Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Newsweek alleges racial slurs used in Harris DA's office

Not content with allowing Houstonians to wallow in their District Attorney's disgrace as they prepare to select his replacement, a national newsmagazine today published a feature critical of defrocked Harris County DA Chuck Rosenthal, providing a few juicy tidbits that I'd not seen previously published. Reported Newsweek:

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.

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

The whole judicial system in Harris County including the CCA needs to be cleaned out and new people elected or hired.What a bunch of crooks!!

Harris County is the worst county as far as fairness goes, in the whole State of Texas. The judges and DA's office work together and they make the decisions and not the people on the jury.

Also, jurist are not educated before a trial begins as to the options and what they might be doing to someones live and family. No one there cares. Judges would much rather take a plea deal and then the choice is theirs and they get to go home early.

One female judge there is so rude and unprofessional, she needs to be removed from the bench. Her court is a sham.

I am glad Mr. Rosenthal finally got caught up with and hope his whole office is stripped clean and new ADA's hired. I would be ashamed to say I got my start there if I were a lawyer there.

rage said...

You mean you expect the county that's responsible for 20% of the COUNTRY'S death penalty cases, most of which are against blacks, to be more cosmopolitan than that?

Anonymous said...

I disagree with you on your last paragraph.My experiences in numerous rural DA's offices versus my experiences in the major cities indicated to me that there are more racists in the big city!.

They are all prejudiced towards the poor folks, to some extent, regardless of race.

Retired 2004

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Maybe so, Retired. The NFL comment, though, is pretty friggin' raw for a big-city prosecutor.

The stuff about "Canadians" on the jury, too, is as grotesque as it is typical among old school prosecutors, like something out of the Henry Wade era in Dallas. It also reminds me of the brilliant song from the South Park movie, "Blame Canada" - if you've never heard it, it's a gem.

A Harris County Lawyer said...

Even in all my experiences with the D.A.'s Office, I have to say that the "NFL" thing was something I never heard of.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

AHCL: Have you ever heard the "Canadians" reference? That's an oldie but a goodie.

Bad Court Thingy said...

I had never heard the Canadians thing until all this started coming out a few months ago. Is this strictly a Texas, or Harris County thing? I asked a few other attorneys in my county and they had never heard it.

A Harris County Lawyer said...

I was at the office when the Canadians e-mail came out. I've addressed it in several different posts on my blog.

Prior to the e-mail coming out, no, I had never heard it used as a racial reference, and certainly not as a euphamism for the "n-word".

A Harris County Lawyer said...

And by the way, I'm curious as to whether or not Newsweek did any type of real investigation into their article, or if they just gathered up the articles on the internet and merged them into their own article.

I can honestly say that I didn't see a single thing in their article that I hadn't seen written somewhere else (about four weeks ago).

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Geez, AHCL, I've been down with the flu for a few days, but how did I miss that?! For those who haven't seen them, here are AHCL's referenced posts on the topic, and here's the original Chron coverage that apparently tipped off Newsweek.

BCT: I've heard of the term before, but from cops, not lawyers. It's a lot wider than just Harris or Texas, though, it's an old-school cop euphemism from the post-civil rights era, when all of a sudden law enforcement was supposed to be color blind and in the South, especially initially, that was almost a non-sequitir. So it's a joking attribution of race, making fun of politically correct restraints on language, and also a lightly veiled code to keep bigoted statements from sounding as obvious or harsh as they would if you just used the N-word.

The lawyer who sent the email and the blogger at the link above dispute that interpretation, btw, so see the arguments at this link for the other side of the story.

My view: You can't step inside someone's head so it's impossible to know for sure, but unless there were actually multiple Canadians on the jury - which seems unlikely since non-citizens are not allowed to serve - I think the reference was probably racial.

There's a long history in Texas of prosecutors rather overtly trying to keep black folks off juries, and this is just another sad example of that mentality.

