempting to limit the use of faulty eye-witness procedures (that's not truly scientific, but their arguments related to why we need change are supported by actual science), and maybe someday we'll get to a point where we don't convict someone based on a cop looking into someone's eyes and claiming they moved funny so they know the defendant was intoxicated.

Especially when that cop shouldn't be trusted in the first place.

When Will Blacks Get Thier Own Quarters Too?

Sure, we all know what they were trying to do here, but come on, housing for gays? I don't see my alma mater ever doing that, or even adopting a don't ask don't tell policy, and it's not like there are only eight gay people on TCU. Good grief, last I heard TCU and SMU were about 30-40% gay. Although I hear they're one man down, now that Arthur Seaton has graduated.

Here's my favorite part: "Well I’ve been trying to create a safe space on campus for the queer community,” Newkirk said...

Queer? Could I say that and not face a torrent of queer anger? And, "safe?" Is the TCU area covered with roaming bands of queer bashers? I'd understand that issue if we were talking about A&M, but TCU? The horned frogs? Any notion that this is required for safety's sake is just plain stupid. Queer, even. Maybe he should start his training to be a waiter at Barnaby's, he wouldn't need anybody's protection then.

What's In A Name?

Alright, look, I'm all for things like denying drivers' licenses to illegal immigrants and requiring photo identification at the polls. I'm even for making English the official language and requiring remedial English courses as a condition of citizenship or long-term visas.

But this woman has to be one of the most backward-ass people I've ever heard about. What fundamental ignorance she must have to think that people should have to change their name so her simpleton self could more easily deal Asians. The article even comes complete with the "your people" quote that most racists know to avoid. But not this racist, she has to say it on the record, to a person of Asian descent, and during House testimony on the voter ID bill. What a horrible human being this woman must be.

I'm not sure why the name has anything to do with it, if it's also a picture ID. She never outright says that "they all look alike to me," but you know that's only because she wasn't given enough time to speak. I'm sure it was next on her list.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Well I'll Be Dipped in [redacted]

I just knew this was going to get swept under the rug. There was no doubt in my mind. But evidently, there's at least one grand jury out there making some sense.

Now getting a Harris County jury to convict is entiely different, and we have yet to hear whether or not the fact that Tolan's car was "reported stolen" was a complete crock of [redacted], but I bet it'll all come out in the wash. If that cop lied about the report of a stolen car, his hand has been caught in the cookie jar. If not it's going to be a closer call, although the shooting itself should be able to stand alone as a disgrace and a crime.

Good for Tolan, and good for the rest of us to have a little light shone on Bellaire PD's tactics.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Officer Salter Update

Glad to hear HPD officer Salter is out of the hospital and on the road to recovery.

A little advice from your buddy Rage: don't ride a bike past any eight year olds, and always file a written motion asking that DNA evidence be tested--even when they "mistakenly" tell you there isn't any.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

How To Eat An Elephant

Illegal Immigration is something that neither national political party wants to deal with (one of them wants voters, the other, cheap labor), and something that almost every citizen wants to have addressed. Whether you want deportation, incarceration, amnesty, or something in between, you want something done about it.

Will a wall be the best answer? How about raiding employers that have a propensity to hire illegals? Or how about cleaning out the jails, where we already know there are illegal immigrants who aren't being properly dealt with?

The answer: Yes.

One of the few things John McCain ever said on the campaign trail that made sense was in 2004 (let's face it, the best thing he had going for hin in '08 was that he was white) when he said that we "shouldn't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." I don't remember what he was talking about, but his 'let's do something that helps with a problem, even if we don't solve the problem 100%' was a pragmatic approach that can help with just about every problem known to man. With immigration, a wall won't stop everything because we know they come through the checkpoints en masse. Tougher checkpoints won't do it, because they'll return to the remote areas en masse. Going after employers alone won't do it because there are always enough employers who can fly under the radar with contract labor and sub-contractors, and cities like Houston will be more than happy to enable the day laborers. Raiding workers alone won't do it because there is an endless stream of replacements. Amnesty? That just ain't right according to the majority of the people. Even people who are for easier immigration aren't for blanket immunity.

So the answer is to do some of all of them. No one thing will work, but a comprehensive approach that does better at attacking all facets of the problem will have a cumulative effect that doing one or two things alone won't even come close to (save for outright immunity). And if you've read some of my local posts about immigration in Houston, you know that illegal immigrants in our jails are often let back out on the street at a time when they could be conveniently deported.

So I was encouraged to read that Pat Lykos is insisting that criminal defendants disclose their immigration status. And why not? If they are here legally, they get a free pass to a plea bargain and everything goes on as always. If they are here illegally, we start the process of deportation. According to the Chronicle stories on this subject, many freely admit to being here illegally but we've done nothing about it citing a lack of training and other issues like the difficulty in cross-decking information with ICE. Well, now we're doing something about it.

Nobody is forcing them to lie, for which they would face other penalties, and if they take the 5th the state would simply do their own work in verifying the immigration status of the defendant. ICE says that the impact on their work will be minimal. Shoot, it might even make their jobs easier, if you ask me, because the leg work of verifying status will be done. In general, it just means that although it can solve many issues in Harris County, it won't be a significant burden on ICE.

Some may look at that as a reason not to do this, but, that's short sighted. This program is just one more bite of the elephant. And if we can't eat the elephant one bite at a time, we'll never eat it.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

When Guns Are Outlawed...

One of the worst things you can do is make a law in response to a single incident. Whether it be the Patriot Act in response to 9/11, making dog-napping illegal because one mayor in the Valley had his dog stolen, or banning guns on college campuses because of the Virginia Tech massacre, ad hoc laws are almost universally bad.

I'm not your usual Democrat. I'm pro-death penalty (if done right), I want to drastically step up efforts to eliminate illegal immigration at the border and by going after employers, and I would be more than happy to damn near close the borders altogether in order to stem our third world growth rate (of course, even the Republian Party is is pro-illegal immigration), I'm pro-life (as far as my personal beliefs, anyway, I could care less about other people), and I will be God-damned before I give up my guns. Sure, I think the 2nd Amendment can be reasonably regulated like any other amendment. Hell, the exceptions to the 4th, 5th, and 6th Amendments pretty much swallow the rules so the 2nd is most likely no different.

But how and when should it be regulated? I'm not talking about nukes, grenades, or fully automatic weapons, I'm talking about guns that people use to protect themselves. The action you take to regulate guns has to be related to the result you intend, and we all know from the recent DC case that a complete gun ban in DC has made it no safer, and in fact DC is less safe than almost anywhere. And the guy at VT who shot all of those people was already breaking the law. Did a law stop him? Not a bit. We have laws that say "no guns on campus" and "don't shoot other people" and "murder is illegal". It's even a sin, forchrissakes. So if the Ten Commandments and state and federal laws didn't stop the shooter at VT, what would have?

Someone else with a gun.

I am sympathetic with this guy's stance in a way, because I am sure that being there and having friends and a girlfriend killed was horrible beyond words. I imagine that being defenseless in that situation would be awful. The way to fix that is to make it where people can defend themselves, ot to make it harder. Had people been allowed to carry they could have stood at the doors and defended other students, or affirmatively gone to look for the shooter. Same thing happened at the Killeen Luby's a while back, a woman who normally caried a gun left it in her car that day for some reason. Her dad was shot down right next to her. Had she had it, maybe he wouldn't have been.

