In case you haven't heard, something has gone awry with a Grand Jury serving under the auspices of Judge Susan Brown's 185th District Court. Wrong as in what the heck? Grand Jury forewoman with ties to a potential regional crime lab attacks Assistant District Attorneys while investigating alleged problems with mobile DWI labs – problems that the State Department of Public Safety cannot duplicate. ADA's tossed from testimony under the threat of arrest, lowly court reporters and said ADA's ordered to appear in front of Judge Brown for contempt hearings, hot shot defense attorneys show up to represent the court reporters and ADA's and the Judge recuses herself from the proceedings. Wow, it is enough for a soap opera!
And frankly, that is what it is. Let's get my biases out on the table first. Fact is, I was the most vociferous non-anonymous blogger against Judge Pat Lykos in the election of 2008 – a bitter election pitting Judge Pat Lykos against ADA Kelly Siegler. I determined that Siegler was better qualified and said so loudly, often, and quite viciously, adopting some of the same tactics that the Lykos political campaign adopted against Mrs. Siegler. Not that I'm proud of that but it is what it is. It was me that coined the name "Lyin' Patty Lycos". The only blogger louder than me against Judge Lykos was an anonymous blogger, known at the time as A Harris County Lawyer. AHCL was in fact Murray Newman, an ADA at the time – at some point in time after the election he revealed his identity and has continued blogging over at Life at the Harris County Criminal Justice Center.
That was 2008. Fast forward to 2010 and I supported Marc Brown in his run for judge of the 180th District Court against Danny Dexter in yet another wild race with lots of accusations thrown about. Marc was successful and Judge Marc Brown is the husband of Judge Susan Brown.
I only point all of this out so that no one can accuse me of being a lackey for the current DA or an enemy of Judge Susan Brown. Because I'm certainly not. I met Susan on the campaign trail and she was great and from my experience no one can question her integrity.
Until now. And even now I'm not questioning her integrity but am wondering what the heck is going on down there because something surely doesn't "feel" right. It "feels" like an old fashioned witch hunt, or catfight, or, in the words of defense attorney Randy Schaeffer, an inquisition. In case you don't know what I'm talking about, just read some of these links from a Google search on "Harris County BAT Vans". No one is real clear on what the 185th Grand Jury is actually doing but it appears that they are investigating allegations made by one Amanda Culberson, who worked for the Houston Police Department as a Crime Lab Supervisor. Ms. Culberson testified in July that there were problems with these mobile breath alcohol testing vans and that she quit because no one would listen to her.
This Grand Jury proceeded to kick prosecutors out of a proceeding – the DA's office lost in its attempt to overturn Judge Susan Brown's ruling that the Grand Jury was within its rights to do so. And last week, Judge Susan Brown demanded, as noted above, that the two attorneys and two court reporters appear for hearings because there was a question as to whether or not the DA's office had viewed transcripts of the secret grand jury proceedings.
Got all of that thus far? Yeah, me neither but I'm trying. It's a freaking mess. And as best as I can tell the mess is designed to do one thing – remove DA Lykos from office, by hook or by crook.
What is interesting is that when you do those Google searches you will find that most of the "information" is coming from DWI attorneys – hey, it is interesting to me. Who has more to gain from hurting the credibility of the mobile labs than DWI attorneys? Even more interesting is the "conspiracy" links that can be weaved between those attacking DA Lykos. Fortunately, I don't have to lay them out, Mark Bennett, a criminal defense attorney, has already done so. Check it out. He misses a few connections such as Judge Susan Brown officiating the wedding of one of the special prosecutors, Jim Mount, but for the most part lays it out in such a way that anyone can see the problems if they choose to. He ends up making light of it, saying that Lykos gets what she deserves.
Really? A sitting DA that has been very reform oriented and has by most accounts made the office more accessible to the voters of Harris County deserves to be run through the mud because she has offended a group of attorneys? Seriously?
Again, remember what I said in the beginning – I'm no Lykos lackey. But I do know truth when I see it and this ain't truth. I've never seen a more gossipy group than the attorneys that used to work at that building and frankly, it gives me pause as to what went on in that building before DA Lykos made the changes she made.
Why is Judge Susan Brown allowing this to happen? I'm sure she went into it with good intentions – perhaps it is the veteran Grand Jury foreperson that she appointed who is pushing her into making decisions that represent a conflict of interest no matter how you look at it. That's my best guess because the Judge Susan Brown I met wouldn't condone a witch hunt. Or an inquisition.
Let me lay it out politically for all of the ADA's that left the office and are still bitter. DA Lykos will come through this witch hunt unscathed, as will her office because they have done nothing wrong. Remember that. No one in their right mind will file to run against her in a primary – she will crush them. Like it or not, the reforms she has made thus far, while not popular with ex-ADA's, are very popular with the voters. You may scoff at DIVERT – citizens realize what she is trying to do. You may scoff at her for trying to deal with the mentally ill – citizens realize what she is doing. You may not like the fact that ADA's now turn their files over to defense attorneys without having to get a court order – citizens realize that it is the right thing to do if justice is your goal.
DA Lykos will be on the ballot in November 2012 and will, hopefully, lead the Republicans to another county wide sweep. And you know why?
Because citizens appreciate politicians that try to do the right thing. And as a former (and still) Siegler supporter, I'm convinced that is what DA Lykos has done during her tenure. And that is far more important than some petty grievances a few ex-ADA's have because they were asked to leave the office. Smearing the office and the good prosecutors that remain, many of whom you worked with, is juvenile. Maybe it is time to grow up and move on.