Emily dePrang talks to Lloyd Oliver about his candidacy for District Attorney and confirms what we already knew about him.
Oliver admits he runs for office to drum up business for his law practice. He credits his 2012 win to name recognition and “dumb luck,” though some political observers thought it may have been because voters assumed, from his name, that Oliver was black. This theory was undermined by broad support from non-minority districts. Why ever Oliver won, it wasn’t because of good press. The media spilled lots of ink on Oliver’s checkered past and unorthodox style. In his long career, Oliver has been suspended twice and indicted twice for barratry and once for bribery, though he’s never been convicted.
Oliver’s most written-about scandals are linguistic. In a 2012 interview with the Houston Press, he used terms like “queers” and “rag heads” and called the local Democratic leadership “frustrated homosexuals” for trying to kick him off the ballot. (After he won the nomination, party leaders decided they would rather run nobody. Oliver sued to get back his spot.)
Among his least popular public statements was that maybe victims of domestic violence should “learn how to box a little better” and that battery can be a “prelude to lovemaking.” This went over poorly, especially when he reiterated these thoughts at a debate hosted by the Harris County Domestic Violence Coordinating Council.
But I didn’t meet with Oliver to talk about domestic violence. I wanted to know why he’s running for district attorney and what he’d do if he got the job. For all his press, I had no sense of his platform.
Within 10 minutes of our meeting, though, I learn that domestic violence is his platform. “That’s my issue, right there,” Oliver says. “An inordinate amount of time [is] spent on that when we could get more criminals out of Harris County by doing what I suggest, I guarantee.”
Oliver suggests trying more cases instead of accepting pleas and trying them much faster. “The district attorney will have a trial going at every court at every hour every day when I’m elected,” he says. “Justice delayed is just no damn justice at all. And that’s what I see. You see those damn filthy baby-rapers—they get tried, what, nine months later? A year later? Why not two months later? How long does it take to prepare a case?”
Oliver uses the term “baby-rapers” six times during our 70-minute interview. Eventually, he seems to notice this and throws in “aggravated sexual assault of a child.” It’s a move I imagine is effective with juries trying domestic violence cases. Oliver estimates that a quarter of the people he defends are charged with family violence, and as we sit together he delivers a series of vigorous, well-rehearsed arguments for why spousal abuse is taken too seriously.
What does this have to do with speedy trials? As district attorney, Oliver would divert resources away from family violence to try other cases, particularly when the abuse victim doesn’t want to press charges. “You don’t want to pursue it,” he says. “I don’t want to pursue it. The children are crying, ‘Please don’t take my dad to jail.’ And we’re pursuing things like that? That’s where we’re wasting our money? Oh, and our time? Why don’t we go after those baby-rapers instead?” He pounds on the table with each word of this apparent closing argument. “Let’s. Put. Those. People. In. Jail.”
Oliver says he would prosecute assault, but that most family violence cases aren’t really assault. “To me, an assault is not something where, in a relationship—it’s not a pushing, shoving match…” he says. “Assault should be enforced. But me touching you, pushing, shoving, some kind of mutual combat, not even combat [but] a mutual scuffle,” shouldn’t.
Oliver feels only “one in ten cases” of family violence warrants jail time or prison. “Because not every shoving, every touching, even though it’s unpermitted, is an assault, and that’s the way things are handled now. An unpermitted touching becomes an assault.”
Is your jaw hanging open yet? Either way, go read the whole thing. And let me remind you again, you need to vote for Kim Ogg to be the Democratic nominee for District Attorney. We don’t want Lloyd Oliver on the ballot again, do we? Let’s make sure we do our part to keep him off.