Houston DA resigns under pressure

HOUSTON -Flamboyant District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal resigned in disgrace on 2/15/08 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, has been under fire since investigators turned up a number of e-mails which the DA allegedly sent using the county e-mail system. These e-mails allegedly included pornography, love letters to his secretary, as well as racist and sexist jokes. He also allegedly used his county e-mail to promote his own re-election in clear violation of the law. Rosenthal has been infamous for 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, called for Rosenthal to resign in January. Other public officials such as County Judge Ed Emmett joined the chorus calling for Rosenthal to resign. In fact, investigations are underway which could lead to his prosecution.

Various progressive organizations also applied pressure which led to Rosenthal's resignation including the Coalition of Working People and the Poor, LULAC, Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church, The Nation of Islam, Houston Peace and Justice Center, and Houston Lawyers Association.

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 recommended, "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…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."

Rosenthal is using the Rush Limbaugh defense and resigned based on the premise that "prescription drugs" have impaired his judgment. Many people are wondering which "prescription drugs" made him ruin the lives of innocent working and poor people in Harris County.

The sad reality is that Rosenthal's crimes against the working people of Harris County will likely go unpunished while the media and courts focus on his egregious misuse of publicly funded e-mail. I guess it doesn't matter which sword eventually slays the dragon.

--By Paul Hill PHill1917@comcast.net
[for earlier report click here}

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