Updated Thursdays

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Chuck Rosenthal

Whether Chuck Rosenthal inherited an environment of corruption or put it into effect himself, there is no question that his time in power was riddled with scandal and a horrifying climate of 'conviction no matter what' at the Harris county DA's office. Rosenthal became Harris County District Attorney in 2001, and resigned in 2008, admitting "Although I have enjoyed excellent medical and pharmacological treatment, I have come to learn that the particular combination of drugs prescribed for me in the past has caused some impairment in my judgment."

The racist & pornographic emails found on his official computer, the love letters to his assistant(not to mention her $11,000 raise), the 2,500 subpoenaed emails that were mistakenly deleted, the $400 dollar an hour, tax payer-funded lawyers...Yes, that might indicate some extremely impaired judgment.



Questionable behavior during Rosenthal's term

Brady discovery, based on the case of Brady vs. Maryland, requires that the prosecution disclose material exculpatory evidence to the defense. The D.A. under Rosenthal and his predecessor became notorious for their Brady violations.

"Former Harris County District Attorneys Johnny Holmes and Charles “Chuck” Rosenthal left a deplorable legacy of prosecutorial misconduct involving cases where prosecutors not only withheld clearly exculpatory information but fabricated evidence, including the vivid exercise of perjured testimony, to secure criminal conviction-even in death penalty cases. The administration of these two former district attorneys, which spanned nearly 30 years, was proud of their “win-at-any-costs” philosophy that ultimately morphed into unofficial policy."


Ronald Cantrell, accused of sexual assault of a minor in 2004, plead guilty and accepted a sentence of six years in prison, because ""We were told that the DNA was unequivocally that of Ron Cantrell," Hardeway (Cantrell's lawyer) said. He said Friday he was "astonished" to find out otherwise. He said prosecutors violated their legal obligation to turn over all evidence that might raise doubts about a defendant's guilt.

Cantrell's case is one of 1,300 cases from the Houston Police Department's crime lab which were under review in 2003 because of "lack of training for analysts, insufficient documentation by workers and possible exposure of DNA samples to contaminants."


Houston Chronicle via Prisontalk.com


In 2004 at the Children's Assessment Center, the same center that served Jane Doe and her mother in Coy vs. Texas, 800 cases were called into question after an independent review found that a former assessment nurses' methods were "faulty". From the Houston Chronicle:

"The potential problems surfaced after the nurse left the CAC, Rosenthal said, and the district attorney's office asked an independent doctor to verify her work in one case before it went to trial. Rosenthal said he does not know what sparked the concern. But at that point, the office initiated a "peer review" by area doctors of all of her cases. The reviews, he said, included medical records as well as either photographs or videotapes.

"...Rosenthal estimated that physicians have found potential problems in as many as 20 percent of the pending cases."

"...The Houston Chronicle was unable to contact the nurse for comment. Additionally, neither CAC officials nor officials with University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, which has a working relationship with the CAC, returned calls.

"Although not all of the nurse's examinations resulted in the filing of criminal charges, CACe-mails obtained by the Chronicle under the state open records law indicate that she was involved in at least 800 alleged child abuse cases."

"It is my understanding that you are reviewing the 800 cases seen by (the nurse)," reads a Feb. 26 e-mail from CAC executive director Elaine Stolte to Dr. Rebecca Girardet of the Health Science Center and CAC. "Also, there is a special investigator with the District Attorney's office assigned to review the cases brought to him that pose potential problems. Of these, the cases that are disposed of and may have resulted in a guilty plea or sentencing by a jury solely based on the medical findings will be the ones of most concern."

'The Nurse' had not left. She had been tossed out on her ass because of "possible problems with her work."

"McNeese, one of the three UT pediatricians who also work at the CAC clinic, said that last September she, Dr. Rebecca Girardet and Dr. Sheela Lahoti became concerned that Taft placed more priority on collecting evidence for potential criminal prosecution than with making sure the children brought to the CAC were properly cared for."

So what happened after Nurse Taft was placed on paid leave?

"Despite having been removed from the CAC, according to McNeese and Oncken, Taft continued to perform as a sexual assault examination nurse at Memorial Hermann, where she'd been working part time in addition to her duties at the CAC."

"The immediate past president of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association said he thinks defense attorneys should be notified in any case handled by the nurse -- whether potential problems have been discovered or not.

"Otherwise it's going to fall on the backs of every defense lawyer who's had a sexual assault case in however many years she (was there) to attempt to follow up individually," said Troy McKinney. "And that's just going to be a disaster."



Susan Szczygielski, the examining nurse in Coy vs. Texas, worked in this vicious, conviction-oriented environment at the Houston Children's Assessment Center.

Also in 2004, Medical Examiner Patricia Moore came under scrutiny when her 1999 finding of 'homicide' in the death of a 2 month old baby was reclassified as 'undetermined' by Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Luis Sanchez.
Moore's finding resulted in the imprisonment of the baby's mother, Brandy Briggs, until the Texas Court ov Criminal Appeals threw out the conviction, allowing Briggs to return home *only* five years after her wrongful conviction. At least four infant deaths, classified as 'homicides' by Moore, were reclassified as 'undetermined' under review.





These are by no means the only injustices that took place under Chuck Rosenthal between 2001-2008, but they are indicative of the aggressive stance that was taken by the DA's office during this time. Refusing to disclose vital evidence, allowing 800 examinations to be improperly conducted before anyone cared enough to intervene, retaining a medical examiner responsible for sending at least four women to prison for child murder without sufficient evidence...Is it any wonder that Coy was convicted and sentenced to 45 years with no physical evidence, on the word of a child and a scorned woman?

How could he have possibly have hoped for justice?