I don't personally put any stock in the argument that every time a CCW law is passed crime in that state immediately drops. I do, however, think that if someone is shooting up a crowd of people and someone can shoot back, at least the death toll will be lower. No law will stop someone who will already break a law in order to carry out his or her crime. But my 1911 will.

So I'm sorry for this guy's loss, but I hope he minds his own business and realizes that his personal experience should not dictate that other people should fall victim to a campus shooter because noone can shoot back. The first line in this article shows that this guy sits in class and wonders what would happen of someone came in shoting. If all he can do is sit there, what will happen is that he'll die. If he and others can shoot back, maybe more will live. We already know what happens when an armed attacker shoots a bunch of unarmed students. Let's see if the result changed with armed students.

Full Of It

You might think by the title that this would be about Lykos, and normally you may have been right. Instead, I've decided to take a closer look at a person who is quick to take cheap shots even at his friends, ban people from commenting on his blog just because they disagree with him and call him on his mistakes, and whose off the cuff statements are logically and often legally incorrect. It's a good thing Mark Bennett claims not to blog for profit, because if his clients saw the inaccuracies in his posts they would surely jump ship faster than ADA's in Harris County over the next couple of months.

My first run-in with Bennett was when I said a defendant should probably have had his bail revoked. His response was to claim that the Texas Constitution does not allow a defendant to be held without bail. Ever. He even went so far as to tell me htat it was clear that I'm not a criminal lawyer.

So I figured, man, I must have really put my foot in my mouth. I better research stuff a little better, and I'll start with this because although Mark Bennett is president of one of the largest criminal defense lawyer organizations in the country and he won the prestigious ABA Blog Poll Award (by a whopping 20 or so points with a total nationwide of about 200, but still...), something didn't seem right to me. So, as a non-criminal lawyer it only took me 30 seconds to find out that you can, in fact, be held without bond in Texas. For several reasons, even. Did any of them apply in this case? Who knows, because we didn't have all the facts. But his statement wasn't that it couldn't be done in that particular case, it was that it could never, ever, be done. Wow. It was like learning that there was no Santa Claus. Mark Bennett, MR. Blog, president of the HCCDA (or whatever), was wrong about something? I was crushed.

In all truth, however, I was amused. Who in the Holy Hell is this guy? He's been practicing criminal law for how many years and he thought the state couldn't hold one of his clients without bail? And then he tells me it shows that I'm not a criminal lawyer? Are you kidding me? How can he have been a criminal lawyer for a single day and held that misunderstanding of the law? How could he have gotten out of law school and not known? I quickly realized that he was our local defense attorney version of Sharon Keller. They were both elected to whatever position they hold, and they both blow hard when challenged, but when it comes down to it they both seem to be hacks who don't understand the fundamentals of even their own profession.

Another example was my favorite run in with him, and this is the one that got me banned from his blog and for which he even attempted to have me listed as a spammer for all Wordpress blogs. After threatening to hold prosecutors and even judges accountable for their misconduct by reporting them to the bar and/or Commission on Judicial Conduct our friend was then confronted with exactly the sort of scenario he threatened them about. The funniest part is that it had to do with a motion to hold his client without bail, which he had just recently told me was a legal impossibility in Texas. It seems that an ADA had filed a motion to withhold bail on one of Mark's clients, represented to the court that Mark had been made aware of it, when in fact Mark had never even seen or heard about the motion (and I guess was still under the mistaken impression that no such motion could even be filed in Texas). On top of that, the ADA ex-parte'd the judge and got him to sign the motion. Now, that's one of the most egregious filings I've ever heard about and because Bennett had so recently railed against prosecutors and judges doing such improper things, I felt sure he would make the appropriate authorities aware of it.


When I questioned him on it, he banned me from his blog (which is fine, since I think most readers will agree that I shouldn't be posting on my own blogs, much less others). Just for pointing out that he says one thing should be done by defense lawyers, but when it has to do with him putting his balls on the line, he doesn't do a thing.

And by now you may be thinking that these mistakes must be isolated events, right? Well, as it turns out, Houston's top defender didn't even know that if a judge sustains a Batson challenge the CCP says that a new jury has to be empanelled. So, he doesn't know that a defendant can be held without bail, and now doesn't know the cure for race-based strikes by a DA? Is this guy really a criminal defense lawyer AT ALL? Bail is one of the first steps in a criminal prosecution, and jury selection is the first step in a trial (not counting pre-trial), and he doesn't know the ins and outs of either? Now, I'll grant you that I didn't know that the judge has the discretion to excuse the entire panel either, but the statute that mandates it is is in the Code of CRIMINAL Procedure. You know, the code that criminal lawyers operate within as a part of their job. Something the HNIC should be aware of, right? I'll remember it from now on, but I'm a civil lawyer. Why doesn't a criminal lawyer know the proper way to fix Batson violations?

So I gotta' tell ya that if Mark Benett says you're not a ciminal lawyer, or that you fail miserably at thinking like a defense lawyer (that was, in my opinion, the biggest chicken-shit pot shot he's taken at anyone), I wouldn't be offended. And this was only a couple of posts that I could easily recall as being miserably incorrect. I'm guessing that if you looked harder, you could find more.

Maybe he should stick to posts about Zen. That way, when he argues with someone and tells them they completely misunderstand what he's saying, at least there will be room for interpretation. And as a side note to Mr. Bennett, if people don't understand what you're saying, and it happens often, maybe the message, and not the reader, is the problem. That certainly seems to be the problem with the very few criminal law posts you've actually made.

Wrongful Convictions in MY Courthouse? It's More Likely Than You Think.

I've often said that Harris County gets to run roughshod over defendants (I even deleted a post yesterday on Leitner's recent morale/training efforts, and why they aren't necessary because of how easy it is to get a conviction here), so it was no surprise to see this case get overturned. Well, it was a surprise to see it overturned, since I'm sure it wouldn't have had the CCA been the last word on it, but the underlying facts are no surprise. That it involves another Kelly Siegler case makes yet another of my points--that she as often as anyone had to rely on bad evidence or other tricks to get the convictions. She goes so far as to say that she "tried" to use the statements of a co-conspirator with his cooperation, but I guess when he refused she used them anyway. Now let's see, if you "try" to use them appropriately, but can't and decide to use them anyway, isn't that what we call "inappropriate"? And in criminal trials, inappropriate usually means unconstitutional.

You don't think presenting a case to a grand jury three times is a dirty trick? You'e probably a prosecutor. Or someone similarly happy to sign over their rights because the government is "always right." How about that the third time you presented the case to the grand jury just so happened to coincide with a similar and nationally pulicized case in California, allowing you to finally get that indictment that you couldn't get twice before? Harris County may be the only place in America where it's harder to indict a ham sandwich than convict one. As long as Siegler could get the case past that pesky grand jury, she knew she could get the guy convicted (with the help of excluding a few Canadians...).

In this particular case the dirty tricks include using an illegally obtained confession and prventing the defendant from being able to confront his accuser. Doesn't sound like a dirty trick to you? Then you don't know your Bill of Rights. And you're probably still a prosecutor.

