Tuesday, September 30, 2008
1. You have the right to refuse to perform
roadside sobriety tests.
2. You have the right to refuse the breath test.
3. You have the right to an independent blood
test within 2 hours of taking a breath test.
4. You have the right not to answer any
5. If you are arrested for DWI, you have 15 days
to appeal the suspension of your Texas
6. If the roadside sobriety tests are not
administered in strict compliance with NHTSA
guidelines, the validity of the test results is
7. The police officer administering the breath test
has no knowledge of the (pseudo)scientific
principles behind the breath test machine.
8. It may take up to 2 hours for the alcohol you
consumed to make its way into your
9. If the police didn't have a valid reason to stop
you, all evidence gathered after the stop may
be inadmissible in court.
10. You need an experienced DWI attorney who
knows the law and who knows the tests, to
Monday, September 29, 2008
Friday, September 26, 2008
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Monday, September 22, 2008
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Half the county is still living without electricity due to Ike and are forced to stand in line for water, ice and food. Children are unable to go to school and many of our fellow citizens are unable to work. Gasoline has become a precious commodity. Given these circumstances, the decent thing would have been to reset all cases this week so that all of us (don't forget we are ALL presumed innocent) can get our lives under control.
But what did Harris County decide to do? The county decided that everyone out on bond with a court setting on Wednesday, today or tomorrow, had to appear in court. Our fellow citizens were forced to use precious fuel and time that could best be used to support their families so that they could sit in a courthouse.
You can find out a lot about the character of a person by watching how they deal with a crisis. You can also find out a lot about the lack of character of people by watching how they deal with a crisis.
On this note the people in charge of the criminal (in)justice systems in Harris and Galveston Counties showed their lack of character.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Local officials are now blaming the feds for the lack of generators at the jail -- anything to deflect attention from their indefensible decision not to evacuate.
Judge Yarbrough's email address is James.Yarbrough@co.galveston.tx.us.
Monday, September 15, 2008
We lost power at around 11:30 pm Friday. I fell asleep before the full force of Ike made itself known. I woke up during the night and cannot even begin to describe the sound of 100 mph winds whipping around a house. We were very lucky as our house sustained no damage -- our back patio cover even survived.
On Saturday we surveyed the damage in the neighborhood and were struck by how fortunate we were, even without lights and air conditioning. The devastation less than half a mile from our house was unbelievable. Fifty-year-old oak trees were strewn all over the place. That night we got together with our neighbors and had a BBQ. Some supplied grills, some supplied meat and some supplied drinks and dessert. It was the kind of block party you would have seen years ago -- before the advent of cable TV.
Sunday was a rainy, miserable day. It became apparent that we couldn't access our cell network and we were reduced to texting -- if the messages would even go through. We knew we would have to do something soon as the conditions were becoming untenable for our one-year-old. Luckily, as I was driving around trying to locate a signal to make phone calls, I got ahold of my mother-in-law and she told me they had both power and water. I hurried back to the house, told my wife and began packing.
We hauled all the food out of our refrigerator and freezer and stuffed into a cooler. We grabbed a couple of changes of clothes and some toys for our girls and made the drive out to the west side of Houston. While the air conditioning was wonderful, what I appreciated most was being able to read after dark. I don't know if I have ever been so grateful as I was yesterday.
This morning I was able to pay my parents back (a little bit) for everything they've done for me. My grandmother, who is infirm, went to stay with my parents during the storm. They lost their power and were told it might be three weeks before it could be restored. Thanks to Jennifer Kahn, a colleague and member of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association, I was able to find a generator for my parents. I will be forever grateful to Ms. Kahn for her kindness and generosity.
For now we are in a state of flux. I have two cases set for trial next week and have no way of accessing my files as my office building is padlocked. I have no clue as to when my next paying client will call the office. I have no idea when we will be able to move back into our house.
I want to thank all of the people, National Guardsman, police officers, fire fighters and ordinary citizens who have been handing out ice, water and food at the various distribution centers in and around Houston. I have seen things the last few days that I never thought I would see in the fourth largest city in the United States, but I have also seen a spirit than can never be extinguished.
I wish to extend my best wishes for a safe return, both to home and to normalcy, for all of the people affected by Hurrican Ike along the Gulf Coast and to express my condolences to all who have lost any family members, loved ones or friends.
But, before I end, I must express my anger and disgust at the manner in which Galveston County authorities treated the people held in the Galveston County Jail. While local, state and national officials warned people that staying on the island was a deadly choice, Galveston County refused to evacuate prisoners to safer ground. I have a client, arrested for domestic assault, who was forced to ride out Hurricane Ike in the Galveston County Jail.
