Saturday, February 07, 2009

Blaming the victim(s) - updated

I've been around the block often enough in politics that I don't tend to get angry at someone just because they disagree with me, but the petty defensiveness of the Lubbock DA in reaction to the Timothy Cole exoneration left my blood boiling. Here's the quote that set me off from yesterday's Austin Statesman:

Though he has not conducted a review of the case, [Lubbock County Criminal District Attorney Matthew] Powell did not blame police and prosecutors when asked where the case went wrong.

"Where it went wrong is you had a victim who picked him out of a lineup," he said.

Really? You don't think it might have gone wrong when police showed Michele Mallin a photo array with five black and white mug shots as fillers and a color Polaroid of the suspect? Or when they prosecuted Tim Cole, a nonsmoking asthmatic, even though all the victims including Mallin said the rapist was a chain smoker?

Can you imagine the arrogance? Powell admits he has not reviewed the case, but categorically denies any police or prosecutor error and blames the victim instead.


MORE: I wasn't able to be in court on Thursday so I didn't hear Michele Mallin's testimony describing what an investigator from the Lubbock DA's office said about Timothy Cole's false conviction, but it's nearly as offensive as Matt Powell's comments. From the Lubbock Avalanche Journal:
Mallin described her shock last spring to learn from one of the original investigators on the case that police had had another suspect, that Cole had died in prison from an asthma attack, and that he had not raped her.

She began to cry, alone in her home, overwhelmed with guilt as investigator George White gave her the news, she testified.

"'You shouldn't feel bad about this, Michele,'" she said White told her. "'[Cole] let himself be in that lineup.'"

She said he later added, "It's OK. He had asthma. He was going to die anyway."

To hear the Lubbock authorities tell the tale, everybody was to blame except them. What's wrong with these people?


Anonymous said...

I's not siding with the DA but there are some questions I have about what happened.

Someone needs to get a photo of Johnson at the time it happened to see if he looked alot like Cole.

Secondly, the evidence linking Johnson to the rapes was hopefully not stored in the same location they stored the evidence in the Cole Case (Cross Contamination)

Finally, make sure that Johnson could have been in the area when the rapes occurred; ask people if he chain smoked (especially his other victims) and be sure you're not believing just scientific evidence with no corroboration.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

If there are remaining questions about what happened, the ones you listed aren't among them.

Johnson admitted the crimes over and over in letters to the Lubbock DA starting in 1995 in which he gave specific details about what happened. He also admitted it again on the stand yesterday. Coupled with the DNA match, there's no real doubt Johnson was the guy.

Anonymous said...

It was a mistake, admit it, learn from it and move on.

The "justice" system is far far too focused on finding someone to blame and not anywhere near enough to learning anything more when who to blame.

I agree, the guy in Lubbock desperately needs to go to school and try to learn something if he can.

Anonymous said...

Double Jackass.

Anonymous said...

Unmitigated gall of a police state apologist who somehow thinks it's going to get the State off the hook of murdering an innocent man. I hope his family bankrupts the county.

Michael said...

This article gets a B+. You know what it needed to get an A? A picture of current Lubbock DA Matthew Powell.

Anonymous said...

Making assertions without conducting an investigation into the facts. Merely a reflection of the way he does his job on a daily basis. Number one on my list of top ten reasons why I hate DA's.

W W Woodward said...

As long as the police clear the case and the DA gets a conviction there's no problem. The wrongly convicted individual is just another statistic. Jumping Judas on a trampoline, any eye witness can make an innocent mistake when pressured to make an identification.

Once the case is closed, the case is CLOSED!! Lawyers don't make mistakes. Ask any lawyer.

Anonymous said...

The DA is more than jackass - he's dangerous to Texans. We need to get rid of jerks like this. If the legal profession won't police itself in this state, somebody needs to get the legislature to pass some laws curtailing their harmful behavior. A bad DA does more harm to society than most serial killers. Think about it. For every false conviction a killer or rapist, etc is free to harm more people. For every false conviction countless lives are destroyed - families ruined, children's futures dimmed.

