Monday, March 4, 2013

Is this Mike Anderson's idea of ethics?

Just what does it say about Harris County District Attorney Mike Anderson that he selected Dick Bax to be general counsel for the DA's office? I can only imagine the vitriol that would flow from my friend and colleague Murray Newman's keyboard had Pat Lykos made the same selection.

Dick Bax was the prosecutor in the Ricardo Adalpe Guerra case back in the 1980's. Aldape Guerra was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death. His conviction was overturned 15 years later by US District Judge Kenneth Hoyt who made some very pointed comments regarding the behavior of the Harris County DA's office in the case.
It is clear to this Court that the mood and motivation underlying the police officers' conduct arising out of this case was to convict Guerra for the death of officer Harris even if the facts did not warrant that result. The Court finds and holds that the police officers and the prosecutors intimidated witnesses in an effort to suppress evidence favorable and material to Guerra's defense. Specifically, the written statements that were taken after the line-up are in many respects in significant contrast to those taken before the lineup. The Court attributes this to the fact that Carrasco had been killed and the strong, overwhelming desire to charge both men with the same crime, even if it was impossible to do so. -- Guerra v. Collins, 916 F.Supp. 620, 626 (SD Texas 1995).
As usual the court protects the identities of the prosecutors who stepped afoul of their legal obligations. As to the intimidation, these were witnesses that the police found the night of the shootings - if they are willing to intimidate these witnesses, just imagine what they'd be willing to do with defense witnesses whose names are provided per Sen. Ellis' proposed reciprocal discovery bill.

Judge Hoyt also found that the police had used improper procedures in the lead-up to the line-up - namely parading Aldape Guerra in front of the witnesses with his hands in paper bags. But the police weren't the only ones who played fast and loose with the rules.
The prosecutors joined the hunt by conducting a reenactment of the shooting shortly after the incident with various chosen witnesses participating. This procedure permitted the witnesses to overhear each others view and conform their views to develop a consensus view. At the pretrial weekend conference, the prosecutors presented the two mannequins intended for use during trial. These life-size mannequins, created in the images of Guerra and Carrasco, were utilized then and throughout the trial to reinforce and bolster the witnesses' testimonies. The effect of these impermissibly suggestive procedures also resulted in a denial of "due process", as evidenced by the witnesses' federal habeas testimony. -- Guerra, 629
Then there was the complete disregard of Brady.
634The police officers and prosecutors had a duty to accurately record the statements of the witnesses, to fairly investigate the case, and to disclose all exculpatory evidence. Moreover, they had a duty to not prosecute an innocent man. They failed in these duties. These intentional omissions, during the investigation and prosecution, and the inclusion of poisonous speculations during trial, had the effect of suppressing and destroying favorable testimony that the Court finds was material to Guerra's defense. The information that the police and prosecutors failed to disclose, as well as the manner that the investigation and prosecution were conducted, hardly left a paper trail, and intentionally so. The concept of deceit was planted by the police and nurtured by the prosecutors. This conduct by the police and prosecutors could only have been deliberate and, so much so, that even the exonerating evidence was used in such a manner as to create a materially misleading impression. -- Guerra, 634
In addition to all of this, prosecutors also put on perjured testimony at trial. But that's okay. You see the district attorney back then was Johnny Holmes. He's the subject of hero worship by the member of that office. He's the one that's lionized for being tough yet ethical. He's the one that Pat Lykos wasn't. He's the one who got up and said in that infamous "ethics" training session that Mike Anderson would bring integrity back to the office.

I think Murray might even have a picture of Mr. Holmes on his nightstand.

But then, here's the kicker.

The police officers' and the prosecutors' actions described in these findings were intentional, were done in bad faith, and are outrageous. These men and women, sworn to uphold the law, abandoned their charge and became merchants of chaos. It is these type flag-festooned police and law-and-order prosecutors who bring cases of this nature, giving the public the unwarranted notion that the justice system has failed when a conviction is not obtained or a conviction is reversed. Their misconduct was designed and calculated to obtain a conviction and another "notch in their guns" despite the overwhelming evidence that Carrasco was the killer and the lack of evidence pointing to Guerra. 
The police officers and prosecutors were successful in intimidating and manipulating a number of unsophisticated witnesses, many mere children, into testifying contrary to what the witnesses and prosecutors knew to be the true fact, solely to vindicate the death of officer Harris and for personal aggrandizement. The cumulative effect of the police officers' and prosecutors' misconduct violated Guerra's federal constitutional right to a fair and impartial process and trial. -- Guerra, 637

Pretty damning, huh? And now Mike Anderson, the self-proclaimed savior of the DA's office has made the target of Judge Hoyt's outrage his general counsel.

What does that tell you about the state of ethics at 1201 Franklin?

See also:

"Prosecutor accused by courts of 'intentional misconduct' named Harris DA general counsel," Grits for Breakfast (March 3, 2013)

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