Now I've spent my entire life in Texas and I was taught that a man should never lay his hands on a woman, but domestic assault is not a capital offense -- and neither are possession, DWI or theft -- and it was wrong that my client faced a potential death sentence due to the callous indifference of Galveston County.
If you are reading this blog, and are equally outraged, please let Galveston County know of your disgust for their (in)actions.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Grits for Breakfast has a transcript of an e-mail sent from Mr. Hood's lawyers detailing the admissions of Ms. Holland and Mr. O'Connell. Those admissions were the first confirmation from the two former lovebirds that anything out of sorts had been going on during Mr. Hood's trial. Both admitted to the affair and to their failure to inform Mr. Hood, or his attorneys, about the affair.
Monday, September 8, 2008
Mr. Hood's attorneys have filed an application for a writ of habeas corpus and a motion for a stay of execution.
Interestingly enough, the Texas Defender Service released a press release showing that, during her time on the Court of Criminal Appeals, Judge Holland recused herself from 78.6% of the cases that came from Collin County.
Mr. Hood's execution is scheduled for Wednesday. The question of whether or not Mr. Hood lives or dies is now up to Gov. Rick Perry, who has been urged by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott to issue the stay. Mr. Abbott sent a letter to Mr. John Roach, the current Collin County District Attorney, stating his belief that the issues regarding the alleged affair between Judge Holland and Tom O'Connell "warrant thorough review."
Mr. Abbott also wrote that "if the execution proceeds as scheduled, before questions about the fairness of [Hood's] trial are legally resolved, neither the victims nor justice will be served."
It's time for the governor to do the right thing.
Saturday, September 6, 2008
Friday, September 5, 2008
Grits for Breakfast had this to say about the latest developments.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
It appeared that the trial would be a slam dunk conviction for Collin County DA Tom O'Connell who decided to try the case himself. Actually it would be more than a slam dunk.
The presiding judge of the 296th Judicial District Court, Verla Sue Holland, was involved in a long-running romantic relationship with O'Connell. Yet, despite the clear conflict of interest, neither disclosed their relationship to Mr. Hood or to his attorney, David Haynes.
Although rumors about the relationship ran rampant through the Collin County courthouse, Mr. Haynes didn't think the issue could be raised at trial absent proof.
Mr. Hood was scheduled to be murdered by the State of Texas on June 17, 2008 but prison officials aborted it when it became clear they could not carry out the sentence prior to midnight.
After securing an affidavit from a former prosecutor in the Collin County DA's Office acknowledging the relationship between O'Connell and Holland, Hood's attorneys filed an appeal alleging the affair prevented Mr. Hood from receiving a fair and impartial trial before Judge Holland.
The State of Texas stayed the execution and rescheduled it for September 10, 2008. At the same time, Mr. Hood's attorneys sought civil relief in the 199th Judicial District Court of Collin County. His attorneys asked Judge Robert Dry to determine whether the conduct of Holland and O'Connell during Hood's trial was ethical.
Judge Dry scheduled a hearing on the civil matter for September 12, 2008 -- too late to afford any relief to Mr. Hood.
To date, Judge Holland has refused to comment on the allegations she was sleeping with the prosecutor during Hood's trial. She said it would be "unethical" for her to comment on a pending case, even though the Texas Constitution says that the judiciary must avoid any appearance of impropriety and must hold itself to exacting standards in order to avoid a loss of public confidence.
The Collin County DA's office has also refused to comment on the allegations.
Judge Holland left her bench in Collin County and served on the Court of Criminal Appeals in the mid-1990's. Since then, Court of Criminal Appeals has refused to force Holland to answer any questions regarding the affair.
Although it was not Judge Holland who convicted (and condemned) Mr. Hood - that was the job of 12 citizens of Collin County, she ruled on motions, objections and proposed charges during the course of the trial.
To that end, the 500-member Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers and dozens of legal ethicists have called Hood's conviction into question and 22 former federal and state judges from Texas and the rest of the country have called on Governor Perry to grant Mr. Hood a reprieve.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Although there may be a problem (for the federales) with at least one charge that may be time-barred, the government has continued its investigation into the judge's financial and sexual behavior.
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Media with Conscience reports that the FBI-led Minneapolis Joint Task Force on Terrorism recruited informants to report on the activities of leftist groups in the area. The Minneapolis police and the FBI-led task force conducted pre-emptive assaults on groups exercising their right of free speech.
The Michigan Messenger reports that Ramsey county sheriff's officers conducted an armed raid at a St. Paul convergence space and handcuffed hundreds as they watched movies and ate a pot-luck dinner. Officers defended their actions by claiming they had search warrants -- though no one was allowed to see the warrants.
Despite the authoritarian tactics employed by the local police and the FBI, protesters turned out en masse on the opening day of the RNC.