The institutionalized death of an unjust legal system is just as bad as any other kind of death.

I think it's unlikely Cole would have died of a heart attack if he hadn't been in jail - he probably would have gotten prompter treatment, for starters.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of DAs that do as much harm as serial killers - Galveston DAs Kurt Sistrunk and Joel Bennett are currently trying a 12 year old girl who was assaulted by 4 plainclothed Galveston police officers in an unmarked vehicle. She was in her yard - they attempted to drag her into their van. Medical records show she was bleeding from her ear and nose, she was hit in the head with a flashlight. She is being tried for 'resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer.'

The child, an honor student, was arrested publicly at school in a humiliating manner 4 weeks after being assaulted by plainclothes big guys who just happened to be Galveston Police officers. This is her second trial - the first was declared a mistrial because the police officers said something threatening.

The same squad of the GPD arrested the child's father in an extremely dubious 'traffic stop' 3 days later. Supposedly they found 'trace amounts' of drugs in his car. The charged him with 'resisting arrest' and
'threatening an officer' - a felony charge - and charged him for the drugs as well (3 days AFTER their criminal attack on his child). The toxic slimes that pass for DAs in Galveston county forced this father who was defending his daughter into a plea bargain where he accepted 2 years in jail.

No one in the DAs office seemed to notice a conflict of interest on the part of the police officers who arrested the child's dad.

Oh yes, I should mention - regarding that trace amount of drugs - the GPD narcotics squad only recently began cataloguing their seized cash and drugs as evidence. Individual officers used to hold on to the drugs and cash - no records were kept of the amounts seized or who had what.

This is a matter of public record - results of an audit of the GPD property room done in Spring 2008 (the girl was beaten in 2005).

Please tell the GPD and the Galveston County DA's office what you think of them:

Contact info here:

Here's an article about this poor child's trial:

A. D. Jackson said...

I am quite aware of sloppy foresnic work. While working in the coroner's office, I found that local detectives washed blood and tissue off the muzzle end of a .38 six shooter used in an apparent suicide. Pre-DNA, A, B, O and some subtypes could have been run. Budget cuts forced a sheriff's office to forego gunshot residue testing: lead, barium, antimony, soot, etc.- not the best way to save money. I also wrote a letter for a widow to another police department about failure to collect evidence. Yes, cross-contamination can present a problem, recalling a case where a laundromat might have been responsible.


Anonymous said...

Some DA's and police probably are afraid to admit to such gregious errors on their part. Maybe they are afraid if they admit that such mistakes are possible, it casts too much skeptisism about all arrests. They may fear that instead of being the heroes they will be cast as villians. The community, the police and DA's should acknowledge this particular error as the horrible, sensless event it was. Not every arrest with a line-up is badly tainted. The lesson beyond the tragedy is that we owe everyone who comes into contact with the criminal justice system "integrity". Integrity in an investigation means you are always attempting to look at things objectively. Some crimes are horrible for victims and families. It is very natural for DA's and police to identify with the victim more than the alleged peratrator. It is also easier to claim a solved case and conviction. It's not good justice, but it is good politics. Unfortunatly politics is a factor. The social politics of race, and the electoral politics for offices such as DA's and judges, and legislators. Proclaiming yourself as tough on crime wins votes. The past and present DA of Lubbock county have taken that position for years. Indeed, they will probably be some of the folks rallying the State District Attorney's Assoc., to work against any liberalization of legislation. Fortunatly, people like Jeff Blackburn are in the fray, so there is some hope.

Anonymous said...

Right and wrong have nothing to do with a DAs mindset, it is all about the win! It matters little if the defendant is actually guilty to most DAs. The DA in Williamson County is a whore for the media. I have seen him send 12 year olds to TYC with a 40 year fixed sentence for a crime most 12 year olds got a minimum length of stay of 12 months. It did make him look tough on crime to send a 12 year old to prison for 40 years though. Like I said the DA in Williamson County is a whore for the media and a DA who wastes thousands of tax payer money so he can look good in the paper.