I say we bring Siegler back to see if she can get a conviction without violating at least two Constitutional rights.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Stimulate Me. Please.

I have to admit, I have a thing for Lisa Falkenberg. Her nerdy goodness is the gift that keeps on giving every time I see her picture in the paper. Of course, I hope she's not doing what lawyers do and that she hasn't submitted a 20 year old picture for her bio so that in real life she'd be unrecognizeable. But it's not like I'm going to meet her, so I'll just keep up the illusion, which I hope is the truth.

And of course, since the last article that I read of hers was about Texas prosecuting dildo lovers (say hi to your mom for me, Seaton), it's kind of funny to me that this story is about the stimulus plan.

Not just because of the word 'stimulus,' but also because Perry's sticking it in the kiester of every unemployed Texan out there.

Falkenberg's analysis of what Texas would have to do to accept the stimulus is the first real one I've seen, and she makes some fantastic points. I mean, God forbid that Texas unemployment practices come into the computer age. Or that we help part-time workers who have been laid off. That would be just awful.

Falkenberg's suggestion that any changes be repealed in the future was the first thing I thought of when Perry started bitching about the future costs. Change what they require, then scrap what you don't like at a later date. Hell, write the statute to automatically expire at a certain date. Duh.

And all this business about "raising taxes on businesses" is hilarious to me. Perry pushed for the single largest tax increase on Texas businesses in our history, even taxing partnerships that should be exempt from state taxes based on the flow-through nature of their income based on IRS regs.

I never thought I'd say this, but bring on Kay Bailey. At least she'd look for ways to take over half a billion dollars that Texans could really use, as opposed to trying to act like he gives a damn about taxing business, which he's done more than any other governor, ever.

Talk about dildos.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Hasn't The Matrix Made It To Telemundo?

Why investigate stupid?

You don't see people following Seaton around, why are they wasting time and money investigating what this guy did?

HPD, here's the answer:

a. Everybody falls on the first jump.
b. He thought he could jump farther than he was able to.
c. All of the above.

I'll bill you later.

Witnesses? We Don't Need No Steenking Witnesses

Too bad this case didn't go to trial in Harris County, where we didn't even have a policy to test all the evidence in a case until this year.

11 witnesses would be more than enough for the needle in Houston. Hell, we don't need any here. Even when you ask for DNA? "There isn't any in the file." Sorry.

But we'll be convicting your client on no evidence anyway. kthxbye.

The Goat

Nobody likes to be the bad guy. And nobody I know would ever argue that when defense lawyers screw up, they shouldn't be disciplined, or even disbarred. But for Keller to point the finger at a lawyer who was following known practices when she violated the CCA's rules is absurd. Doesn't matter where you point your crooked finger Judge Keller, you're still the goat in your own personal scandal.

On a side note, I see that several DA apologists around the blogs are taking advantage of the rash of late filings that impacted various defendants.

How exactly does that excuse DA's from knowingly withholding evidence? I have no idea, but it seems to make sense in their little pea-brains. I have yet to see anyone take the defense lawyers' sides, either. But no mention of that.

I guess there's goats all around on this topic, but the only ones defending their goats are the DA's. Incidently, their knowing conduct of a DA who withholds evidence is more eggregious than any defense lawyer's negligence, but I guess they can't see that issue either. They're too busy banging their goats.

Equal Justice?

Where is the "cops who commit crimes are treated like everyone else" crowd when you need them?

And of course I ask this knowing that if and when they come flailing in here they won't have anything constructive to say, just that I'm a dumbass non-criminal lawyer, but it's always fun to rub their noses in stuff like this.

So, a cop makes bail, but is ordered to counseling. When's the last time a non-cop even made bail in a bank robbery, much less had a judge express concern over their mental health? Aren't the pro-cop folks usually the ones saying we don't need health care, much less psychological care, in jail?

Do As I Say...

So America is expected to keep drugs out and guns in, but Mexico isn't supposed to keep drugs in and guns out?

I don't get it. I hear it from the Mexican apologists and the "legalize it" crowd all the time, and although I'm for decriminalization of pot I just can't get on their bandwagon. Sure, we're the market for it. And one argument is that if there was no market, there would be no drugs. But maybe if they did better at not producting them, we'd buy less and there would be less of a drug problem in Mexico? Just a thought.

I can't wait for the day that Mexico assumes the amount of responsibility that they demand from us.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Well That's Odd...

I was once told that there were no circumstances, ever, under which the Texas Constitution would permit a defendant to be held without bail.

I think it was even some internet-famous president of some criminal law organization that said it.

Doesn't speak well of the leadership of Houston's criminal defense lawyers.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Now if the Republicans Will Stop the Voter Suppression...

...we'll have complete voting reform.

Good job, legislature. We've needed this for a while.

I guess a broken clock really is right twice a day...

It's Never Free, But... I the only one eagerly awaiting the public disclosure of THE LIST?

I didn't see "judges" on the list, but man wouldn't that be a hoot? Come on now, my DA brothers and sisters, all that "you guys suck" stuff was just me goofin' around. Hook me up with the list! I know you guys are all going down there looking to see who's on it.

SHHHHH! This is a Moment of No Learning!

We're supposed to believe that this is to promote religious freedom? Come on now.

As if the all-white all-Christian folks promoting the addition of the word "prayer" into the Moment of Silence Law (and the original promoters of the law in he first place), are tolerant folks.

It's bad enough that schools are eliminating physical fitness, art and music classes as it is, they're content to just sit still instead of learning. Not to mention the amount of money we must have spent defending this POS law in the first place.

Teachers are bad enough at teaching math and science, do we really want them making further inroads into teaching religion? If this goes further and the "Bible as history" classes are next up, do you want some schmuck with little more than a basic understanding of the subject that they went to school for teaching your kids about God?

And I won't hold my breath for the "Koran as History" classes from these tolerant folks.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

But she has an irresistable urge to grow up to be a Prosecutor...

Couldn't resist this story of a toddler living through a three story fall.

In other news, I'm bored today.

For Sale: Justice

I'll be interested to hear how our pro-business Republican types justify this. You know, the ones that say eye-for-an-eye, or "some people just need killin'" every time a death penalty case comes down the pipe.

British Petroleum "resolves" criminal charges by paying $50 million.

So our scenarious are thus:

BP executives know that explosions are common, nay, likely, without a very simple and inexpensive device that ignites fumes in order to keep them from pooling and exploding with an accidental ignition source. They refuse to equip a plant with a terrible safety record with the inexpensive device, despite recommendations to do so that cite the explosion hazard and the ease with which it can be remedied. Then they run the plant 24/7 at the highest possible capacity. Several people die in the very type of explosion they were warned about.

As opposed to, say, this:

A man walks into a bar. He's got a duck in one hand, and a bomb in the other. He knows the bomb will detonate if he sets the timer. He sets the bomb and leaves, and kills several people.

Question: In which of these two instances should the person making the decision to create the hazardous condition be able to buy his way out of jail time?

Answer: Neither.

But if you're a BP executive, you're lucky, because you get a free ride.

Lady Justice, I hope they at least gave you some lube first.

Her foes have become her masters...

