Sunday, March 15, 2009

Praising Pat Lykos: Critics react well to transparency, humility from DAs

New Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos has been receiving praise from unlikely quarters, recently, first for changing the office policy to allow defense counsel to receive police offense reports, then for actually apologizing over an egregious mistaken ID case prosecuted by her predecessor. Rick Casey at the Houston Chronicle could scarcely believe that "She not only admitted mistakes, she used the active voice," declaring it a "new era." I'll admit, that is unusual.

Like Craig Watkins in Dallas, Lykos has begun her new administration by giving the public two things I think voters were looking for when, as in Dallas, they rejected a candidate from the ancien regime: A DA who would embrace transparency and accept responsibility for mistakes as well as credit for successes.

The defensive, circle-the-wagons reaction to exonerations we've seen from some DAs leaves a bad taste in public palate. Similarly, gamesmanship surrounding discovery by prosecutors in criminal cases leaves the public impression that they'll resort to trickery and deceit to win.

By comparison, take a look at the DA's report on Richardo Rachell's false conviction, which openly criticizes relying on an eyewitness ID without following up to perform DNA tests when the evidence was available to make sure they had the right guy. In addition, the report faulted Rachell's attorney for not requesting DNA testing.

The report concludes, "The wrongful conviction of Ricardo Rachell and the length of his incarceration was the result of a series of unfortunate events, blunders and omissions. There was a cascading, systemwide breakdown." If that's really true, and I think it is, it's impossible to fix the problem without first admitting it exists. That's something Lykos' predecessor seemed constitutionally incapable of doing.

Lykos and Watkins are demonstrating the political viability of reform in the state's two largest counties. When you just flat-out do the right thing, it turns out, even your worst critics will praise you. Hopefully both of them will continue to set a different tone that helps foster a more open and accountable justice system - one capable of learning from its mistakes instead of just covering them up.

Photo
via Life at the Harris County Criminal Justice Center

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

One of the main culprits that undermined the West Texas State School is trying to transfer to Sheffield. Be aware. Protect your facility from this germ from WT.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Texas DAs and new eras we need both in Bexar County. Our present Distrcit Attorney Susan Reed is not mentally up to the job of District Attorney. We need District Judge Sid Harle to throw his hat into this race that is up in November 2010. Harle is the most qualified person in Bexar County to be the next DA. He is also ethical and moral. It would be a stretch to say the presnt DA has either on her side.

Anonymous said...

Give me a break!!! Harle the coward....where is he at on the probation department. If you support that corrupt chief probation officer you have no business being judge or DA.
Don't waste the public's time running for DA. Maybe La Hood for DA.... maybe he will be honest and call out corruption when it stares him in the face.

Soronel Haetir said...

This sort of transparency in regards to the actions of past officials seems very common. Far more interesting will be the cases that come along where the new people were in charge.

This is only anecdotal, but watching shows on the fights to free wronglyfully convicted people, DAs seem much more willing to fight to preserve their own convictions than those of their predicessors.

May the transparency and honesty remain after the old controversies are gone.

Informed Citizen said...

It took us fifteen (15) years to bring about this change in the Harris County DA Office.
www.informed.org
Now we must do the same for the Office of the Attorney General.
The same corrupt culture is engrained in the Office of Attorney General. A culture opposed to Liberty & Justice / Opposed to the people of Texas, the American Nation, and the supreme Law of our Land. ...

peter said...

I hope that both DA's, Watkins and Lykos, are also prepared to admit to mistakes under their own tenure, with the same transparency and candor. The fact is that mistakes are still happening, even when a life is at stake, as was demonstrated recently in the case of Gregory Wright.

Jackie Buffalo said...

"impression that prosecutors will resort to trickery and deceit to win"?
When are our legislators going to write the laws that penalize prosecutors who engage in trickery and deceit?

Anonymous said...

I don't think Harle supports the present probation chief. I also know he is not a coward. He is extremely competent, ethical, and actually has the temperament to be DA. Your comments about Harle supporting the probation chief are off the mark anyway. The DA has nothing to do with the chief. If you believe what you say then if Harle would run for DA then you could find a pro union candidate to run for the vacant 226th that Harle occupies. See everything would be perfect then. Bexar County would actually have a competent DA which they haven't had since Sam Milsap and you would have a new judge in the 226th.

Anonymous said...

Enough campaign dollars go into the Lycos war chest and Grand Jury cases with ties to these dollars seem to disappear. Hmmm ... pay enough and your problems disappear. Wow what a new approach. So if daddy pays enough then Ms. Lycos can look the other way and say "What kiddie Porn, I am sure we don't have enough to endite" This stinks ... business as uaual and the heck with the victims.