Anonymous said...

white man trying to keep the black man down! cry me a river. I need tell my brothers and sisters about the NFL comment.Thats funny.How you doing grits?

Anonymous said...

Who cares about hallway jokes and water cooler talk.
Look at who who got prosecuted, got sent to the penitentiary.
Did anybody get Nifong'ed?

Anonymous said...

I was in the bar/restaurant business in Houston for over 14 years. "Canadian" was commonly used amongst the bar and waitstaff to refer to the same people the ADA did; I probably heard it used on a daily basis.
I don't think it was a Houston thing; everybody, even those from other parts of the country, knew who was being referred to.

Anonymous said...

This pisses me off for a whole different reason. A white man in a top position makes in-house racial slurs about blacks and he gets main stream news coverage. But a black woman in a top position makes PUBLICALLY STATED racial slurs toward whites (D. Pope of TYC) but not a peep in the media about her.
Well kiss my ass.

Anonymous said...

Racist and unAmerican!
July 2005 my 15 year old son witnessed the shoot out and murder of an adult drug dealer in Abilene, TX.(across the street from where we had recently moved). Police stopped and arrested 15 year old Moishe as he tried to get home. His full face and complete identity was shown on the KTXS(ABC) news 3 or more times daily, (the arrest that night)and for the next 5 days.The initial news tape showed he had no obvious blood on the front of his white t-shirt. He was fast tracked to TaylorCounty adult jail by Judge Barbara Rollins who refused to acknowledge that Moishe had never been in trouble before. Finally with paid backstabber attorney, R. McCool, Moishe was coerced after two years jail confinement (no bail) to a 30 year plea. He is now in Lamesa, TX at Smith Unit. No DNA, no GSR, no fingerprints, no rights, no constitution, no justice, no evidence linking him to the dope dealer murder. The shooter (unknown to Moishe) happily left town I'm told.
No justice for children in Taylor County, TX
I later learned that they were ALL aware of the lack of evidence needed to implicate Moishe. Moishe was told, by W. Knowles (McCool's detective) that if he was a rich little white boy from a real good family, he would have already walked. "But you're not....you're just some poor black kid nobody knows and they gonna hang you boy!"
All this happened during two consecutive 30 day periods Moishe was not allowed visitors. Except I later learned that the drug dealer's family was allowed in to visit our son and had also been writing him. We never knew that family but as I passed the deceased man's mother and simply spoke saying hello, she would not even part her lips to say hello or anything to me. What could she have to to say to a kid that they called a liar and a worthless piece of s...?
Who will be the one to help the children of west Texas?
Deborah
Box 7512
Abilene, TX 79608
(325) 793-1005

Oh, yes this was all turned in to the FBI,ACLU, elected officials and multiple Innocence Agencys

Anonymous said...

Are you kidding 10:12? Long before people were Nifonged, they were Rosenthaled. Ask Clarence Bradford!

Anonymous said...

You really can't take too much that AHCL says seriously. She is still asking probing questions like:
1. Should they offer pre-trial diversion to non-violent first offenders;
2. Should they stop sending crack pipe residue cases to prison.
3. Should we allow defense attorneys to look at our files.
4. or that this happened five years ago and is thus, no longer news.

Surprisingly, AHCL is offended that candidate Leitner is mentioning racism as a problem in Harris County.

Mr. Trent has never really explained why a code word is needed to label a pro-defense juror. Because he can't.

Go to AHCL and read some of the threads by AHCL and her prosecutorial collegues. Read what they say about exculpatory evidence. It will scare the bejesus out of any right thinking Texan.

Nice that Trent made Newsweek. Did they include the Kelley Seigler campaign announcement photo-op where Trent is prominently featured?

Anonymous said...

Too bad Newsweek didn't know that Mike Trent will be teaching a course in jury selection in April for the TDCAA, the Texas prosecutors organization, at a seminar on prosecuting sexual assault of children cases.

I wonder if the selection of Trent for this course was made BEFORE or AFTER the canadian emails came to light? I wonder if he'll touch on that subject in his lecture?