...her enemies are at ease.
The LORD has brought her grief
because of her many sins.
Her children have gone into exile,
captive before the foe.

Oh, the lamentations that must be occurring at the Harris County DA's office right now. The wringing of hands, the gnashing of teeth. The pointing of fingers.

Lykos is on the way to enacting what I see to be one of the single largest steps toward justice that Harris County has seen in a long time: actually testing and relying on forensic evidence.

Why wasn't this a policy already? Why would Rosenthal rather destroy a bank full of DNA evidence in a race against the clock to prevent exonerations? Why would current (and past) ADA's rather have Rosenthal-Siegler, who might never have progressed toward actually trying to ensure the integrity of their convictions, as opposed to Lykos, who, love her or hate her, is at least letting the sun shine on practices at the HCDAO?

Accountability. That's why. Rosenthal wanted to make sure his convictions would never be questioned, going so far as to delay the investigation into cases where a question arose as to the defendant's actual innocence, and interfered with attempts to investigate the Houston Crime Lab while knowingly relying on convictions from the lab that was producing false evidentiary reports. Rosenthal and his followers have for years hid behind the coward's defense of "He's guilty, a jury said so." Sure they did. Because in many cases evidence was withheld, sometimes intentionally and in others unintentionally, or the crime lab faked it, or any number of other reasons.

Lykos promised to clean house, and while I have no idea if the prosecutors who have left to date are actually guilty of some of the above-listed (crimes, in some cases) failures, the fact is that the office in general needed to adopt more safeguards. But that would mean scrutiny, and more work, to which they are loathe to subject themselves.

Now, the question of a prosecutor, cop, or crime lab intentionally destroying, hiding, or falsifying evidence can never be 100% prevented if they want to do it. But this is an important (first) step in making sure that convictions in Harris County are based on actual evidence, not the whim or faulty work of a cop, investigator, or prosecutor.

As for the passage at the top of this story, it will be interpreted differently by those on different sides of this issue (although we should all be on the same side of this one). As for me, let's just say that daylight is the enemy of darkness, and leave it at that.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

An Open Letter to Mayor White

Dear Mayor White:

I sincerely hope that you will be our next Senator. I would rather have had you as a governor, but I understand not wanting to butt heads with Kay Bailey's money. She has become increasingly moderate over the years anyway, and let's face it--anyone that Rick Perry launches an all-out offensive against has got to have something going for her. Just don't go anywhere near her when she's got a phone book in her hands.

However. I am, for lack of a better word, offended by your statements that the federal government isn't doing enough to rid our country of illegals who commit crimes.

In your run-up to your campaign, you're stoking fears that immigrants are out there and committing crimes left and right. That you do it in a story related to the shooting of a police officer is brilliant, I'll give you that. It panders to the police officer unions, who traditionally go Republican, and to tough on crime Republicans, some of who may vote for you because many are centrists and unlike Obama you're a white man so the racial divide in Texas won't be as great for you as it was for him. Hell, your name is White, so you stand to make out pretty well. So, good job pandering to the right.

However, in doing so you betray not only your own history, but the facts. Sure, ICE is falling down on the job and is doing more to go after the big group arrests of immigrant workers and ignoring the criminals in the jails, but for God's sakes you're the mayor of one of the largest sanctuary cities in the country. The policies of this city are far more culpable for not attempting to identify illegals who commit crimes than ICE ever could be. And of course, let's not forget that despite your scare mongering illegal aliens actually commit fewer crimes than American Citizens do. While simpletons are quick to point out that "just being here is breaking the law" (hi Tenderfoot), the fact is that illegal immigrants don't commit the crimes that we worry the most about as often as we like to think they do. They're just low-hanging fruit for politicians because they can't defend themselves. It's like picking on the smallest kid in class, or debating with Arthur Seaton, or even asking Mark Bennet to grow some balls and do what he threatens to do until it actually happens to him. You know you're going to win, because they're ill equipped for whatever you're confronting them with.

So, you're either intentionally scare mongering or you're terribly uninformed (like the general public), but either way you're wrong. Add to that your cognitive dissonance and the city's culpability for being a city known for turning the other cheek on illegal immigration, and you have a problem in this upcoming election.

Yes, I understand that federal law prohibits cities from deporting illegal immigrants. But does it prevent you from identifying them and turning them over to the feds? Nope. You can't enforce federal immigration law, but you can identify those who break it and turn them over to those who can. What do you do instead? You declare Houston to be a sanctuary (i.e. "safe" for illegals) and implement day centers so they can all congregate in one place and find work. (Dear ICE: I know where you can find a bunch of illegal aliens, hint hint...)

When you do more to identify illegal aliens and coordinate their deportation than you do for helping them feel safe here, I'll feel better about your stance on this issue. Your time's running out though.

P.S.: Thanks for the call the other day. See you next week.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Where Is Your God Now?

Obviously, shooting just about anybody is wrong. But if you're going to shoot someone, and there's not a lawyer around to be shot, the next best thing is prbably a Baptist preacher. Even better that it was some mega-church.

Now rest easy folks, I happen to be a Believer and attend church regularly. But I have the utmost disdain for mega churches and the Catholic Church because they are generally backwards and wasteful. Backwards because when religion gets involved in too many aspects of life the reult is generally bad. Remember the Dark Ages? Thanks, Catholics.

And of course religion is a good thing. Hell, the lack of it can be good. But when bad people hide behind religion you get things like the Spanish Inquisition--at a time when you least expect it. Nowadays you get the Catholic Church telling people in Africa that condoms actually spread AIDS, to keep people from using them--preaching abstinince when even a dullard like Sarah Palin has come to discover that it doesn't work. We also get people being thrown in jail because they're selling vibrators in Texas, or people flying planes into buildings so they can go have 72 virgins in the afterlife. And that has to be the oddest religious interpretation of all, because virgins are horrible in the sack. Jerry Falwell gets to call for the death of all Muslims in the Name of the Lord, and Pat Robertson gets to call for the assassination of world leaders and blames 9/11 on America loving gays.

But on a more local and immediate leel, all of that money thrown into mega-churches, or that keeps the Pope in his hat and slippers amongst billions of dollars in real estate and art only so they can hide child molestors from justice, could have a much better use. I think Lakewood cost over a hundred million dollars to buy, reovate, and keep running. Can you imagine how many people that could clothe, feed, house, and educate? Sure makes for a spiffy TV sermon, though. Same goes for that new Cathedral on the south side of downtown Houston. Not only is it reminiscent of a prison, but it is built on the backs of the poor people who tithe because the pope tells them to, while he lives in luxury and they can't afford their rent.

It's awful ironic that the best use this clown probably ever got out of his Bible was in deflecting that first bullet.

Good riddance to one more mega-church pastor. Say hi to ol' Falwell down there.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Barbara Bush Has A Heart?

After saying that Katrina evacuees had it great living in cots on the Astrodome floor (which only occurred several days after her son utterly failed as a leader) who would have thought that she had a heart?

Ol' Bush Sr. wasn't that much of a president, but he's one of very few politicians that actually did heroic things in times of war (this list does not include McCain, who went straight to South America instead of Vietnam because he could get laid there despite being married, crashed plane after plane, and spilled his guts leaving his cellmates in Vietnam to continue to get tortured while they went easy on him, only to leave his wife as soon as he got back to the states for a millionaire's hose-bag daughter, whom he degrades every chance he gets...).

