Houston DA under fire

HOUSTON - Harris County's flamboyant District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal is in a heap of trouble after years of iron fisted domination of the courts in Harris County. This right winger who supports George Bush and Bush crony, Texas Governor Rick Perry, is under fire after investigators turned up a number of e-mails which the DA allegedly sent using the county e-mail system. These e-mails included porn, love letters to his own secretary, campaign re-election work as well as racist and sexist jokes. Rosenthal has distinguished himself by his merciless prosecution of the weak and defenseless in Harris County to include African-Americans and the poor.

The Harris County GOP chairman, Jared Woodfill, has called for Rosenthal to resign immediately. Other public officials such as County Judge Ed Emmett have joined the chorus calling for Rosenthal to resign. In fact, investigations are underway which could lead to prosecution of the DA.

It should be remembered that Rosenthal targeted not only minorities and the poor, but the mentally ill as well. He is the DA who gained national notoriety for his prosecution of Andrea Yates, the mentally ill woman who killed her children during a psychotic episode. Many people commented on how his office attempted to criminalize mental illness during the trial and at one point sought the death penalty. Yates was found guilty in the first trial and was sent off to the Texas prison system. However, she was re-tried based on the false testimony of one of the DA's paid expert witnesses and was acquitted by reason of insanity.

Recently elected labor backed City Councilmember Jolanda Jones sums up the DA's most troubling misdeeds in an op-ed to the Houston Chronicle: "Regardless of the good intentions of many who work under him (i.e. Rosenthal), he sets the tone - and it is decidedly off-key…Those who work at the Harris County Courthouse every day have seen the results - a pattern of bias against minorities and the poor. When the defendant is African-American or Hispanic, Rosenthal's attorneys strike most, if not all, blacks and Hispanics off the jury…" She also points out, "When I've tried to stop that practice, I get accused of pulling the "race card." Well, my answer has been and will continue to be this: "When you stop being racist, I'll stop pulling the card." She notes, "Many of my colleagues and I have observed that Rosenthal's prosecutors routinely request and receive harsher punishments for minorities and the poor than they do for others who are charged with like behavior." She recommends, "Rosenthal should do the right thing and resign before his term ends. You cannot change the culture of an institution without replacing those who are responsible for it…Rosenthal probably won't resign - I don't have much faith in him. But he should be prosecuted with the same compassion and justice with which he prosecuted the minorities and the poor who have come before his office."

--By Paul Hill PHill1917@comcast.net

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