Saturday, May 26, 2012

Baird deserves nod in Travis DA's race

Several people have asked recently who Grits supports in the local Travis County District Attorney's race, so I thought it worth iterating my preference for Judge Charlie Baird over incumbent Rosemary Lehmberg in that race, for reasons detailed here, here, and here. Bottom line: "My sense is Charlie Baird will be more willing to try new things and move more aggressively to improve processes when errors happen, if only because he'll have no personal, institutional stakes in defending the status quo, a reflex which from time to time seems to stymie the incumbent," who will have worked at the Travis County DA's office for forty years when the next term ends. For more on the race, the Austin Statesman's Patrick George has their final, wrap-up coverage today, see "Programs for offenders, officer-involved shootings top issues in DA's race"; see also coverage from the Austin Chronicle.

In other local courthouse races, as mentioned previously, I support David Wahlberg over Yogurt-shop prosecutor Efrain de la Fuente to replace Judge Mike Lynch (see the Statesman's coverage of that race here), and am frankly still undecided on the Sheriff's contest. Challenger John Sisson is a single-issue candidate, but I agree with him on the single-issue, while the incumbent has proven competent but uninspiring. Nobody has convinced me, yet, though time grows short. See the Statesman's coverage of the race and their half-hearted endorsement of Hamilton.


Anonymous said...

Well, I'll grant you this; it would sure be interesting to see how Charlie Baird would act as DA. Other than William Wayne Justice, I doubt there has been a judge in the history of the State of Texas that criminals have loved more. I'm sure he could get caseloads under control---just don't prosecute anyone! Anarchy would be an interesting criminal justice experiment to be sure.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Not many people reading this have sent more people to prison or for that matter affirmed more death sentences, than Charlie Baird. Certainly not you, I'll bet!

Anonymous said...

Baird's problems is that he disregards the rules to get the result he wants. He's a law unto himself. We say that on the Court of Criminal Appeals and as a District Court Judge. It may feel good at the time, but in the long run it is very damaging and frankly disgusting--no matter which side of the spectrum you find yourself.

Kiele Linroth Pace said...

I disagree with the Anonymous posters. As a general rule, criminal court judges are biased toward the government and will ignore the law when it's politically unpopular to follow it, especially if it favors a criminal defendant. Charlie Baird is a rare exception, which is precisely what angers his critics.

Anonymous said...

Todd Snider says it well, "I know who I like to blame ... Conservative Christian Right Wing Republican Straight White American Males ... We who have nothing and most likely will until we all wind up locked up in jails by ... Conservative Christian Right Wing Republican Straight White American Males ..."

Lynne Reed said...

"Anonymous" obviously does not know Charlie Baird, anyway what is he or she afraid of. If you're going to make such public claims then back them up, post your identity!

Rick Reed said...

Dear "Anonymous": I am always intrigued when I read such negative comments posted by someone who doesn't have the backbone to identify himself or herself, electing instead to hide behind a pseudonym. If you really know Charlie Baird well enough to have a factual basis for your comments, why are you not willing to identify yourself? Why do you hide behind a pseudonym?

I know both candidates well enough to have an informed opinion about which one would make the best District Attorney. I've known Charlie Baird for thirty-seven years, and I've known Rosemary Lehmberg for thirteen years. While I have no personal animosity toward Rosemary--and, therefore, would not be willing to make such outrageous comments about her--you obviously bear very strong feelings against Charlie. Considering the inaccuracy of your comments, I doubt that you know Charlie very well, if at all. Your comments suggest that you have simply accepted certain untruths that you have heard from persons who are content with the status quo and feel threatened with the prospect of genuine reform.

Next Tuesday Travis County Democrats will make a decision that will define the course of criminal justice in Travis County for years to come. The results will determine who will serve as our district attorney for the next four years, and the choice could not be more clear. We can continue on the course that has been charted for decades: "turnstile justice"—a never-ending cycle of revolving jailhouse and courthouse doors—or we can chart a course toward genuine reform that can help break that cycle by giving second chances to young, non-violent offenders who would otherwise be burdened with the stigma of a criminal record for the rest of their lives.

Albert Einstein reportedly once defined "insanity" as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Unfortunately, that's what we've been doing in Travis County for decades. We've prosecuted and incarcerated more young men and women than ever before, but what do we have to show for it? Higher taxes, more citizens with criminal records, but less public safety.

If you are satisfied with those results, if you do not believe that the citizens of Travis County deserve better, read no further: the incumbent district attorney is your candidate. If, however, you believe, as I do, that the criminal justice system here in Travis County can, and should, be a model for our nation, I urge you to take a few minutes to vote for my good friend, Charlie Baird.

For the past four years the incumbent has done a "fair to middling" job managing the DA's Office. If she is re-elected, we can expect more of what we've witnessed for decades: piecemeal changes packaged and promoted as genuine reform. The question that Travis County Democrats must answer in this election is this: When it comes to managing the Travis County District Attorney's Office, is "fair to middling" good enough?

