On Thursday, Gov. Rick Perry appointed former Harris County Assistant District Attorney and current executive director of Crimestoppers, Katherine Cabaniss, as presiding judge of the 248th Judicial District Court.
According to Ms. Cabaniss' biography, she worked for a civil litigation firm before joining the DA's office. She was a prosecutor for 11 years (and emphasizes that she obtained a death sentence in a capital case) before leaving to head up Crimestoppers in 2006. So, by my calculation, for the last 18 years, Ms. Cabaniss has worked either to send folks to prison or to help the police solve crimes. In other words, her entire background is in assisting the state in criminal prosecutions.
Yes, Murray, I'm sure she's a really nice person, but that's not the point.
The point is she will be presiding over criminal trials in which questions of the honesty of police officers and the legality of their actions will be raised. She will be asked to make decisions on those questions that will affect the lives of the defendants, and their families, standing before her. And she has never been on the other side.
Her entire career has been on the enforcement side. She's never had to stand next to a client being sentenced to a lengthy stretch in prison. She's never had to comfort the wife, the mother, the father or child of a client who's been sentenced to years in prison. The numbers are an abstraction to her.
Her entire career has been spent assuming that police officers are being truthful in their reports and when testifying at trial. She's never discussed an offense report with a client who insists that the officer is lying and that things didn't happen the way the man with the badge said they did.
There are far too many judges in the criminal courts who have never stood beside a person accused by the state of committing a crime and challenged the evidence before the court. There are too many judges who view their bench as an extension of the District Attorney's Office.
Here we go again.