Archive for the ‘HCDA’ Category

Department of I Wasn’t Going to Blog This.

Friday, June 9th, 2017

Really, I wasn’t. But I tossed off a quick email mention to a few friends last night, and I was surprised at the reaction. Then I saw that the story made the WP

Terry Thompson was indicted Thursday on murder charges. His wife was also indicted as an accessory.

The twist is: Mrs. Thompson is a Harris County Sheriff’s deputy.

Backstory: On May 28th, Terry Thompson and his kids went to a Denny’s. There, they ran into John Hernandez, who was allegedly urinating in public outside the restaurant. Thompson confronted Hernandez and the confrontation got physical at some point. Thompson took Hernandez to the ground, pinned him down, and put his arm around Hernandez’s neck.

There isn’t video of what led up to the confrontation, but there is about 50 seconds of video showing Thompson pinning down Hernandez. Mrs. Thompson is also shown helping her husband pin down Hernandez. (My understanding is that Mrs. Thompson also tried, or encouraged other people to try, to stop the video, but I can’t find my original source for that. I may have misread or misremembered one of the stories.)

Hernandez eventually stopped breathing and passed out, at which point Mrs. Thompson administered CPR. Hernandez was taken to the hospital, where he died three days later from “a lack of oxygen to the brain caused by chest compression and strangulation” according to the coroner.

The sheriff’s office, rightly (in my opinion) asked the Texas Rangers and Department of Justice to assist with the investigation, and suspended Deputy Thompson. But there was a significant amount of community pressure in this case, including a demonstration in front of the DA’s offices Wednesday afternoon.

Keep in mind: Hernandez passed on the 31st, and the Thompsons were indicted on the 8th. I’m not sure if anyone knows how far the Rangers and DOJ have gotten in their investigation. But the sheriff his ownself today announced that Internal Affairs is looking at eight other deputies who responded.

That’s probably not unusual: from my understanding pf APD policy, this would be considered a “death in custody”. APD’s Special Investigations Division would be tasked with investigating it, IA would probably be involved as well, and they’d be looking at everyone who showed up to the scene.

What is unusual is that this was presented to the grand jury as a “direct to grand jury” case, and the speed with which it was presented to the grand jury. Murray Newman, who I’ve mentioned many times in the past (former Harris County prosecutor, now defense attorney) has a good explanation: briefly, “direct to grand jury” means the prosecutors present whatever evidence they have, but leave the decision on whether and what charges to file up to the grand jury.

Cases that are presented directly to Grand Jury are usually complicated ones. They often take weeks and weeks, if not months and months, to investigate before a presentation is made. The idea that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to file charges on Thompson last week but there is enough for a full Grand Jury presentation this week doesn’t really compute. The skeptical side me thinks that there is more in play here.

HouChron coverage of the indictment. WP story. Both of these include the video.

So is the DA’s office trying to railroad a guy and his wife for acting in self-defense, because elements of the community are demanding it? Or did this guy and his wife the deputy figure they could get away with choking a minority because of their law enforcement connections?

Or does the truth lie somewhere in the middle? I have no idea. This is why we have judges and juries. But it will be an interesting case to follow.

Art quickie.

Monday, February 13th, 2017

I don’t feel like this justifies a full “Art (Acevedo) Watch”, but noted:

Police Chiefs Say Trump’s Law Enforcement Priorities Are Out of Step

Some police chiefs and sheriffs have complained that immigration enforcement is not consistent with their priorities and could undermine hard-earned trust. “I would rather have my officers focused on going after violent criminals and people breaking into homes than going after nannies and cooks,” Chief Art Acevedo of Houston said.


It remained unclear whether the actions by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents were part of continuing operations to round up undocumented immigrants with criminal convictions or a ramping-up of deportations by the Trump administration.

Also quoted: Kim Ogg, the new Harris County DA.

Well, isn’t this interesting?

Friday, May 13th, 2016

The Harris County DA’s office is apparently going to drop the murder charges against Chimene Onyeri.

You may remember Mr. Onyeri as the “person of interest” in the shooting of Judge Julie Kocurek. (Previously.)

Why are the charges being dropped? Reply hazy, ask again later. But:


The dismissal of the charge against 28-year-old Chimene Onyeri will allow him to be brought to Austin — likely in the next few days — to face a motion to revoke his probation on a 2012 larceny charge in Travis County, Onyeri’s Houston attorney, Sam Adamo, said.