"Fair to middling" has never been good enough for Charlie Baird. I know because I've known Charlie for almost forty years. During that time, Charlie has served as a judge on Texas’ highest criminal court, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, and Judge of the 299th Judicial District Court of Travis County, Texas. The primary duty of every prosecuting attorney is the same as that of judge: to see that justice is done. I've never known anyone more committed to the pursuit of justice than Charlie Baird. Having had the privilege of practicing before Judge Baird both as a felony prosecutor and as counsel for the defense, I know firsthand that he is uniquely-qualified to serve as our District Attorney.
Rick Reed
Attorney & Counselor at Law
Law Office of Rick Reed
316 West 12th Street, Suite 313
Austin, Texas 78701-1820
Board Certified, Criminal Law, Texas Board of Legal Specialization

Phillip Baker said...

JUdge Baird had the guts to go against the herd and try different sentences than just lock 'em up. Our DA's and judgeships are stuffed with "tuff on crime" blowhards, which is why we lock up so many more people than anybody else. Here is a man who follows the law, while at the same time searching for justice and truth. Wow, what a concept. His critics are and always have been the lock 'em up crowd. But that hard nosed view is costing us untold billions, destroying thousands of lives, and doing not much for real crime. I'm betting Baird will continue to put away those who need to be off the streets, while finding other ways to punish men and women whose lives can be salvaged. We need many more Bairds in our corrupt and broken "justice" system. Texas alone accounts for almost half of all homicide exonerations nationally. Texas has judicially murdered at least 3 innocent men I can pull off the top of my head. Give me a while and I can other names. I am sick of living in a state that values lives so little. He's fighting an uphill battle, but I'm supporting Judge Baird for DA. My name is at the end of this, because I chose to state my views openly and not hide behind the screen of "anonymous". It's cowardly and pathetic.

mariquita1 said...

I have known Charlie Baird for five years and from the beginning, I knew this was a man of integrity. He is unique in that he does not follow the "status quo", but believes that if someone is a low level offender or first time offender, has a job, has a family, and has ties to the community, he should be given a second chance, by continuing in the community, until he comes to trial. As Mr. Reed said, too many of our young people are being incarcerated and given labels they will wear for the rest of their lives. Trust me, Charlie Beard puts away people that are hardened criminals and VIOLENT criminals and STRONGLY believes in keeping our community safe. What he is doing is being SMART on crime! Currently the incumbent has as Mr. Reed has stated, a "turnstile justice". IT is TIME FOR A CHANGE and Charlie Baird is the man. I AM NOT satisfied with what is happening now in TRAVIS COUNTY's DA office and I strongly believe Charlie Baird should be elected DA. Please make your VOICE heard. VOTE CHARLIE BAIRD on the 29th of May!

Anonymous said...

Caterwauling in extremis ! The bit dog barks loudest.

Anonymous said...

"A search through the archives of the Austin American-Statesman brings up dozens of cases in which Baird actively chose to personal bond violent felons, many of whom went on to commit further crimes while back on the streets thanks to Baird. He gave other serious criminals -- people charged with sexual assault of a child, armed robbery and homicide -- the lightest sentence allowable by law.

Homicide -- Jonathan Anthony Kelly-Contreras. The 17 year old killed an elderly woman, Jennie Sue McClusky, as part of a gang initiation just one month after he was released on a PR bond by Judge Charlie Baird. McClusky died after she was robbed and injured by Kelly-Contreras and a friend. Kelly-Contreras, "had been released by state District Judge Charlie Baird last month on a personal recognizance bond on the aggravated robbery charge." [Source: Statesman]

Child Abuse -- Emily McDonald. McDonald put feces in her 3-year-old daughter's hospital feeding tube, and Baird let her go free on PR bond. McDonald was later found with another child and returned to jail by another Judge, who said she "would never have released McDonald on personal bond pending trial." McDonald was arrested for smearing fecal matter in her hospitalized infant daughter's feeding tube, after hospital staff became suspicious of the infant's illness and set up a hidden camera. Staff caught McDonald smearing feces on her daughter's IV cap. The mother told hospital authorities that she smeared feces on the IV line five times during the child's six-week hospital stay. Judge Charlie Baird let her go free on personal bond. McDonald was later found with a child, in violation of her release. She was eventually sentenced to 20 years in prison. [Source: Statesman]

Child Sexual Assault -- Jose Gonzalez. Gonzalez was given a PR bond against the wishes of pretrial review after he was arrested for sexual assault of a child. Gonzalez was in the country illegally, on probation, and awaiting deportation. Gonzalez had a record in both juvenile and adult court for various crimes, culminating in the sexual assault of a child. Baird gave Gonzalez a personal bond. [Source: Court Documents]"

Anonymous said...