Instead of doing what his son did in joining the Guard, or McCain did in getting his daddy the admiral to send him to a post where he could get laid and not have to fight, Bush Sr. actually chose to join the Navy and picked a plane that he would strap a bomb to and dive straight at the enemy before releasing it.

If you've never seen his story about getting shot down and setting the world's record for paddling a yellow dingy away from an island commanded by a Japanese colonel known for eating the livers of downed pilots, look it up. It's an interesting anecdote about an interesting man. So, if he chose Barbara she must have, at some point, been a decent human and I wish her well.

By the way--why can't we say Jap? You can say Brit. And I know there are more examples, but not Jap? I don't understand.

I also don't understand why we have to pay to support Israel because six million Jews were incinerated, which is certainly an awful thing, and Republicans line up to send money to God's "chosen people" (are they really chosen if they don't believe in the Son of God...) while Japan raped and killed millions more people than Germany ever did with the same sort of atrociousness, yet we're all buddies with them and they want us to apologize for dropping the bomb on them?

This August 6th, when Japan makes its yealy request for an apology for the A-bombs, I submit to President Obama a proposal for a formal response:

"Dear citizens of Japan. I have received your Parliament's request for an apology for the actions taken by the United States of America on 6 and 9 August, 1945. The events leading up to that event are complex, and many coniderations need to be taken into account before America can issue a formal response to your request. Please understand that I will give this matter very careful consideration. You have my pledge that I will do my utmost to ensure that you receive a proper response, which I will deliver to you on December 7th of this year."

Maybe that's too much for this admittedly Japanese disliking American to hope for, but STFU Japan. Don't start nothin', there won't be nothin'. And you started it.

You're welcome for rebuilding your country, by the way.

I need coffee.

Elizabeth Shelton's Odyssey

I've already reminded myself that if I ever get pulled over for drinking and driving, tell the cops I'm a judge. I noticed last week the County Judge of Montgomery County availed himself of that same defense.

But failing that, and since I'm unlikely to be traveling with a black robe and a gavel as props to help outwit the cops (who needs props for that, anyway?), I could probably convince them that I'm a judge's daughter.

That might get me out of an arrest, or, like Shelton, might let me get away with murder. And it might just get me a chance to sue the guy I hit while I was three times the legal limit and killed my boyfriend (I imagine you in that role, Seaton). And then again, I just might get to have to pay for only half of my legal defense, or better yet have my daddy pay the only half that we're charged, because the lawyer that represents me gets a bunch of juicy criminal appointments from daddy.

To be fair, I can somewhat understand this visiting judge's statements that community service for jail time working as a trusty is the norm in other counties. It's not in Harris County, probably because of our "tuff on crime" former DA, even though it somewhat makes sense to do it that way. Our probation department is amazingly underfunded and understaffed, so whatever it takes to get people out of supervision the fastest is probably a benefit to everyone involved.

And if not for all of the dirty laundry in the case already, the story probably wouldn't get much traction. But--there's plenty more dirty laundry in this case to go around because it appears that the visitig judge was ex parte'd. Was he a willing participant? Probably not--he did what was common in other counties that don't have policies written by prosecutors with short-penis syndrome. But who told him to do it? Was it really a member of the probation department, who would be allowed to discuss these things, or was it someone else? The fact that the judge doesn't know is a bit troubling, and of course you'd think that local probation folks would not have done this because they know it's not the norm in Harris County, which the judge claims to have been told was the case.

Sounds like ol' Judge Shelton or one of his close buddies may have gotten on the horn with the visiting judge and made a few false statements. The visiting judge should have investigated who was calling and the veracity of their claims, but because it's so normal everywhee else he has plenty of plausible deniability.

The real question here is what the ADA who is in charge of the case will do. Will he seek to undo the ruling of the visiting judge and make Shelton follow the terms of her probation? My bet is no way in Hell. But if he does, I'll be the first to congratulate him on holding those with conections as accountable as those without.

By the way--this is yet another instance of those being connected to the system being treated very favorably by it, despite Harris County ADA's posting in this very blog that they treat everyone equally. Someting tells me they just don't see it.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

David Letterman for Secretary of...

Sure, it was a joke, but when Letterman said that Obamna's best idea for the stimulus package was to make his cabinet picks to pay all of their taxes, maybe he was on to something.

I'm hoping Kirk will go down in the list of failed appointees, because I think he's just a slightly more north version of Mayor Brown, and the last thing we need for a trade representative is someone who can't even do his own damn taxes--or worse yet, could do them, but cheated.

And that's exactly what he appears to have done.

You Only Hurt the Ones You Love

Except in Texas it's more of a crime to hurt the ones you hate.

Which I've never understood, because you're only going to beat the tar out of someone if you already dislike them. Does it really matter why? Is it really worse to beat up a gay man, than say, a lawyer? Hell, they give out medals if you beat up lawyers.

Why does a gay man have more protection than a heterosexual one?

Why is it less of a crime for me to beat my wife than a total stranger, just because he likes to have sex with other men?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

All That is Necessary for Evil to Prevail...

Never let it be said that I'm not an equal opportunity offender. And apparently, I'm offending someone.

Of course, this particular dispute stems from a couple of posts wherein the righteously indignant (yet internet famous) Mark Bennett tells prosecutors (and even alludes that some judges could be included) to watch out and even gives them a "friendly" head's up, saying that next time they do something that violates the Rules of Conduct, they just might get "that certified letter from Austin."

In another post he even ponders the always-present "who's watching the watchers" issue when he states that he knows why it’s so hard to get a grievance sustained against a prosecutor: "even when they lie, cheat, hide evidence, and send unethical letters to people represented by counsel". According to him, it's because the perception of prosecutos is that they can do no wrong, and when even the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel loves prosecutors how can we expect them to take action against the unethical ones?

Here's an idea for you Mr. Bennett: make them aware of it in the first place.

So, I'm sure with all of your indignation you'll be reporting them for disciplinary action, like you threatened to do, so they never do it to one of your clients, right?

Of course not.

Even you ask, in the very title of your post, how this can possibly be OK. And instead of doing what you threaten to do not a few days before, you prevent any form of dissent from being discussed on your blog by denouncing it as bile, to be posted on my blog that nobody will read (which I pretty much said was the case in my first post, and your comment in the early posts was fairly complimentary...).

But, God forbid someone have to put up with their own words being thrown in their face. Way to talk a big game, yet do nothing but have "constructive conversations" when confronted with violations of the rules.

Edmund Burke was setting the absolute minimum standard for evil to prevail when he said that it would if good men do nothing. But you know what else will help it along? When defense attorneys don't have the courage to take action and are more concerned with their internet presece than they are with representing their clients or making sure that our profession is cleaned out of all of the scumbags--on any side of the bar--who break the rules.

Congratulations on your huge internet readership Mr. Bennett.

UPDATE: I can't tell you how much pleasure I just got out of telling my esteemed colleague Mr. Bennett that he referred to one of my recent posts on Life at the Harris County Criminal Justice Center as being correct. It was anonymous because when I posted I was sitting at the airport waiting for friends to come to town, and I hit post before filling anything with my name. My posts there are moderated but mostly approved when they're middle of the road, as that one was. So Bennett made the mistake of quoting me, which I couldn't help but tell him about.