Prosecutors have been investigating the case since the November attack on Kocurek but have not rushed to charge him since he has been behind bars on the Houston murder charge. It is unclear now if Austin police and the Travis County District Attorney’s Office will expedite their decision to bring charges.

This is still breaking and much of it is speculative, but it is a curious development. Why would the HCDA’s office drop a murder charge, just so Travis County could go after an alleged judge shooter? Was the murder charge weak to begin with, and is the evidence in the judge shooting better? Is is more politically palatable to go after him for shooting at (but not killing) the judge rather than killing a regular citizen? He’s more than likely going to die in prison no matter what. (Assuming he is convicted: Onyeri is at least entitled to some presumption of innocence.)

Notes from the legal beat: July 9, 2015.

Thursday, July 9th, 2015

It’s Baltimore, gentlemen. The gods will not save your job as police commissioner.

I’ve been sort of generally following the whole “illegal alien shoots woman on a pier” story, and there’s something I’m wondering about. Set aside for the moment the whole “five-time deportee” thing. Ignore the “gun belonged to a federal agent” thing.

The guy claims he was shooting at sea lions. So? Well, aren’t sea lions generally out to sea? Or at least in the water? Like at a 90 degree angle to the actual pier? Okay, maybe it wasn’t exactly 90 degrees; it could be 45 or 30. But my point is, the sea lions would be in the water; you’d have to swing the muzzle pretty far around to “accidentally” shoot someone on the pier. Then again, your average drug addict is probably not exactly well known for muzzle discipline.

(Edited to add: Mike the Musicologist informs me that they guy has changed his story: “the gun went off accidentally”. Three times.)

(Hattip to Tam on the shirts. I’m planning to order one soon.)

I’ve written previously about Kelly Siegler, the former Harris County prosecutor (famous for re-enacting a stabbing during a murder trial) who helped get Anthony Graves off of death row and Charles Sebesta disbarred for hiding exculpatory evidence. I’ve never met Ms. Siegler, but I’d like to: I have enormous respect for her role in the Graves/Sebesta case, and she’s another person that I’d enjoy having some good barbecue and a large orange with.

So this makes me a sad panda, but honesty requires me to note it:

A Beaumont judge who decided that David Mark Temple deserves a new trial in the 1999 slaying of his pregnant wife cited 36 instances of prosecutorial misconduct in his ruling, most of which are tied to legendary former Harris County prosecutor Kelly Siegler.

“Of enormous significance was the prosecutor’s testimony at the habeas hearing that apparently favorable evidence did not need to be disclosed if the state did not believe it was true,” Gist wrote.

For example, the judge noted, Siegler specifically called only a small number of the many investigators who worked the case to testify in the trial. By doing this, the prosecutor would not have to give the defense team any reports from the investigators who did not testify.

This does raise a question in my mind (and please remember that I Am Not A Lawyer): is the prosecution required to disclose all evidence, even evidence that they don’t believe to be true? Or that is clearly not true?

The “don’t believe to be true” is kind of slippery; I’d tend to think that simple “don’t believe it” isn’t enough to bar disclosure. But let us say that the DA investigator is interviewing someone who claims to be a witness to the murder. And let’s say that witness has spent the past 30 years marinating every one of his brain cells in pruno, Sterno, Thunderbird, and anything else he can get his hands on. And let’s say the witness tells the investigator, “Yes, I saw that man stab the victim. And then the UFO came down with a bunch of little green men, and the guy with the knife climbed on board the UFO, and then it took off again.” Is the prosecution required to give that statement to the defense?

(And, if they did, would any defense attorney actually use that statement in court?)

Obit watch: September 1, 2013.

Sunday, September 1st, 2013

Harris County DA Mike Anderson.

I don’t have any thoughts about how this is going to play out. I’m out of town, WiFi is catch as catch can, and I’m blogging from the Kindle. Check in tomorrow or Tuesday.

David Frost, of Nixon interview fame.

Some people have all the luck.

Friday, March 15th, 2013

For example, former Harris County DA Pat Lykos, who escaped grand jury indictment once again.

The Harris County grand jury’s decision to end its term without action ends a yearlong probe. It was initiated when the Texas Rangers asked for a special prosecutor to look into allegations that members of the Lykos administration had investigated members of another grand jury who spent six months looking into evidence collected by the Houston Police Department’s troubled breath alcohol testing vehicles.

