Former Governor Rick Perry refused to order the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to comply with with the Prison Rape Elimination Act. This is particularly interesting since Perry himself faces potential prison time on felony corruption charges.
Recently, new Governor Greg Abbott reversed this policy and pledged to adopt the P.R.E.A. regulations in Texas prisons. Last spring, Mr. Abbott was called to jury duty in Travis County Court at Law #4, a specialized court that handles assaults involving family or dating violence. Most of my cases are in Court #4 since domestic violence is the focus of my practice. Here is a picture of Mr. Abbot with Jesse Ibarra, the bailiff in CC4:
D.A. Confidential has a great interview with Judge Mike Lynch, the presiding judge of the 167th District Court of Travis County. Some highlights:
“I do not like sending people to the penitentiary, especially young people with their whole lives in front of them. It may be necessary and appropriate to [e]nsure community safety, but I still consider it an overall failure.”
“A good prosecutor has a good understanding of human nature and an ability to read and understand people. …He or she must also have empathy and a sense of compassion that allows for fair resolution of cases even when he or she is holding all the cards. Great prosecutors have all the above qualities plus great trial skills.”
“A criminal defense attorney, to be really effective, needs essentially the same traits as [a prosecutor plus he] must be able to adapt quickly, be flexible in his approach to a case or trial, and instinctively know when he needs to bluff or play it straight. These are important because often the defense attorney is fighting an uphill battle with fewer resources, fewer professional witnesses, and with the evidence stacked against him.”
In news that’s as sad as it is surprising, Judge Charlie Baird has announced that he won’t run for re-election next year. Judge Baird is an adept politician but has consistently shown the highest degree of respect for the letter and spirit of the law that I have ever seen from an elected judge, even when it’s politically unpopular to do so. He will be missed. For more about his announcement, here’s the Statesman article.
Today’s Statesman has an article about Travis County ADA Mark Pryor’s blog, D.A. Confidential, which I first came across about three weeks ago and have since found to be worthwhile reading. Originally writing anonymously, the blog’s author was revealed to the local criminal justice community by this humorous post, which referenced Pryor’s English accent and contained a hint that he practices in the 167th District Court.
Most prosecutors aren’t comfortable blogging without the protective veil of anonymity so being outed tends to be the beginning of the end for their blogs (see Mark Bennett’s post on this topic and note that the exception he identified has since shut down his blog as well). I hope that Mark Pryor proves an exception.
Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins was selected to appear in Texas Super Lawyers 2009, a well-earned distinction. The publication’s article about his crusade, “Guilty Until Proven Innocent,” is worth a read for anybody who cares about the problem of wrongful conviction.
The March 2009 issue of the ABA Journal contains a wonderful article on Texas criminal defense legend Richard “Racehorse” Haynes, who Kinky Friedman described as “one of the most successful and most colorful silver-tongued devils to grace Texas since God made trial lawyers.” Haynes, who turns 82 in April and whose legal career has spanned five decades, “has been the defense attorney in some of the most prominent Texas murder cases ever tried. He’s been memorialized in three books, two movies, a Broadway play, and even in popular music.” To read more, click here.