His response? To list me as spam on all Wordpress blogs.

Man, that guy really doesn't like to be told he's wrong, but he likes it even less when he accidentally agrees with someone who's trying to hold him accountable for his ethics.

Oh well, I'm not too concerned about losing the confidence of a criminal lawyer who tried to tell me that there were no circumstances that would ever allow a judge in Texas to hold a defendant without bail, only to find within two minutes several reasons why it could be done. I'll just assume that the rest of his advice is equally as valuable.

(Note to Mark: I said "valuable," but I don't really mean it.)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Back to Basics: New Use of Old Tools

It's tough to write in an area where someone like Scott Henson is doing his work. Not only do I pay attention to same of the same subjects, but jail diversion was a primary reason for me continuing this blog (although it's been fun taking swipes at the odd DA from time to time), and that's one of his primary subjects.

And he's fairly prolific, like a dog peeing on every car, light pole, and fire hydrant in the neighborhood. It's like you can't find a story in the field that he hasn't somehow peed on.

So, I'll just point out that Austin is finally making use of the cite and summons authority given to them a couple of years ago, and refer you in that direction.

Next up: Bexar County? Yeah, I won't be holding my breath either.

Ironic Names II: Electric Boogaloo

If you believe in God, you have to admit he's got a good sense of humor.

A Klansman named Black? It writes itself. All we need now is a black white supremacist.

But, on a related note, with all the fear-mongering of the last few years and the ignorance still being perpetuated by anti-Muslim groups and now the fear of "that black mooslem" president we now have, is it really any surprise that hate groups are on the rise?

I bet these guys want the Bible to be taught in schools, too.

Wait. A White Mayor Brown?

I was going to call this one "Silly Names II: Electric Boogaloo" but for some reason didn't. You're welcome.

But this is starting to get a little silly. It's kind of like having nothing but Presidents named Bush and/or Clinton for a couple of decades. A black Mayor Brown, followed by a white Mayor White, and now maybe a white Mayor Brown?

Why is this news, you ask? Well, from what I can tell the guy is a complete douchebag. He thinks that the noblest human achievements are cities and their architecture? Really? Goddamn buildings are the best thing we can do? I can see art, as an expression of the human condition. But architecture? I like architecture, but come on. Noblest?

What about feeding the hungry, or building homes for the poor, or saving puppies?

I guess that's about what I'd expect from someone who's an adjunct professor at Texas Southern. Are they even accredited? And he's not even a full professor? The guy's like 90, and he has yet to make full professor at the worst college outside of Kenya?

This pontificating POS's greatest achievement on the city council (besides continually running despite getting booted off) is in turning on the lights of a fountain.

Maybe he can run for DA instead. I hear they could use some enlightenment.

Death Knell for the Drug War II: Electric Boogaloo

You know how you can tell when the drug war violence in Mexico is near an end? Because they're running out of people to kill.

Over 1,000 so far this year and February isn't even over? This isn't even a real month. It only has 28 days, for chrissakes. Over 6,000 last year? That's 65 people a day in the last 14 months.

I'd like to see a serious study on what's going on. One of my favorite theories is that a combination of better interdiction, crackdowns on corruption (in Mexico, we're not doing enough here...), and fewer routes into the US (due in part to the wall in urban areas), means there's more fighting to control the fewer good routes into the US.

Sure, much of the traffic comes through at legal checkpoints--so let's start doing more there, not less everywhere else. Drug education and interdiction is a comprehensive thing. Nothing says that you have to stop building a wall to also reform immigration or increase security at legal checkpoints (I'm looking at you, Grits).

Nor can you just "legalize it" and expect things to be peachy. As close as we (at the state level, not that that matters) get to legalizing pot, or more realistically de-criminalizing it, we'll never legalize the harder stuff. So while the "pot is less harmful than alcohol" crowd has a good point (I'm one of the crowd, after all), illegal drugs will always be a problem and you can't legalize cocaine, meth, or other drugs. You just cannot. To think that you could legalize cocaine and that the tax revenue would offset the public safety concerns is flat-out stupid. A (reasonable) tax on pot would, however, work to help empty our jails and hopefully lessen the human trafficking and abuse that goes along with Central and South American gangs importing pot.

And don't even get me started on those dangerous Canadians.

But hey, I guess if we can have a forward defense in Iraq, we can have a forward eradication of drug traffickers in Mexico. So maybe it ain't so bad. Now we just need to find someone to help shoot more Canadians. Gotta secure both borders, after all.

Multiple Stabbings II: Electric Boogaloo

Sweet. For all you folks who, like me, have been anxiously awaiting the chance to watch Kelly Siegler straddle another man, here's your chance.

Except, of course, for the fact that she's currently walking the street, so to speak, selling her wares, if you know what I mean, to other Johns, nudge nudge, undyingly dedicated to prosecuting other Defendants no matter how many times she has to parade their case in front of a grand jury.

Will Wright's battered wife defense work? I don't know, 192 stab wounds is an awful lot. Although I believe the defense is valid at times (easy prosecutors, not all times, and probably not this time), I think it's a stretch to believe that she'll get less than 25 years the second go-round. If you ask me, she should get 25 years just for dripping wax on her husband's balls. Hell, after that stabbing the guy was probably the nicest thing that could happen.

Although--here's to the defense lawyer that got to file an ineffective defense appeal against one of DeGuerin's associates.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Learn When To Say When

While, admittedly, C.O. Bradford can do less harm as a city councilman than he did as police chief, or would have done as district attorney, this is one fiasco that just won't go away.

Reminds me of the roaring 90's when the same Democrats kept running for office after office. I like John Sharp, but damn man, quit running for stuff. Chris Bell? Well, just stop. For God's sakes you give Democrats an even harder time at overcoming that liberal stereotype with your metrosexual suits and lispy speeches. Your career peaked when you filed against DeLay, now learn to retire before your career goes completely downhill. Oops, too late for you.

Bradford, on the other hand, has no opportunity to retire at his peak because his peak was in overseeing a crime lab that manufactured evidence and was complicit in one of the largest scale injustices to hit Houston courts that I can think of. The largest, in terms of overall impact, if you ask me. Add to that the fact that Harris County's District Attorney has a culture of corruption and you have a recipe for disaster.

All I can say is that it's a good thing it's an at large seat, so us white folks can vote against him.

Monday, February 23, 2009

In all criminal prosecutions...

I guess I'm the only one I know who remembers my Bill of Rights. You can bet that the US Supreme Court doesn't.

In a decision (or lack thereof) that would make Sharon Keller proud, the supremes declined to hear a case where a defendant was not allowed to examine the classified evidence against him. In just exactly what way is that a public trial, or how can he be informed of the nature of the accusations against him? How could he have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor when he doesn't know the evidence against him? How can he have the effective assistance of counsel if he can't see the evidence?

This case demonstrates the worst elements of trials where defendants are convicted of acts of terrorism. We eliminate the Bill of Rights and over 200 years of jurisprudence for procedures that have none of the guarantees this country was founded upon where criminal trials are concerned. Hell, even the Brits found the need for a hearsay rule to make sure evidence was verifiable--over 400 years ago.

