Editorial note: This is the nineteenth in our series of electronic interviews with candidates for Statewide and Harris County offices. We have sent questionnaires to every candidate on the ballot, given we could find a working email address. We have printed their answers verbatim as we receive them. If you are or work for such a candidate, and we did not send a questionnaire, please contact us <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Texpatriate: What is your name?
KO: Kim Ogg.
T: How long have you held this post? What number term are you seeking?
KO: I am currently the managing partner at the Ogg Law Firm, PLLC. The 2014 race for Harris County District Attorney is for an unexpired term of two (2) years.
T: Please list all the elected or appointed POLITICAL (including all Judicial) offices you have previously held, and for what years you held them.
KO: I have not been previously elected to any post.
T: What is your political party?
KO: I am a Democrat.
T: What do you think the role of District Attorney should be?
KO: The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Article 2.01, states that the primary duty of a district attorney is not to convict, but to see that justice is done. The DA is the highest law enforcement official in Harris County and represents the people in all criminal investigations and prosecutions of individuals and corporations for violations of Texas law in Harris County.
T: What is a specific case in which you disagree with the actions undertaken by the incumbent?
KO: I specifically disagree with my opponent’s actions in the following specific cases:
- Entering into a secret plea bargain arrangement with Judge DenisePratt that allowed Pratt to resign from her bench in lieu of facing further criminal investigation by a Harris County Grand Jury and facing criminal charges.
Failing to investigate (former) HPD Homicide Sgt. Ryan Chandler for Tampering with a Government Document, following the request for criminal charges by Chief Charles McClellan.
Orchestrating Chandler’s criminal investigation to be reviewed by a Montgomery County Asst. DA, preventing a Harris County Grand Jury from investigating Chandler.
Failing to investigate the conflict of interest between ADA Inger Hampton and Chandler for working on criminal cases together while romantically involved and for failing to take any administrative action for Hampton’s unauthorized access into criminal case files on behalf of Ryan, after he was under criminal investigation.
After learning from a prosecutor that Sgt. Ruben Sean Carrizal backdated a search warrant while employed at the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, allowing him to resign instead of firing him.
Failing to notify the Harris County Sheriff’s Office about Carrizal’s actions during a routine background check; remaining silent when the Harris County Sheriff’s Office hired Carrizal three days after he resigned. He backdated a search warrant and never missed a day of pay.
T: Do you believe that the incumbent has specifically failed at his or her job? If so, why?
KO: I believe that my opponent specifically failed in her duty as District Attorney to investigate and prosecute two police officers who lied on government documents and a Republican Judge who harmed thousands of Houston families by dismissing their cases without notice.
T: Why you, as opposed to your opponents?
KO: I pledge to be a District Attorney who seeks justice without influence of friends, political allies or professional colleagues because I believe in equal justice for all. I have a strategic plan for reducing crime that involves the full spectrum of diversity in Harris County and will flip current public safety priorities.
T: What place do you think that Pre-Trial diversion programs (also known as “DA’s probation”) should have in the criminal justice process?
KO: Pre-Trial diversion has an appropriate place in the criminal justice system as a useful tool for holding a person accountable for their law violation while allowing them to avoid a permanent criminal record for the offense. It deserves regular use, which I have pledged to begin using in all misdemeanor possession of marijuana cases.
T: In what ways —if any— do you think that the DA’s office should amend the way it deals with marijuana cases?
KO: I have proposed creation and use of the GRACE program.
The GRACE program is the future of misdemeanor marijuana prosecution in Harris County. No jail. No bail. No permanent criminal record… if you earn it. GRACE stands for Government Resource Allocation/ Criminal Exemption and utilizes existing law to summon offenders directly to court rather than arresting and jailing them. Once offered GRACE, offenders are referred — through the extant mechanism of pre-trial diversion — to the Clean & Green Program. In return for case dismissal, GRACE-eligible offenders will clean up litter and recycle debris reclaimed from Buffalo Bayou; that means, rather than languishing in jail, offenders will spend two days working to better our community.
Government’s first duty is public safety. Currently, every misdemeanor marijuana arrest takes a patrol officer off of our streets for three hours or more. Kim believes police resources are better spent investigating the crimes that harm our community most, not transporting and booking non-violent drug offenders.
Houston has the fifth-highest arrest rate for misdemeanor marijuana in the country and, since 2007, has prosecuted 100,000 Houstonians, saddling them with permanent criminal records and compromising their futures by limiting their job and housing opportunities. Additionally, local records show that those arrested are disproportionate representations of our community; to an alarming degree, those arrested are black, Hispanic, male, under 25 years old and low-income. The “nail em’ and jail em’” policy employed by the current Harris County DA means marijuana offenders are incarcerated and housed right alongside hardened, violent criminals. As recently as November 2013, the American Medical Association amended their official policy regarding marijuana possession, calling for “public health based strategies, rather than incarceration.”
As DA, I want to bring Harris County’s criminal justice policies into line with other states and with common sense. Marijuana is illegal in Texas, but permitted for medicinal use in 24 states and for recreational use in another two. Marijuana law is rapidly evolving at the national level, and the future of marijuana prosecution is evolving too.
It is time we start utilizing our public safety resources in a manner that makes Harris County safer, and stop racking up slews of arrests for crimes that don’t directly involve — or even impact — public safety. By re-rerouting offenders through GRACE, Harris County taxpayers will save more than $10 million per year, and offenders will have the opportunity to clean their community and their record.
T: What role do you believe that capital punishment should have in the future of the country?
KO: Capital punishment is available by law to the District Attorney for use in seeking the ultimate sanction against a murderer. The future of the death penalty is as fluid as the public sentiment among Texas voters. If elected, and with the increased prosecution for and use of ‘Life without Parole’ sentences, I will seek the death penalty in fewer cases than my opponent.
T: What are the three most important issues to you, and what is at least one things you have done to address each of them?
KO: Three issues of paramount importance to me are:
Grand jury reform – As DA, I have pledged to be a leader in the Legislature for reform which bars the‘ key man’ practice of grand jury selection and requires random selection of grand jurors.
Revolutionize management of the DA’s Office as a public law firm, not a paramilitary pseudo-police organization – I have researched the current paperless systems being used by various counties, and found that Tarrant and LA both employ paperless systems that are effective and efficient. I have pledged to change the current culture as set by my opponent and to professionalize prosecution management of more than 600 employees.
Pursuit of violent and white collar criminals as a priority, instead of jailing thousands of non-violent drug offenders, a significant percentage of whom are mentally ill, at taxpayer expense. I have worked my entire professional career to improve public safety, including work as a public servant and as a pro bono volunteer. I have written, taught and worked with the Texas Legislature to improve criminal laws and procedures.