July 07, 2008
Jackson Lee wants hearings on Harris County criminal justice

Well, this ought to be interesting.

U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee on Sunday called for congressional hearings to investigate what she calls ''the many downfalls" of the Harris County judicial system.

Recent incidents, including a grand jury's decision not to indict a Pasadena man who shot and killed two men suspected of burglarizing his neighbor, have brought into question whether the system is fair and unbiased, she said.

The Democrat, who represents District 18, said she is also concerned and frustrated about derogatory e-mails circulated in the Harris County Sheriff's Office, the handling of DNA evidence by the Houston Police Department crime lab and the number of deaths in the Harris County Jail during the past 10 years.

She also criticized former Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal for explicit e-mails he sent on his county computer.

''With the many misgivings surrounding the Harris County judicial system, it is fair to say that this local judicial system has been tarnished," Jackson Lee said during a news conference at the Mickey Leland Federal Building. "It is time for all officials to be held accountable and true justice and democracy restored."

Sheriff's spokesman Lt. John Legg said Sheriff Tommy Thomas was unaware of Jackson Lee's news conference and declined to comment.

Jackson Lee said she plans to bring the congressional hearings to Houston in the next couple of weeks.

On the one hand, I think the more scrutiny of the criminal justice system here in Harris County, the better. It's not like there aren't a bunch of things to probe, after all, and while we know that the DA is investigating the Sheriff and the Attorney General is investigating the DA, how can it hurt to have some outside eyes looking in on things? The odds of butt-covering would seem to be smaller, in any event, especially with things being done in public.

On the other hand, I think Marc Campos has a point.

[I don't] think this is a good idea. Congress is the least popular institution in the U.S. of A. Bringing in a Congressional Committee comprised of "Northeastern Liberals" to look into our business would only make local voters feel sorry for the county. The local media has done a pretty good job of letting us know what is wrong with our legal system. Plus, Harris County government, the DA's office, and the Sheriff's office do a pretty good job of shooting themselves in the foot on a regular basis. The last thing we need is an injection of a sympathy factor that a Congressional inquiry would create.

Hard to argue with that. I still think there's value in this idea, but it has to be done with focus and even-handedness, or the value will be lost.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 07, 2008 to Crime and Punishment

I don't think it has to be done with focus or even-handedness any more than focus and even-handedness prevails today. If Harris County didn't want Jackson Lee to intervene, Harris County would straighten up and fly right - and not just this side of nonintervention either. Until then, Jackson Lee has her ticket.

Posted by: Charles Hixon on July 7, 2008 6:09 PM
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