There have long been complaints that the Harris County DA's office discriminates. Former prosecutors have said that other lawyers in the office referred to Hurricane Katrina evacuees as "NFLs," or "N------ From Louisiana." In 2003 prosecutor Mike Trent sent an officewide message congratulating his colleagues on winning a case despite the presence of several "Canadians" on the jury. (He later said he was unaware that "Canadian" is sometimes used as a racial slur for a black person.) Jolanda Jones, a defense attorney and Houston city council member, has complained for years that minorities are unfairly stricken from juries and that punishment is administered more harshly for blacks. "There is absolutely an undercurrent of racism," she says. "The story is bigger than the district attorney's office. It's systemic. They're racist and classist. If you're poor or a minority, there is no justice."
But Joe Owmby, chief of the DA's integrity division and the highest-ranking black prosecutor in Harris County, says he's never felt as if he works in a racist atmosphere-and he defends Rosenthal for encouraging minority hiring. Other black former prosecutors say they never heard racist comments either.
I might expect this from some rural DA's office in East Texas, but if the allegations are true, it's downright shameful for it to happen at the state's largest District Attorney's office. See the full story.