Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Getting credit where credit isn't due

A man who puts out a fire on his neighbor's property should be commended for his actions. Going out of one's way to help someone else is a noble deed. Even more so when that person places his life in danger in coming to the aid of another.

But when the man putting out the fire is the same man who set it - well, that's a different story altogether.

And so it goes down south of Houston in Galveston County.

Y'all may remember my post a couple of weeks ago about the Galveston County Jail recording conversations between inmates and their attorneys. Galveston County DA Jack Roady said he would get to the bottom of the cess pool and stop the recordings.

Well, Jack didn't exactly move at the speed of light to insure that the rights of inmates in the county jail were protected after State District Judge Susan Criss shone a little light on the problem.
"What's to prevent a sheriff's deputy from listening to a call and finding other evidence that was illegally derived and then it's given to the prosecutor?  - Gary Trichter, TCDLA President
To his credit, Mr. Roady did ask his prosecutors if any of them had ever listened in on a conversation between an inmate and his attorney. Only one raised his hand. Whether that means that no one else did, or that no one else is willing to admit it, I don't know. I certainly hope that it's the former.

Of course we'll never the know the full extent to which Galveston County violated the rights of those it held in custody. The mere fact that the conversations were recorded violates the right of the accused to have privileged communication with his or her attorney. If they're taping phone calls between inmates and attorneys, what other rights are being trampled on down along the coast?

And, what's this - the Harris County Jail is doing the same thing?
The Harris County Jail also has been routinely recording all conversations, including those between attorneys and clients, but is trying to change the practice, sheriff's spokesman Alan Bernstein said. Bernstein said the jail has been programming defense attorney phone numbers into the system over the past few months. 
These are the same folks who want to install a video conferencing system to cut down on the cost of in-person visits. These are the same folks who swear up and down that they won't be recording or listening in on privileged communications on the proposed system. But here they are making a mockery of the right to converse with an attorney in confidence.

There is no need to praise Galveston County Sheriff Freddie Poor or Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia (or whatever PR flack he puts out in front of the cameras) for ending the practice. No one involved in this mess should be lauded for doing the right thing and putting an end to an illegal practice.

What else aren't we being told? Hmm, might want to get on that right away and let us know.

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