Judge Rules Harris County District Attorney Violated Defendant's Rights

A visiting Harris County District Court Judge ruled that the State prosecutors should have turned over exculpatory evidence to the defense lawyers before the start of a sexual assault trial. 

According to the article,

Visiting state District Judge Van Culp said the chief of the Crimes Against Children Division of the Harris County District Attorney's Office should have revealed that the girl accusing 54-year-old Glen Kahlden originally said a black man assaulted her. Kahlden is white.

So what is Brady materialBrady material is the suppression of evidence favorable to an accused.  In other words, if the government has any evidence that tends to show that a defendant is not guilty or did not commit the crime, the government is required to produce this evidence to the defense. 

Why is this such a big deal in the Houston criminal defense community?  Well, those of us who are criminal defense lawyers have repeatedly complained that the District Attorney's office routinely fails to fulfill its duty to disclose Brady material.  Even more troubling is the fact that the person committing the violation is the one of the most senior prosecutors in the office and the chief of a division in the Harris County District Attorney's Office. 

The problem starts at the top and trickles down to the underlings.  It is no surprise that the younger Harris County prosecutors don't turn over Brady material upon learning of it.  There is a saying, that floats around,

Prosecutors wouldn't know Brady material if it were staring right at them.

Chief Justice John Roberts lets us all know where he stands on the issue of DWI / Drunk Driving

The Supreme Court refused to hear a drunk driving case from Virginia.  Chief Justice John Roberts wrote a dissent to the decision not to hear the DWI case in which he says the lower court ruling will "grant drunk drivers one free swerve" that could potentially end someone's life.

In the underlying DWI case, the defendant was convicted of driving while intoxicated.  The evidence at trial was the driver was pulled over after a motorist called in a drunk driver.  The officer did not personally observe any traffic violation before stopping the driver.  The case was appealed to the highest court in Virginia and was ultimately overturned because of the stop.

In his dissent, Chief Justice Roberts goes on to say,

The stakes are high. The effect of the rule below will be to grant drunk drivers 'one free swerve' before they can be legally pulled over by police.  It will be difficult for an officer to explain to the family of a motorist killed by that swerve that the police had a tip that the driver of the other car was drunk, but that they were powerless to pull him over, even for a quick check.

Isn't this exactly what is required for a valid stop.  The officer must state with particularity the reason for the stop - the observations he/she has made prior to pulling someone over.  The 4th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States protects each and every one of us from unreasonable searches and seizures.  Chief Justice Roberts - BELIEVE IT OR NOT, THE CONSTITUTION APPLIES TO DWI / DRUNK DRIVING CASES ALSO. 

It seems like people, even Supreme Court Justices, don't think the United States Constitution should apply to driving while intoxicated cases.  I guess I am just a strict constructionist that believes the Constitution should apply equally to all cases.  If the police don't follow the rules, the evidence is no good.

Why has it taken Harris County so long to tell us they won't oppose a new trial for those cases with fake breath tests?

Deetrice Wallace, the technical supervisor responsible for maintaining the integrity of the breath test machines used by law enforcement to convict arrestees of DWI, will be spending the next year behind bars for faking inspections on the breath test machines.

I have spoken to Ms. Wallace on many occasions over the past few years as we have obtained information about the breath testing machines that she inspected.  She seemed like a nice enough person and was always forthcoming with the information that we requested.  She even requested that the payments for the records go to a Boy Scout Troop.  I'm not sure what led her to fake the results of the tests, but it sure has had a huge impact on many DWI client's lives.

The real question that I have is why has it taken so long for Harris County to say that they will not oppose a new trial for those that were affected by the fake tests?  Galveston County sent me a list of my Galveston DWI clients that took a breath test where Deetrice Wallace had maintained the breathalyzer back on January 15, 2009.  Harris County still has not sent me a list of my clients that are affected by Deetrice Wallace.  We have had to re-create that list on our own.

Tigers GM upset with Miguel Cabrera for intoxication altercation - Is he Justified?

According to an ESPN report, Detroit Tigers GM was upset with Miguel Cabrera after learning that Cabrera had become intoxicated during the final weekend of the baseball season.  Not only was it the final weekend of the season, the Tigers were in the hunt for a playoff spot that they ultimately lost to the Minnesota Twins. 

A little more background is needed - not only was he intoxicated (over 3 times the legal limit), but the police were called to the scene of an altercation that Cabrera was allegedly involved in.  Police then released Cabrera to staff members of the Tigers organization.

Is the Tigers front office justifiably upset with Cabrera for getting intoxicated during the final weekend of the season?  Would it be any different if the incident have happened earlier in the season?  If the Tigers were not in the playoff hunt?

For what it is worth, the baseball season is a long season.  I think it is ridiculous to ask a baseball player to refrain from alcohol for the season.  With this being said, it is not  justifiable or excusable to become intoxicated to the point that police are needed to respond to an altercation.  The timing of Cabrera's intoxication and altercation on the last weekend of the baseball season while the Tigers were in the playoff hunt is just plain stupid.  If he had just gotten drunk, stayed home and had no run-in with police, I would say the Tigers would be off-base in being upset with him.  However, when you involve your employer in you personal life by asking them to pick you up from a drunken encounter with the police, your employer has every right to be pissed-off at you. 

Do Houston DWI cases ever get dismissed?

The simple answer is, Yes.  According to the Harris County Office of Court Management statistics, in 2008 there were 1100 Houston DWI cases dismissed.  Simple advice - hire a Houston DWI attorney that devotes the majority of his/her practice to defending Texas DWI cases.

As a Houston DWI lawyer responsible for many of these DWI dismissals, I know that there are a plethora of reasons that these DWI cases are dismissed.  However, at the root of just about every one of these DWI dismissals is a competent and dedicated DWI attorney that is fighting each and every step of the way. 

HIRE A QUALIFIED DWI LAWYER - QUESTION YOUR LAWYER ABOUT HIS/HER EXPERIENCE - ASK THE TOUGH QUESTIONS

You can rest assured that the DA's office is doing everything they can to convict anyone arrested for DWI in Houston, Texas.  You must have someone just as dedicated to fight for you if you have been arrested for DWI.  That advice again, HIRE A COMPETENT DWI LAWYER.

Harris County DWI Acquittals - the reason for DIVERT

According to statistics released from the Harris County Office of Court Management department, the number of Harris County DWI acquittals grew from 3 in 2002 to over 100 acquittals in 2007 and 2008.  These numbers were given to the Harris County Court Judges by the district attorney's office when the district attorney's office was proposing the DIVERT program.

We now have a better idea of why the Harris County DA's office is "offering" the DIVERT program.  The DIVERT program is a creative alternative to the mounting losses the government is sustaining in Houston DWI cases.  Unfortunately, simultaneously, the DA's office changed its offers on DWI cases to only offer jail time.  This seems to create a coercive environment in which a person charged with DWI would accept the DIVERT program. 

The offers are essentially, take our DIVERT deal or we will only offer you jail time.  Sounds pretty coercive to me.