Anonymous said...

Not just a jackass, a retarded jackass, with my apologies at the possibility of actually offending someone legitimately developmentally delayed. This is why people just won't have anything to do with law enforcement anymore. Idiot could have and should have kept his mouth shut.

Anonymous said...

"The institutionalized death of an unjust legal system is just as bad as any other kind of death."

No, it is much, worse. Will anyone make this better, or will it continue in this fashion? I am very anxious for change!

Texas does seem to exhibit some of the worst injustices in the legal system. It makes me ashamed to share stories with friends from other places.

Nothing, however, can compare to how ridiculous the US Attorney's office and the DOJ! My husband is serving 57 months in prison for having a gun in his pocket (at home) while the executed and arrest warrant based on someone's accusations (which just happened to be COMPLETELY DISMISSED on the grounds that he was LYING).

Not yet have they passed an amendment that specifies the qualifications of your right to the second ammendment. Why has this not been challenged with serious force?

Anonymous said...

I don't find it odd that the DA refuses to admit wrong. A majority refuse to admit fault or blame. The victim does have some culpability - but she had undergone a horrific ordeal and the urging evidence of the alleged assailant was instigated by the DA's and investigators. The DA's and judges hold prejudices and the police hold time lines to not have so many "open cases" and/or cases that can not be solved. So, they pin it on the one's who can't or don't know how to fight back. I do believe the alleged victim holds some accountability but I hold the higher accountability to the one's who condemned him knowing his innocense.

Anonymous said...

So sorry to hear about your husband 5:45. Horrible.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes your unmitigated gall makes me puke. If you are such a man, and you certainly portray yourself to be smarter than anyone, why don't you:

1. Get that college degree you need:
2. go to law school, finish something for once in your life, and then pass the bar;
3. then you have all the right in the world to go tell off the DA in Lubbock, who has probably more ethics in his little finger than you have in your entire body.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

To 8:27 - I may not have a college degree nor have gone to law school, but neither of those things makes someone particularly ethical.

What Matt Powell said was self serving and despicable. It's telling that the only people who will defend his statements are too cowardly to sign their names to their opinions.

Anonymous said...

This is just one more dirty DA out for political gain. Stepping on the backs of those without the resourse to fight. Remember the Duke LaCross team. The dirty SOB DA Lafong. He picked on the wrong kids, their family had resourses. He just got his hand spanked and moved on. Great system we have here yuh!!!

Anonymous said...

What Matt Powell said was self serving and despicable. It's telling that the only people who will defend his statements are too cowardly to sign their names to their opinions.


and BTW Scott, A college degree does not make you ethical, far from it I believe (and I have one). The content of your character makes you ethical.

Anonymous said...

I read the post that claims that the Lubbock Co. Da has more ethics in his little finger... And much to my amazement I see that so many of those who are directly involved in the judicial system think that a college degree makes one ethical.
The lack of ethics that was shown by even making such a statement is indicative of that individuals lack of ability to reason in a cognitive manner. Integrity or ethical standards is not something a college degree will get you. It's something that you are taught by those one learns the basics of life from. In my opinion, it's more of a question of accountbility and the lubbock county DA is clearly taking the blame someone else route. Which is what cowards do. They
intentionally dodge and blame others for their failure to do what is just and Honorable when it is time to take action..
A college degree will not give you the courage to do the right thing when it is necessary,Nor, will a college degree give you the integrity to admit you are human and have made a mistake. All that DA was doing was trying to cover his tail because he does not think his offices conduct should be questioned by someone outside of his office.. Most Attorney's don't think past their billable hours Or their conviction percentages. What most district attorney's don't realize is that the truth will be heard no matter what. The truth is not open to manipulating the facts for your "clients'" benefit....