January 22, 2008
Tough times in the DA's office

I do have a fair amount of sympathy for the folks who are stuck working for Chuck Rosenthal.

"It's awful," said Luci Davidson, one of Rosenthal's division chiefs. "You never know when you wake up and turn on the news what they're going to be saying about us, globally. We're all clumped together on being unethical and racist and liars. It's very depressing, and it's hard to stay focused."

A day after Davidson's comment, the office was in the news for rejecting a grand jury's attempt to indict Texas Supreme Court Justice David Medina and his wife in connection with a fire that destroyed their home last year.

A veteran prosecutor, Davidson said the rest of the office soldiers on while Rosenthal is criticized.

"There are people who rely on us every day to go in there and fight for them, and that's what we're going to continue to do, even though the pink elephant is still in the room," she said.

Several county officials have called on Rosenthal to resign, and the Attorney General's Office has launched an investigation into Harris County's top prosecutor.

Rosenthal has yet to formally acknowledge, much less discuss, the scandal with the staff, Davidson said. His resolve to operate as though nothing out of the ordinary has happened is evident at weekly staff meetings he holds with division chiefs, she said.

"It's not much different," said Bert Graham, Rosenthal's first assistant. "We have so much business to do, that's what takes our time. That's what people report on during the meetings."

About 20 people attend the meetings and, according to all accounts, nothing has changed about how Rosenthal manages the office -- but the mood is different.

"We're uncomfortable. We're embarrassed. We're humiliated," Davidson said.

Her colleagues, Davidson said, continue to work hard.

"Crime isn't going to stop," she said. "We're still going to go to work every day."

Prosecutor Denise Bradley, who is slated to help Rosenthal pursue the death penalty in March for Juan Leonardo Quintero for the shooting death of HPD officer Rodney Johnson, said morale is low.

"There are over 200 fine, dedicated attorneys here who have worked for their entire careers in this office," Bradley said. "It's discouraging to think that your life's work is being judged by the actions of someone else."

Yes it is, and I do feel sympathy, but this isn't the first time people have been in this position. Ask someone who used to work for Enron, for example. Nonetheless, there's only one way for these folks to have the cloud over them lifted, and that's for Rosenthal to take the hint and take a hike. Unfortunately for his employees, he's not concerned enough about how his actions affect them to do that at this time.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 22, 2008 to Crime and Punishment

No one should ever forget that in the past 30 years Chuck Rosenthal has hired each and every prosecutor in that office today and its his philosophy of "conviction over justice and the ends justifying the means" that is in every cell of the corpus of that place. The problems in that office do not lie with just one man....

Posted by: Jackson on January 22, 2008 12:41 PM

Sorry, I don't buy it. A manager staffs up with like-minded professionals in order to successfully carry out his agenda.

Posted by: Charles Hixon on January 22, 2008 1:12 PM