More background is available by clicking the “HCDA” category. Also, Murray Newman has a few words to say.

Random notes and obit watch: December 18, 2012.

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

Remember Pat Lykos, former Harris County DA, unceremoniously tossed from office in this past election cycle? Remember the whole BAT Van scandal? (If you don’t, the “HCDA” category” will provide you with a historical overview.)

Anyway, Amanda Culbertson and Jorge Wong, two of the people who brought up the problems with the BAT Vans, are suing Ms. Lykos, Rachel Palmer (another prosecutor in the DA’s office) and Harris County itself.

Among several allegations, the lawsuit says that officials with the DA’s office retaliated against Culbertson and Wong by lobbying the Harris County Commissioner’s Court to cancel a contract with a local private laboratory, where the two found jobs after leaving HPD.

The NYT informs us that there hasn’t been a big hit book this holiday season. (Apparently, last year’s big hit was Steve Jobs, which surprises me; I would have thought the appeal of that was limited outside of Apple fanatics, and it was not well reviewed by several prominent personalities in that community. But I digress.) However, bookstores are still doing…okay.

Steve Bercu, an owner of BookPeople in Austin, Tex., said sales were up 10 percent over last year. He said that shoppers were buying coffee-table books but were also snapping up Kobo devices. “I was a naysayer,” he said, “but they are buying the actual devices, which surprised me.”

Obit watch: Senator Daniel K. Inouye.

Maurice Herzog, noted French climber.

A dramatic photograph of Herzog waving a French tricolor atop 26,545-foot Annapurna on June 3, 1950, thrilled his countrymen and appeared on front pages around the world. It captured a triumphant moment before a brutal descent, during which Herzog endured frostbite that led to the amputation of all his fingers and toes. (His climbing partner, Louis Lachenal, also lost toes in the climb.)

Herzog died of natural causes at the age of 93.

A few election results that amuse me.

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

Edited to add: Left out one significant result:

Louisiana voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a proposed constitutional amendment that gives the state the strongest gun laws in the nation, according to nearly complete state elections office returns.

(Hattip: Sebastian.)

“You’re going down in flames, you tax-fattened hyena!” watch.

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

I thought I’d start a thread covering results of last night’s primaries. Specifically, the ones that amuse me.

To start (hattip Lawrence) Harris County DA Pat Lykos, who you may remember from such hits as the BAT vans and the grand jury investigation, lost the primary election to Mike Anderson.

(If you don’t remember Ms. Lykos and her antics, the “HCDA” tag will provide you with a summary.)

I am getting a slow start to the morning, so watch this space for possible updates as I wade through the coverage.

Edited to add: I did not know this, but the winner of the Democratic primary election for HCDA was “once indicted for illegal lawyering”. To which I say: Huh?

ETA2: “In 2010, he ran as a Democrat while under indictment for barratry, a charge that later was dropped.” Ah, barratry.

HCDA stuff.

Friday, February 17th, 2012

I missed this last night: the Texas Rangers are asking for a special prosecutor to assist in their investigation of the Harris County District Attorney’s office.

I learned of the HouChron article by way of  The Hon. Murray Newman, who points out this is the fourth special prosecutor appointed to investigate the HCDA’s office since October.

Also, just to make things a little easier, I added a “HCDA” sub-category to the law category, and edited posts appropriately. Now everything I’ve posted (AFAIK) related to the Harris County District Attorney’s office is in one place, for easy review. Just part of the full-service blogging experience here at WCD, no need to thank me.

On the DA Front…

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

The Texas Rangers searched the Harris County DA’s office yesterday, and took documents and computers with them.

DA Lykos says she asked the Rangers to investigate, and promised full cooperation.

More on this when we know more. Don’t hold your breath; you’ll just turn an unattractive shade of blue.

Stuff. And things.

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

Obit watch: noted British SF author John Christopher.

Here’s the latest I’ve been able to find in the HouChron on the Rangers/FBI/Harris County DA. It doesn’t add a whole lot to what was reported yesterday, alas.

Paul Farhi in the WP writes about press coverage of the Lance Armstrong probe, including his own paper’s coverage.

Weer’d beat me to this one, but: carry your damn guns, people.