Eh?

A Harris County Lawyer said...

Anon 6:29,
Mike Trent wasn't at Kelly's campaign announcement. The people in the picture you are talking about are Paul Doyle and Bill Exley.
But, please, don't let me, or the facts slow you down from spreading misinformations.

Anonymous said...

krCharles from Tulia chimes in:

The Canadian thing is brand new to me. Having lived in Canada for three years, having a Canadian American son-in-law, and three grandchildren born in Canada, I have nothing but the highest regard for Canadians. I don't know how those prosecutors came up with that euphemism.

BTW, my Canadian-American son in law is finally scheduled to be recognized as a US citizen, after about four years of stalling for an FBI investigation due to homeland security concerns. During the Tulia drug fiasco, he and I were reportedly described as "the most dangerous people in Swisher County," this of two of the few people in the County who do not even own a gun. Oh well, we took it as a compliment.

Anonymous said...

Those of us who have worked in TYC or Juvenile Probation have seen this type of thing again and again. If a White kid comes to us from Harris County, you can be sure he did something very bad. Not so with Black and Hispanic kids. No wonder it is so hard to get these kids to trust us. BTW, I am a middle-aged White male. Old Salty

Anonymous said...

"I don't know how those prosecutors came up with that euphemism."

Maybe it's because Canadians should not be on juries, and in the prosecutors minds, neither should black people.

Anonymous said...

I worked in an East Texas DAs office and saw less racism there than I did working for the State of Texas. But with the State, I saw it from both sides of the isle, so I guess you could say racism isn't right no matter the source. I have, however, years ago heard the canadian reference, but it was just as stupid as any other reference to someone based upon race. Remember, not everyone on the right is bad and not everyone on the left is good. We are all people. I get tired of the preconceptions, stereotypes and the labels just because someone is from East Texas. And by the way, I've heard racist comments in the ministry as well, so there ya go.

Anonymous said...

Why the hell didn't black woman TYC director Demetria Pope's comment slamming white women with PhDs get this same media coverage? The news media just reinforces that it's ok for blacks to be racist but we're supposed to coddle them and fire people if someone steps on their poor little toes? Makes you want to be a real Canadian. This country is F*&^%$ up.

Sam said...

Wow, Canadian is a slang term for African-Americans? Who knew, I mean really, I never heard this before.

I guess our DA's office is better than their DA's office, and I really mean that.

Anonymous said...

Yes it is OK for one side to call the other side "crackers" and so forth, but don't you DARE call the them anything. That is the way it is.
Its those WHITE WOMEN with PHD's that have enough sense to say to hell with what you call me. I am educated and I know that you don't respond to crap like this. You never have to get down to the other person's level.
To hell with POPE she did not win in the end, now did she? She was fired! She got paid back for her statement.

Anonymous said...

Pope was not fired based on her racial statement. So, her resulting termination was not a "justice" ending to her hatred and open prejudice towards whites. Yes, smart people ignore the ignorance and move on, but the main stream media chooses to cover prejudice towards blacks and ignores that towards whites; leaving only white's being held accountable for prejudice.

Anonymous said...

Pope put many blacks in positions of authority that carry on the racisim towards whites and hispanics in TYC. We face this day in and day out. It's okay for them to cover up their indiscretions and those of their race, but you call them on the carpet & they turn it around and start crying because their ancestors were slaves. What the heck did any of us have to do with that and why do we have to celebrate a whole darn month of black history? Why don't we have a whole month of july 4th or cinco de mayo or etc., etc. Personally, I'm tired of catering to them and watching that you don't say something they take personally cause by gosh they will file charges, grieve it and/or yell racial inequality/harassment. Poor me, poor me, cause I'm a different color, get a life and some self respect. If a person is a poor excuse for a human being, it has nothing to with race, they come in all colors and from all walks of life. And no I'm not racist just tired of the bulls**&.

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