Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Fair and balanced, just like Fox News

The person in that black robe sitting behind the raised desk is supposed to be an impartial and neutral arbiter. That person is not supposed to have a dog in the fight. That person is supposed to make his or her decisions without regard to who it helps.

Of course, like much else in the world we live in, it is honored more in the breach than the observance. But we at least demand the appearance of impartiality, dammit!

Judge Bill Harmon in Harris County couldn't care less about appearances. He doesn't care even to create the impression that he is above the fray.

The other day my colleague, Mark Bennett, posted the video Chronicles of a Teen Killer on his blog. The video was put together with the cooperation of the Harris County District Attorney's Office and the Houston Police Department. And Judge Harmon.

The film is a serious look at drunk driving. But it's propaganda. It's designed to poison jurors into accepting the loose logic the police and prosecutors use in charging many motorists with driving while intoxicated. And there, lending his face to the project, is a man who is supposed to remain neutral and detached.

And that's not all. Proudly displayed behind the judge's desk in County Criminal Court at Law No.2 on the eighth floor of the Harris County Criminal (In)justice Center is a plaque from MADD commending Judge Harmon on his work in support of MADD's objectives.

Can there be any doubt as to whether Judge Harmon can sit as an impartial arbiter in a DWI case?

1 comment:

Glen said...

"Propaganda ... designed to poison jurors"? Golly. I'm pretty sure (and I should know) that jurors were never once considered as part of the audience for that production. It is great if the documentary is getting such exposure that jurors are seeing it, but the documentary was created for an audience of teens, with the help of a team of very creative, volunteer teens.

In the documentary, Judge Harmon presented and defined the law. Who better than a judge who hears such cases to define the law? I can't find any kind of bias in his comments at all - if anything, they are compassionate. Even the raw interview footage shows nothing but compassion for the accused brought before him.

We tried to find an established defense attorney who specialized in defending DWI cases willing to be interviewed for that documentary, but all we approached declined. The teens involved in the production speculated that the reason these attorneys all declined was because there was no money in it.

Glen Muse
Director, Chronicles of a Teen Killer