Repeat Armed Robbery -- Norvin Buggage. Buggage pled guilty to charges of robbing a bank in Austin and accepted a 15 year sentence. Instead, Baird gave him eight years of deferred adjudication -- a form of probation with no jail time -- for a crime punishable by up to life in prison. Only three months later, Buggage was arrested in New Orleans (in violation of his probation, which forbade leaving the county) on another charge of attempted armed robbery with a firearm and battery of a police officer. Baird sentenced him to five years in prison. [Source: Statesman]

Child Sexual Assault -- Stanislaus Smalls. Smalls, a 42 year old man, pled guilty to two counts of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy he met on MySpace. The Statesman writes, "The plea was unnegotiated, manning it was up to state District Judge Charlie Baird to determine the sentence." Baird gave the man 8 years probation -- no jail time -- for a crime that is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. [Source: Statesman 4.20.2007]

Burglary and Robbery -- Maurice York. Baird sentenced York to deferred adjudication for burglary and armed robbery. The Statesman writes, "while on probation, York, 22, went on to commit more than 20 robberies in Austin. Hindsight is 20-20, and York is now serving a 50-year sentence." The victims of those 20 robberies might question why Baird thought it was a good idea to let their attacker avoid jail time. [Source: Statesman]

Murder -- Carlos Mares. Mares pled guilty for a drug charge and was awaiting a seven-month jail sentence. Baird gave Mares a personal bond and sent him to a halfway house. Mares got drunk with the owner of the halfway house and stabbed him several times. The halfway house operator died. [Source: Statesman]

Murder -- Raul Acedo. Acedo was a meth user with a prison record involved in two shootings on the same day. Baird sent Acedo to prison for 15 years for one of the shootings. The Statesman writes, "The sentence was the minimum allowed given Acedo's criminal record ... Acedo could have gotten up to life in prison." Acedo was involved in another shooting the same day, for which he pleaded guilty and received a concurrent 12-year sentence. Acedo pled guilty to murder in a deal that left the sentencing up to Baird. [Source: Statesman]

Homicide and Domestic Violence -- Eric Skeeter Skeeter punched a man, who fell down and later died of his injuries. Baird gave him 10 years probation. A year later, Skeeter was charged with assault for family violence, arrested, and put back in jail. [Source: Statesman]

These are just a few of the cases I found in the Statesman's archive. I am sure there are more. But just this handful of incidents demonstrates a disconcerting pattern by Baird to bond out serious offenders, after which they commit additional serious crimes."

Anonymous said...

From Michael Tigar:
"Tigar is a legendary criminal defense and human rights attorney, and currently professor emeritus at Duke Law School. He no longer lives in Travis County... “[Baird's campaign literature] is just completely false, wildly so,” he said. Later, he elaborated, “I do not have a dog in this fight; I do not support Rosemary Lehmberg – she and I have had disagreements. … [Baird's claims are] just horseshit. I wrote to Charlie this morning, because I’ve known him for a long time, and I don’t believe in shooting at people from behind a tree. I told him, Look, I told you in the beginning that I support your candidacy. I don’t, anymore. I react to this [campaign material] in that way – it’s just not true, and I told him, it’s false and defamatory.”

Tigar concluded, “Not only [are Baird's charges] strange, but I’m willing to say Charlie Baird’s literature about this is false, and it’s defamatory. And it impugns the reputation of lawyers that in fact were the victims of the fraud, not the perpetrators.”

Blue_in_Guadalupe said...

So Anonymous 5/28/2012 01:10:00 PM it seems reasonable to conclude that Baird believes in innocent until proven guilty and you don't. As a non-lawyer with no experience in the judicial system perhaps I'm naive but my understanding is that bond is to insure that the alleged perpetrator shows up for trial and until that person has been tried and convicted there is no constitutional reason to hold the person in jail. What am I missing?

Anonymous said...

Your missing that the law requires the safety of the community be taken into account--as well as many other factors.

Blue_in_Guadalupe said...

Art. 17.01. [297] [315] [303] DEFINITION OF "BAIL". "Bail"
is the security given by the accused that he will appear and answer before the proper court the accusation brought against him, and includes a bail bond or a personal bond.

Acts 1965, 59th Leg., vol. 2, p. 317, ch. 722, eff. Jan. 1, 1966.

The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure doesn't say a thing about bond having any other purpose than to assure that the accused shows up for hearings and trial. To Anonymous 5/28/2012 01:10:00 PM: Please show citation indicating that it serves another purpose.

Anonymous said...

It's in there. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

Anonymous said...

Art. 17.15 of the Code of Criminal Procedure entitled "Rules for Fixing Bail" requires the judge to consider the safety of the community and the nature of the offense among other things. I don't know how things typically work in Travis County, but in most counties a P.R. bond on a felony is a little bit out of the ordinary.

Levi said...

Art. 17.15 is void to the extent that it conflicts with the US Constitution:

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

We all have a constitutional right to bail. Keeping someone without bail (or with a bail too high for them to afford) should happen only in exceptional cases where the risk of flight or danger to the community outweighs the constitutional imperative. It is the duty of the District Attorney to present compelling evidence in cases where bail should be denied. If the prosecutor fails to bring this evidence to the court it is a failure of the DA and of their investigators and the police. Only a fool would blame the court.

Anonymous said...

Where do people get there facts from?Becouse Iam the mother of Jonathan Kelly-Contreras and when he was let out on a pr bond he didnt commite another crime it was related to the first charge he was charged with.I just hate how people miss inform others with there own made up stories.Pretty Sad