Texpatriate endorses for District Attorney

For years, Harris County was run by a brutal and harsh District Attorney, Johnny Holmes, who turned the office into the nation’s busiest source of death sentences. As this board has opined in the past, we think that the death penalty is tantamount to unjustified killing. In addition to the outright cruelty used in depriving a fellow human being who is not actively threatening you their life, the penalty has been carried out arbitrarily and capriciously. Black defendants are targeted more frequently by prosecutors, and sentenced to death by juries with even more reliability.

While, sadly, both candidates for District Attorney support this appalling practice, only one actively trumpets her support of the penalty and even appears proud of it. Furthermore, only one candidate supports the status quo on the racially biased policies that have contributed to many of this county’s problems regarding criminal justice. That candidate is the incumbent, Republican Devon Anderson. Her policies have failed Harris County, and they should be wholeheartedly repudiated.

Anderson was first appointed about a year ago by Governor Rick Perry to this post following the death of her husband, Mike Anderson, in the post. Devon Anderson, however, also had a illustrious career as both a prosecutor and a Judge. Sadly, she has continued the misguided policies of her predecessor. Be it the death penalty, the elimination of the DIVERT program to deal with driving while intoxicated, illogical grand jury systems or policies on marijuana, Anderson is just not the right candidate for Harris County.

Kim Ogg, the Democratic candidate for this post, is completely different. She has a record as both a defense attorney and a prosecutor, being able to see both sides of the courtroom in an honest and noble manner. As the longtime director of Crime Stoppers, she also has the capacity to examine crime from a more objective point of view, seeing it as something to be prevented rather than just punished.

Ogg is also a little less eager on the death penalty, and she advocates for reforming the venal grand jury system, which allows the political buddies of Criminal District Judges to recruit their friends. This has reduced the grand jury system into little more than a rubber stamp for zealous prosecutors. Under Ogg’s purview, combined hopefully with certain Judges (such as Susan Brown) being defeated for re-election, hopefully this system can be reworked into an effective check and balance once more.

Perhaps most importantly, Ogg has taken bold stands on the need to reform asinine policies on drugs within Harris County. She would rescind the so-called “trace case” policy, which prosecutes residents with felonies for even mere residues of cocaine in dramatically capricious fashion. She would also take advantage of an obscure state law to cite-and-release all those caught with small amounts of marijuana, then work out pre-trial diversion programs that would dismiss all charges if a small amount of community service is rendered. This board supports the full legalization of marijuana, but given that the District Attorney cannot change the law, we believe Ogg’s program — known by the acronym G.R.A.C.E. — is the next best thing. Anderson has only offered a lackluster imitation.

More so than almost any other election at the local level, Harris County voters have a very clear choice this November. They can go with another predictable Republican, trigger happy with putting people to death and complacent with a horrifying status quo that is corrupt, racist and ineffective. Alternatively, voters could rightly repudiate these realities and choose a candidate with an actual plan to shake up the DA’s office for the better.

Accordingly, this board endorses Kim Ogg for District Attorney.

The Texpatriate Editorial Board is comprised of Noah M. Horwitz & Olivia Arena of Austin, George Bailey of Boston, Luis Fayad of College Station and Andrew Scott Romo of New Orleans. Editorials represent a majority opinion of the voting board.

Lykos, Anderson, and DWI

Starting my junior year in High School, I began clerking at my father’s law office. He mainly practices probate law and does estate planning, but this particular year, for some reason, saw an unusually large amount of criminal cases, specifically DWIs and POMs (possession of marijuana). The District Attorney at that time, Pat Lykos, had concocted a program called the “DIVERT” program (it is an acronym for something, but I don’t remember), for first time offenders. In order to complete the program, offenders would be required to complete a number of conditions beforehand, sort of like “Probation-Plus”. If all went well, the charges would be dropped and the records could be expunged, sort of like a mixture between “pre-trial diversion” and “deferred adjudication probation.” I saw these programs in action, and I saw that they worked.

Anyways, enter Mike Anderson, and the firebrand of conservatism that loathes anything that could be deemed “soft on crime.” Anderson campaigns against the DIVERT program, wins the primary, and then goes virtually unopposed in the general election. On January 1st, the day of Anderson’s inauguration, every Criminal lawyer I knew received the same email: that DIVERT would stop, effective immediately.

Then, a ray of hope. The reason the DIVERT program existed in the first place was because deferred adjudication probation for DWIs was banned by the State Legislature. Now, Anderson is lobbying the legislature to change that law. He wants deferred adjudication probation to be restored for first-offender DWI defendants. Oddly, the Chronicle, in its lousy article on this subject, implies that deferred adjudication probationary convictions may be expunged, but that is not even a little bit true. One may, however, prevent the general public from ever knowing of the conviction, but in the eyes of the government, it most definitely still happened.