January 10, 2008
AG Abbott comes calling

That didn't take long.

Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal will face a state investigation into whether campaign-related e-mails on his government computer warrant removal from office, officials said today.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott's office informed county officials today that it would try to determine whether Rosenthal's actions were "official misconduct.'' The process could lead to Rosenthal's removal, and even criminal charges.

Glad to hear it. For those who are interested, the story has links for the relevant state law (PDF). This would seem to answer my question about the process:

Sec.A87.018. TRIAL.

(a) Officers may be removed only following a trial by jury.

(b) The trial for removal of an officer and the proceedings connected with the trial shall be conducted as much as possible in accordance with the rules and practice of the court in other civil cases, in the name of the State of Texas, and on the relation of the person filing the petition.

(c) In a removal case, the judge may not submit special issues to the jury. Under a proper charge applicable to the facts of the case, the judge shall instruct the jury to find from the evidence whether the grounds for removal alleged in the petition are true. If the petition alleges more than one ground for removal, the jury shall indicate in the verdict which grounds are sustained by the evidence and which are not sustained.

(d) The county attorney shall represent the state in a proceeding for the removal of an officer except as otherwise provided by Subsection (e) or (f).

Subsections (e) and (f) cover what happens when the county attorney is involved. Now I'm really interested to see how this plays out.

And just when you thought things couldn't get any weirder, consider this.

Republican district attorney candidate Kelly Siegler told a judge last year that members of Houston's Lakewood Church are "screwballs and nuts" and that she works to keep them off of juries.

Siegler made the comment while defending herself from a defense attorney's suggestion that she struck a man from the jury pool in a capital murder case because he is black. It wasn't the man's race that prompted Siegler to eliminate the man from the jury pool, she said. It was the fact that he attends Joel Osteen's megachurch.

"To start with, he's a member of Lakewood Church. And we have had a running agreement, my partner Luci Davidson and I have, since we started, that people who go to Lakewood are screwballs and nuts," Siegler said, according to the court transcript. "I'm very familiar with that church. We try our hardest not to put anybody who goes to Lakewood regularly on any jury, he's a pretty devout member of Lakewood Church. That's one reason that scared me about the man."

Siegler went on to give other reasons why she didn't want him to be on the jury including his membership in the NAACP, a group that opposes the death penalty.

Siegler confirmed today that she complained about Lakewood attendees on the record, but said the comment was taken out of context.

"I was talking to a juror who, in my opinion, was very weak on the death penalty," Siegler said. She said she was obligated to give her reasons for striking the juror, "weak or strong, good or bad," which indicated that he would be weak on the death penalty.

Siegler also said she had never been to Lakewood, and was talking about things she heard about the church.

"I understand that it probably hurt people's feelings but I said it in the context of trying to do my job," she said.

She added that she has purchased and read all of Joel Osteen's books.

"He's about as genuine a pastor as I've ever heard," Siegler said. "A lot of people of faith believe it's a great place to go."

Siegler attends Chapelwood Methodist church.

It is against the law to strike a juror because of skin color, and Siegler was challenged because of the strike, said Tyrone Moncriffe. Moncriffe was a defense attorney in the case against Howard Paul Guidry.

Another attorney in the case, Loretta Johnson Muldrow called the Lakewood argument "a move out of desperation," speculating that Siegler may have found it more acceptable than arguing that the potential juror was "too black."

"It's kind of like being caught in a vise. Which do you choose? Either way, it's ugly," Muldrow said.

Isiah Carey had this earlier. We're truly in uncharted waters of strangeness here, between the potty comments and this. I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 10, 2008 to Scandalized!

I thought it was a civil rights violation to exclude a juror on the basis of their religious beliefs.

I suppose if that were brought up, Kelly Siegler would counter that Lakewood is not really a church and so there is not really a religious belief involved.

She is worse than Chuck Rosenthal which I didn't think was possible. The Justice Department should be the one investigating all of it and remove all of the assistant district attorneys until the investigation is over. Hire law students in the interim. They probably know the law better than the assistant district attorneys. Or at least would respect it more than the assistant district attorneys do.

If nothing else the Republicans seem to be self-destructing finally.

Posted by: Baby Snooks on January 10, 2008 8:19 PM