Updated Thursdays

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Recap 3

After my initial overview of Coy’s case, it became apparent that the trial was wrong; neither decisive nor, in my opinion, just. But how could that be? If the case really had been decided with no evidence, and with the victim testifying repeatedly that she wasn’t sure if she had been assaulted, how could anyone be given a conviction?


I started looking into exonerations in Harris County specifically, and found that there had been many. Suffering a wrongful conviction, being thrown into prison and then ignored for ten or twenty years suddenly didn’t seem that unlikely. So what was the culture of Houston’s justice system at the time Coy vs. Texas was taking place? Who was behind it?


Chuck Rosenthal came to power in 2001, taking the reigns from Johnny Holmes, another hard-line District attorney. He was re-elected in 2004. The District Attorney is the official in charge of prosecuting criminal cases; he has Assistant District Attorneys under him who handle individual cases, and the D.A. guides the office; some focus on the War on Drugs, others try to stamp out gang activity or domestic violence. The D.A. creates the atmosphere under which the prosecutors in the county operate.

"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 knowing use 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"

He resigned after a petition was filed for his removal; he claimed that some combination of prescription drugs was impairing his Decision Smart-Maker, or something.


Chuck Rosenthal is the reason why I do not agree with those who say that Coy was targeted because of his race. I believe that anyone who found themselves in the cross-hairs of this administration was equally at risk. I don’t claim that race had nothing to do with it, as apparently some of the emails subpoenaed from him were full of some pretty hateful, racist jokes, but cannot believe that it was the motivating factor.


The actions of his administration became infamous; Prosecutors hiding or simply not providing evidence that could prove the innocence of the defendant seems to have happened regularly; this is called a Brady Violation, and is illegal; it’s illegal because the D.A.’s job is to seek justice, not just to win cases; in theory, it shouldn’t be a conflict of interest to say “Hey, this evidence suggests that the guy I’m prosecuting is innocent; I should give it to the defense attorney so the jury can see the whole picture.”


For whatever reason, sometimes that doesn’t happen. Sometimes the prosecutors are punished, but more often they are not.

 "Robert Fickman, a defense lawyer and past-president of the Harris County Criminal Lawyer's Association, commended Rosenthal for the experienced lawyers he's placed in key positions and acknowledged that much of the criticism that's levelled at him may not be fair.
 But, he said, there's a general perception in the defense bar that "he doesn't rein in loose cannons on his staff, that he lets people on his staff engage in conduct that's aggressive to the point of being borderline behavior."
Rosenthal himself faced such accusations as a young prosecutor in Holmes' office."

This was the culture that hung over Carlos Coy’s trial; A desire to win, to convict and incarcerate somebody, whether he was guilty or not. The rogue cops and prosecutors that are idolized on TV shows, the ones that bend the rules to get the ‘bad guy’, their real-life counterparts ruled over Houston, choosing ‘bad guys’ seemingly at random and doing what they could to make them pay, whether that was justice or not.

 "There are many good reasons to believe that Chuck Rosenthal should not be the district attorney in Harris County, Texas ... or anywhere else. He leads the nation in his aggressive use of the death penalty and refused to change that stance in the face of evidence that the Houston crime lab was falsifying data. When a grand jury asked Rosenthal to recuse himself from the investigation of that scandal on the ground that he was up to his neck in it, he declined. He defended his office's reliance on false testimony to support a conviction although he had the good grace to apologize for one of the many wrongful convictions for which his office is responsible."

The realization that 8 years of such a bloody cluster-fuck could be shoved down the memory hole by an entire city is startling; although his eventual successor, Pat Lykos, did establish a unit whose purpose was to examine wrongful-conviction cases, it appears that little has been done to right the wrongs. If you can't produce exonerating DNA evidence (which has happened in a surprising number of cases, probably due to the Crime Lab's shocking malfeasance), you're screwed. Your only option is the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which we'll talk about later.






beanieman said...

This is sickening. I've talked about it with some of my homeboys, part of the problem with this world is how people turn things into a competion when they shouldn't. Especially in a situation like this. Prosecuters are more focused on a win than actually finding truth. Same with alot of lawyers. Competition is suppose to be for fun, like sports. It's not important when dealing with serious situations. People are losing their morals and values as time goes on. They care more about personal gain these days. But it's like this isn't about YOU, it's about a man's freedom and finding out whether he deserves it or not. FREE SPM!!!

Eric said...

There is no proof that anyone was wrongfully convicted during Rosenthal's time. Quoting an article written by John Floyd isn't exactly objective journalism either. Check out Mr. Floyd's track record with sex offenders. Or simply examine the marvelous work of Mr. Floyd when he represented Stephen Jabbour.

Incandesio said...

His 'track record'? Do you find the fact that a defense attorney defends those accused of crimes distasteful?

Eric said...

There are a few defense attorneys that I respect, but for the most part I think they are money hungry douchebags.

Incandesio said...

Hmm; I suppose that fits into your starry-eyed view of the justice system.