Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Class dismissed

Talk about your sophisticated ways of poisoning jury pools and public opinion. The Harris County District Attorney's Office found the perfect tool to make Harris County even more prosecution-friendly.

According to a PR memo released by the DA's office, Harris County prosecutors have been spreading propaganda "teaching" students at Strake Jesuit High School about criminal procedure over the past five weeks.

I'm sure there was plenty of talk about technicalities and court decisions that have hampered the ability of the police to do whatever the hell they want to do. Sure, there's a justification for gutting the Fourth Amendment's protections against unreasonable search and seizures - it's really important that we catch the bad guys and, well, sometimes that requires us to do some things that, under ordinary circumstances, we shouldn't do.

I doubt there was any mention of how Harris County systematically violates a defendant's right to counsel at crucial stages of a prosecution. I mean, why on earth would a defendant need to consult with an attorney before a magistrate judge fills in the blank on the arraignment form with the bond listed in the county's bond schedule?

I would guess that somehow the prosecutors assigned to the propaganda division forgot to inform the students about the abuses heaped on defendants from judges intent on clearing their dockets via mass plea. Oppressive and punitive bond conditions? Doesn't happen. Threatening to revoke the bonds of defendants who come to court without attorneys? A very rare occurrence.

And there is no need to talk about prosecutors hiding the sausage and ignoring Brady now that the Michael Morton Act is about to go into effect. We've got extensive checklists now so that the burden can be shifted onto defense attorneys when exculpatory evidence isn't handed over. I wonder if they broached the subject of junk science being deemed admissible if it was beneficial to the prosecution? Probably not.

If the purpose of this exercise had been to teach high school students about criminal procedure and how the criminal (in)justice system works, there should have been criminal defense lawyers involved. Allowing students to hear one side of the equation while acting like they're getting the whole story is a travesty and has no place in our education system.

Doing so allows the state to continue to equate constitutional protections with "technicalities." There is a reason behind the protections of the Third, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments. Ignoring the reason behind those protections is a disservice to our youth - and our society.

I'm certain that no one told the students that the defendant is entitled to a vigorous defense and that the job of the criminal defense lawyer is to hold the state to its burden of proof. It is the job of a defense attorney to ensure that his client's constitutional protections aren't violated. It is the job of the defense attorney to question every piece of evidence and to challenge the state to prove its case beyond all reasonable doubt. It is our job to stand beside people that no one else will and fight to defend their liberty.

We don't deal in technicalities. We deal in quanta of proof. When it comes down to it, the defense lawyer is the only person standing between his client and the power of the state.

H/T Grits for Breakfast


Lee said...

Thanks Paul for doing what you defense lawyers do.

Unknown said...

Can't believe u want an impartial govt. That's ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

Dallas has their own propaganda machine:


Anonymous said...

So, without asking anyone what specifically is taught and talked about, you assume a whole lot about the program. Perhaps if you volunteered to assist them, they'd welcome your pro bono hours to educate the masses.