Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A rat in a trap

As my colleague Murray Newman reported earlier today, four prosecutors with the Harris County District Attorney's Office were subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury today. The grand jury is looking into HPD's Batmobile program.

Well, Pat Lykos is not taking this lying down. First she sent her minions to Judge Brown in the 185th and demanded she tell the grand jurors to let her prosecutors in the room. Judge Brown politely declined. Then she fired off a request to the 14th Court of Appeals to order the grand jurors to let her prosecutors in the room. Again the answer was no.

The topic du jour would appear to be when the DA's office found out there were problems with the Batmobiles and just how many folks were prosecuted using evidence that has since been found to be unreliable.  With that we're no longer just talking about Brady violations and the possibility of a lot of writs, we're also talking about ethics violations.

Prosecutors have a duty to see that justice is done. Prosecuting people with evidence you know is unreliable is not fulfilling one's ethical duties.

It also raises questions about the reliability of breath testing in general. If the police can't maintain their machines in the Batmobiles, what makes you think they're maintaining them at the police station? We know now that these machines are sensitive to temperature and humidity. What else causes them to go haywire? And since the machines run a self-diagnostic check, what guarantee is there that the machines are operating properly.

HAL ran a self-check and determined that he was functioning properly. We all know how well that went.

And then there's this gem...  

Lykos tells us she still doesn't know what went wrong inside that grand jury room last week that nearly led to the arrest of two of her top assistants, despite the fact one of them was in the room with us during the interview. What she does know is that she no longer wants HPD supervising its own DWI vans.

"That's what perturbs me," she said.
Lykos told us Monday she's done trusting HPD to tell her the truth about DWI testing.
"We were never informed there were questions about whether the tests were valid," Lykos said.

What's this? A public pronouncement that the chief prosecuting attorney in the county doesn't trust the biggest police department in the county to run its own breath testing program. If the DA won't trust HPD to be truthful about its breath testing program, why should a jury? If Ms. Lykos said she can't trust them, how can a prosecutor, in good faith, present evidence to a judge or jury regarding a breath test conducted under the auspices of HPD?

Now the only question remaining is whether Ms. Lykos will accept responsibility for what has transpired or whether she will seek out a scapegoat (or two) and leave them hanging in the wind for all the public to see. I know where I'm putting my money.

See also:

"Pat Lykos' star chamber rebels," Life at the Harris County Criminal Justice Center (Oct. 21, 2011)

"The voice of the people," Gamso - For the Defense (Oct. 24, 2011)

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