Something about trading liberty for security...

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Another Way to Reduce Pre-Trial Incarceration Rates

Bexar County is fairly well-known for its alarmingly high incarceration rate, as well as its' elected officials not only refusing to implement diversion techniques but actually wanting to prosecute people for engaging in lawful activity.

So it comes as absolutely no surprise that they are ram-rodding thousands of old cases through their system.

Personally, I can't stand Bexar County's presiding court system, where cases are called to trial in whatever court happens to be free that day regardless of which court has dealt with all of the pre-trial evidentiary (or other) issues. It's disjointed at best, and could serve to cause one judge to countermand the decisions of another in the exact same case. But that's a distant second to the current attempt at extorting plea bargains--an extortion scheme that actually benefits defendants more than anyone. The state has a smaller pool of prosecutors that will now have to prepare a larger pool of cases for trial. Defense lawyers will smell blood in the water and will be able to either force lower please or have an unprepared DA go to trial--when he'll have dozens of others to prepare for as well.

If these judges wanted lower docket numbers they should have been setting reasonable numbers of cases for trial at reasonable intervals. Everyone would have had time to gather evidence and put witnesses on notice, as opposed to the current rush, which will find cases called to trial where witnesses could not be found or the prosecutor will have be looking at the next twelve cases he has to try and decide that he has to plead some out for lower punishments than he otherwise would have just to get some breathing room for the next case. That doesn't serve justice for any side, and puts clearance rates ahead of guilt or innocence, and certainly above justice.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Is Doing 'Something' Better Than Doing 'The Right Thing?'

I think it's kind of sad when the Texas Legislature, an organization that Texans only let meet every other year to keep them from screwing things up twice as often, is prescient enough to at least try to fix the alarming rate of wrongful convictions in Texas.

But police agencies can't resist trying to push the limits. Seeing a DNA bill coming through, they want to start fishing for DNA for just about any crime, whether DNA is required to prove guilt or not. Ignoring the fact that their tactics in failing to use DNA have resulted in many wrongful convictions, they want the pendulum to swing completely the other direction to allow them to create a DNA registry. Great job guys, that's like taking advantage of 9/11 to get the Patriot Act, which was drafted years before, passed. It's no surprise that Austin PD, one of the most racist in the state (and that's saying something in a state that has towns like Vidor), is leading the charge for yet another police-state program.

Harris County's opinion is conspicuously absent, but expectedly so, since their policy is to destroy DNA evidence as fast as possible, even though they know that some of their convictions were faulty. Hell, after the first guy was exonerated by DNA during Rosenthal's tenure, he ordered all old DNA destroyed so it wouldn't happen again.

He ought to be taken out back and shot, if you ask me. And his supporters should be lined up right next to him.

So, good luck to Texans in getting DNA reform that makes sense, not DNA laws that would make George Orwell proud.

Republicans, if you want me to explain who Orwell was, just let me know.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Ricardo Rachell Update

Well go figure. The Houston Police Department can't for the life of them figure out why they never snapped to the fact that they arrested the wrong guy and ignored the fact that identical attacks on identical victims kept occurring in an identical way in the exact same area where they claimed Rachell was committing crimes.

Here's a possible reason: Because they didn't care. Those cases were closed, and re-opening them would not only mean more work (God forbid they have to do their jobs at all, much less do them correctly) but it would expose their mistake.

Now they're finding out that you can't find the answer to a question that was never asked. And they're covering up by playing dumb again. The answer is not why they wouldn't have gotten the right answer after a proper investigation, it's why they didn't hold a proper investigation in the first place.

This is a perfect example of the HPD putting the importance of a closed case over the importance of justice. Can't wait for more DNA evidence to be reviewed in Harris County cases, we'll be seeing this kind of thing more often.

Here are some of my favorite parts of the article:

Because of it, Hawthorne remained free and assaulted at least three other young boys.

Congratulations HPD, those assaults are on you.

According to Chronicle interviews, a total of three assistant district attorneys handled Rachell’s case in the seven months between his arrest and trial. Two of those lawyers, speaking publicly for the first time, said they don’t know why biological evidence that could have cleared his name was not tested before trial.

Jimmy Ortiz, who prosecuted Rachell at trial and is now a defense attorney, said he was stunned when DNA tests in November confirmed Rachell’s innocence. He said he inherited the case from another district attorney just five weeks before trial.

Well, maybe not completely, because it appears that the HCDAO has a little responsibility in this as well.

I especially love ADA Ortiz's "it's not my fault, I inherited that case..." quote. Coward. You prosecuted it, don't try to weasel out of the responsibility. Sure, in the next paragraph he says he accepts responsibility, but that kind of flies in the face of all of that finger pointing he's doing.

And this one is classic:

"As a prosecutor, if a case like this is going to trial, I would have wanted DNA test results,” Musick said. “But I know (from the file) I did not order DNA, and I don’t know why. I cannot say if it was because I either didn’t know about it or because it fell through the cracks."

So basically, we know that ADA Musick always orders DNA to be tested. Except when she doesn't. But she would have unless she didn't know about the DNA evidence (a.k.a., it's someone else's fault) or she just forgot to (a.k.a., she's incompetent). If I were one of her clients now that she's left the DA's office I'd be seriously looking for a new lawyer.

Great. So prosecutors do what they're supposed to do, except when they don't because someone else (in the DA's office) screwed up or because they themselves are incompetent, or they're the third in a line of DA's that inherited the case, none of which properly investigated it. Fantastic.

And they don't know why this is screwed up? I'd say they should be concerned with how many others are, if their policies at every level are this flawed.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Who said what again?

I can't remember who the jackass was who said that I was full of it when I said that child molesting ex-cops get preferential bail treatment, but they basically said I had no idea what I was talking about. Well, here you go.

Sure, Castleberry ran. So if that's the reason, why not deny bail altogether? They could have, hell they tracked this guy across the globe and know he's a threat. And of course he did more of what the former cop is accused of doing, but to what degree are we OK with putting accused pedophiles back on the street? In the case of the ex-cop, that's the same street his victim lives on, from what I remember.

While they didn't deny bail, this non-cop is (rightfully) unable to meet what bail has been set. I hope they put him in with everyone else to wait out his trial, and it looks like he's guilty as charged. So I'm glad he won't be out on bond. But I don't think an ex-cop should get easier treatment.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tulia, Texas

If you haven't seen it yet, Tulia, Texas is everything Grits for Breakfast said it would be.

Except to someone like me, who sees these tactics as SOP for law enforcement, especially where they have a financial incentive, it's even more.

I'll be e-mailing this to everyone I know. Most will think I'm "at it again," but some will watch. I'm also going to get seriously pro-active on working to defeat Byrne Grants in a way that keeps them from being implemented even if they're left in the stimulus bill.

Tilting at windmills? Sure. But this windmill has it coming.

Imagine, if you will...

Submitted, for your approval. The story of a young girl. A girl whose life is the same as that of any other. Who does well in school. Who loves her family, and her friends. A girl whose only crime is being black, and living, in the Twilight Zone.