The strength of this nation comes, not from our similarities, but from our wildly divergent origins, paths, views and philosophies. The United State's isn't a melting pot where disparate elements are melded together -- we are a pot of jambalaya, a rich stew made all the better by the mulitude of tastes.
Here are some other interesting tidbits regarding the Dallas County PD's Office:
On my first day at the Dallas County Public Defender’s Office I knew I had found my place. I am one of those idealists who went to law school looking to help people. And not just anybody, but the people who most people don’t care about helping. The poor...the uneducated...the outsiders. And you can’t find a group more outside mainstream American society than people charged with breaking the law. I jumped right into my job and loved it. I blogged about it for a while until that became hazardous to my job. But all in all things were great. I had the job of a lifetime -where I’d retire someday.
A while back the county commissioners’ court started making life difficult for the PDs for seemingly no reason. We had always been required to keep monthly stats on our docket (number of cases appointed, pending cases, cases disposed by trial, plea, revocation, et cetera) and that was okay. But then the commissioners wanted weekly stats. Why? Who knows. I mean all you have to do is divide our monthly
stats by four and you have a pretty good idea what we did on a weekly basis. And because they wanted them in different formats, it meant keeping two sets of stats. And then they wanted us to use an absolutely worthless case management program. So with stats and the new program, every time I did anything, it took about three times as long as it should. When you add that on top of the legendary heavy caseload a PD juggles, it’s a recipe for disaster.
And that brings us to the caseload. Until a few months ago, there was no written rule about how many cases we had to carry. But supposedly some people weren’t carrying their weight. But instead of addressing those specific problems (if there were problem people not carrying their weight the commissioners would’ve known just who they were based on the various stats they kept), they upped the number of cases we all had to take. First it was 30 new cases a month for felony attorneys. Then 35. Then 40. 40! 40 felonies a month. And many of us handled little or no “easy” cases like probation violations. Try handling 40 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree felonies a month. All my friends outside the PDs office recognized it for what it was: madness. So all this built up until David and I couldn’t take it. We resigned because we knew we couldn’t give all our clients the representation they deserved with the way the office was headed. And we weren’t alone. In the past month or so five attorneys have resigned. One was even board certified in criminal law. I love the PDs office with all my heart. I respect the attorneys up there and hope they’re able to right the ship. It’s a tragedy that is absolutely pointless if you ask me.
A PD friend reminded me about the paysheets. How could I forget the paysheets?! For the uninitiated (lucky you) in all this post Brad Lollar mess, the commissioners court accused the PDs office of being inefficient. Everyone with any knowledge of the system knew this was an absurd accusation, but the commissioners were serious. To prove their efficiency, the PDs had to turn in fake paysheets like the private attorneys who receive court appointments. The private attorneys turn in a paysheet at the disposition of any court appointed case in order to be paid for their work. The PDs, who are not paid for each case, of course never did this. So now, on top of the double stats and the worthless case management program, PDs are turning in a third form of stats. The whole thing seemed to be an exercise in futility to me: the commissioners could’ve easily determined “efficiency” based on the stats PDs were already turning in. So this morning I hear from a little birdie that the fake paysheets have been suspended. If you ask me it’s past time to do this. I’m happy for my former co-workers since this will save them some precious time otherwise wasted on paperwork.
- Texas Lawyer: Common Clashes: Politics, Pressure and the Public Defender's Office
- Texas Task Force on Indigent Defense: Review of Dallas County Public Defender
- Grits for Breakfast: Dallas Public Defender purge raises legal and policy concerns
Monday, September 1, 2008
ernieattorney and YatPundit kept the outside world informed about what was going on in New Orleans, Metairie and the Louisiana coast during Hurricane Gustav. Forget about the false hype on CNN, MSNBC and other over-the-air stations, these microbloggers kept the information flowing during the hours leading up to landfall.
So, we have the self-righteous public defender who, apparently, spends all his time telling the judge what we all wish we could say in the same situation. We have his girlfriend, the ADA, who is torn between doing what's right and doing her job (reminds me of the relationship between Daniel J. Travanti and Veronica Hamel in Hill Street Blues). We have the ADA with a conscience. We've got the judge who seems to think she's the second prosecutor. And we have the judge's law clerk who is bedding the judge, the men he meets at bars and brokering deals to help out our hero. I'm curious to see what happens between preppy public defender and the chief PD.
I guess I'll sit down and watch it again next Monday night. It's probably worth a drink and a bowl of popcorn at the end of the day. It does go to show that lawyers need to hang out with non-lawyers (thank God for my wife and two little girls) to keep their heads on straight. I just wonder if it has any staying power or if it'll go down in flames like 100 Center Street on A&E a few years ago.