File this one as another one of my "Are you effing kidding me?" stories. Girl in her front yard, going to turn on a power breaker that had tripped. Unmarked van rolls up. Three MASKED MEN WITH NO UNIFORMS jump out and grab her. None announce that they are police, or show identification. And they try to shove her into the van, yelling obscenities at her and hitting her.

You know, I halfway empathize with Iraqis who shoot at Americans, because we invaded their country based on lies. Can you imagine a foreign army rolling through Texas? You know what I'd do? Wolverines, bitches! You bet your ass. I'd take to the hills and shoot at the invaders like nobody's business.

So imagine what a girl is going to do when four masked men roll up and abduct her. She's gonna' fight, and hopefully fight like Hell. I hope that my kids would do the exact same thing, and yell like crazy.

Upon my appearance in the front yard I would expect the officers to realize that the 12 year old child they were kidnapping, beating, and cursing was not a prostitute, but instead a 12 year old honors student. And oh yeah, being a 12 year old black girl, she's probably not one of the three white prostitutes they're looking for. Of course, if I showed up in the front yard after hearing my kids scream, I'd come out shooting, so it's a damn good thing these assholes didn't do this at my house. But instead of being grateful, what did they do?

Those bastards filed charges against her, and that son-of-a-bitch DA actually tried her for assault! Gee, I wonder of it had anything to do with the fact that the cops have been sued in a civil suit, and an effort to discredit their case and try to interfere with their ability to recover? To top it off, they waited a while and arrested her at school. What a bunch of pansy-ass bastards.

This is why I hate prosecutors, and many cops. They are some of the biggest cowards on the planet. I would love to see these donut eating bastards in a dark alley somewhere.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Are You Effing Kidding Me?

Rick Perry has no Goddamn shame. Today he uttered something that I liken directly to Bush's "political capital" claim (after winning by the narrowest margin in history), or his declaration of the end of major combat operations in Iraq (after which violence and American deaths increased).

Now, Perry, whose Trans-Texas Corridor pet project was so controversial and the voice of the people was so ignored that we created new policies for making sure the voices of the people were heard and actually listened to in public hearings, has uttered one of the largest falsehoods of his administration.

Despite years of attempting the single-largest land grab in Texas history, he states that "In Texas we understand the concept of having as a last resort the process of eminent domain to... build our roads..." What a lying bastard.

I wish I had more to say on this subject other than that I view this as the single most deceptive thing a governor of Texas has ever said. This Orewllian bullshit would make George Bush proud.

I never thought I'd say this, but thank God Kay Bailey is running for Governor. It's the only reason Perry will start to listen to the people and I guarantee it's the only reason he canceled parts of the TTC.

CPS is Stealing Fewer Kids

The impetus behind this reduced rate of state-sponsored kidnapping has been discussed at length over at Grits for Breakfast, so I won't re-hash it here. And of course, CPS should remove kids in the face of abuse or neglect, but it's still good to know that even the CPS has evidently realized that their arrogance has reached its limit.

That's not to say that they'll behave in the future, but whatever gets them to calm down, even for a little bit, is a good thing.

"We treat all cases the same."

Oh really. Then would the DA's office kindly like to tell me how often they set bail at an embarrassingly low $30,000 for for a damn child rapist who lives right down the street from the victim?

Sure, he's innocent until proven guilty, but so are the black and Hispanic and white ones who just so happen to not be former law enforcement officers.


Note To Self:

If I get arrested for DWI, make sure everyone thinks I'm a white judge.

Because while Driving While Black is enough to get you pulled over and even shot in your own front yard in places like Bellaire, driving 92 in a 65, with open containers and smelling like beer isn't enough to support probable cause after a DWI stop. In Cleburne. If you're white. And a judge.

That kind of makes you wonder about "no refusal" programs. If the goods they had on this judge aren't good enough to get a warrant for blood, how can it be that just declining to take a breathalyzer is?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Dear Governor Palin:

This is not an attack on your children. So don't necessarily reference this anonymous blogger in your tirade against the press, because I am far from part of the media that could do you any damage. So far I think this is read by only a couple of Democrats that aren't going to vote for you no matter what, and a handful of pissy little assistant district attorneys that will--again, no matter what.

And I'd like to mention that I like the older ladies and like to hunt myself, so if you ever ditch the First Dude just look me up. Uber-Nazi uptight older women in glasses with their hair up are awesome in the sack, I hear.

However. One cannot help but wonder why you think your family shouldn't have been an issue in this past election--or any future one. I know that kids will be kids. Besides, your daughter is attractive and you're a former beauty queen yourself, and now you're the governor, so it's only natural that your daughter would create a target rich environment wherever she went. Can't blame your daughter's husband (can't for the life of me remember his name right now) one bit for wanting to bounce up and down on the governor's daughter. Shoot, I'd like to bounce up and down on the governor myself. You, not Rick Perry. I only make that clarification because I know you're not real smart, and because you probably think being a Democrat makes me gay, but I'm willing to set you straight in person on that one. And oh yeah, because our own little Republican heart throb might be gay. So, let's make sure you know that I'd do you up right.

And I would accept you just as you are. All the imperfections, and flaws, and lack of reading material that would go with a relationship with you, I'd be OK with. You'd even look great, because you still have all of those spiffy clothes you said you were going to give back. They make you look even more uptight, which makes you even sexier.

Except, maybe, there's one thing I couldn't get past: You appear to be a terrible parent. Your teenage daughter gets knocked up, she and her husband-to-be drop out of school, and you think that's OK? And what's more, you think you and your party should be in charge of public policy on things like teen pregnancy? You can't keep your only legal-aged daughter's legs closed, and you think you can keep millions more from doing what she did? On top of that, you want to continue abstinence-only education as the means by which we control our absurd rate of teen pregnancy? How'd that work out for your own family? It didn't? Oh, well, clearly you should continue the practice then, right? Fuck a duck lady, get a clue.

And I won't even get started on how motherly you looked toting Trigg around. Don't worry--I'm one of the people who think he probably really is yours, because you know what one of the leading causes of Down's Syndrome is? OLD LADIES LIKE YOU HAVING BABIES. How utterly stupid and irresponsible it was of you to get pregnant that late in life, knowing what we now know about the consequences. Or has medical science not reached Alaska? Or did you think laying hands on your tummy and praying would make him better? You looked like someone was forcing you to hold an abomination when he was shoved into your hands after the debates, or wherever else it was you were flying while your oldest daughter was riding up and down on the closest high-school drop out back home.

While your attractive, sexually promiscuous, tattooed, high school drop out of a daughter isn't fair game, how you've handled things definitely are. Hell, you went after Obama endlessly for what Jeremiah Wright was saying, and they weren't even related. I know they all look alike to you, but that's just not the same thing.

So, to end this I will just say that I support your candidacy in 2012. Business suits with tight above-the-knee skirts are my favorite, and you look like you've got a lot goin' on beneath that overly-dressed exterior of yours so I can't wait to see you out on the trail. The mute button on my remote still works, so I'm in good shape. Besides, having you on the ticket would pretty much guarantee that a Democrat wins since the only thing you can energize besides the Republican right-wing religious fanatics that you call "the Republican Base" (which is an increasingly smaller group as the literacy rate rises), is the penis of guys like me who dig the older ladies in tight skirts.

See you in three years, dumbass.