Various law enforcement unions are not happy with Harris County DA Pat Lykos.
Leaders of six Harris County police organizations Tuesday announced a vote of no confidence in District Attorney Pat Lykos, saying she has “shirked her duty” and has turned down viable cases for prosecution.
The no-confidence vote – a rare public fissure in the traditionally close relationship between police and prosecutors – was triggered by Lykos’ announcement Monday that she would seek re-election, police officials said. The six groups, including the Houston Police Department, represent more than 10,000 present and former law officers in the county.
Lykos brushed aside police criticism of her policy of not accepting felony charges against suspects caught with trace amounts of drugs, usually found in a crack pipe or as the result of a nasal swab.
She said she wants to go after cartels, not crack pipes.
“We’re not prosecuting the residue cases, the crack pipe cases, or the flakes extruding from someone’s nostrils,” she said. “That’s why my focus is on dangerous criminals, not just getting arrests for the sake of having statistics.”
The police groups could not cite any cases or statistics relating to cases prosecutors declined or dismissed.
They were critical of Lykos’ policy, announced in January 2010, to bring misdemeanor charges in cases where the drug residue is less than one-100th of a gram.
Sorry, but I agree with Lykos here. Prosecuting these cases as felonies would mean even more inmates in our already overcrowded jail. That’s the most costly and least effective way to deal with low-level users, whom we should be diverting into treatment as the primary option. As someone who’s been advocating policies that will ease the overcrowding in our jail, I am glad to see DA Lykos take steps in that direction. There are plenty of things for which to criticize Pat Lykos, but this is not one of them. I will be very disappointed if the eventual Democratic nominee for DA goes after her over this.
On that score, by the way, I am aware of two candidates for the Dem nomination so far: Former prosecutor Zack Fertitta, and perennial candidate Lloyd Oliver. His campaign kickoff got a mention on CultureMap, which should give you some idea of who he is, and I’ve posted a copy of the press release he sent out when he filed beneath the fold. We’ll see if anyone else jumps in on the Democratic side. Lykos has also now drawn a Republican opponent, Mike Anderson, and since I received the statement she sent out about that, I’ve included it as well.
UPDATE: Here’s a Chron story about the entrance of former Judge Mike Anderson into the DA race. Not surprisingly, he’s siding with the cops on this. I’m not impressed.
UPDATE: Grits weighs in.
Former Prosecutor Zack Fertitta Announces Candidacy for Harris County District Attorney
Houston, TX—Attorney and former prosecutor Zack Fertitta announced today his candidacy to become the Democratic nominee for Harris County District Attorney.
“My goal is to work with the attorneys, investigators, and staff of the Harris County DA’s office to make it one of the top crime fighting operations in the nation,” Fertitta said. “The office needs updated training techniques and closer integration with law enforcement agencies. We need to address the fact that a county, which houses one of the world’s foremost medical centers can’t trust its DNA lab for criminal cases. I want to build a forward thinking, coordinated law enforcement community equipped with the latest techniques and tools to keep our community safe.”
Zack Fertitta is a former prosecutor with the Harris County District Attorney’s office. His time at the DA’s office gave him firsthand knowledge of how that office should operate. Zack spent countless hours in court rooms and working with law enforcement officers to put criminals behind bars. He has experience in both trial and appellate law. Zack understands the challenges prosecutors and law enforcement agencies face in keeping our community safe. And he wants to ensure Harris County has the latest tools and techniques to meet those challenges.
“As a former prosecutor, I also know how important maintaining the public’s trust is to our District Attorney’s Office,” Fertitta said. “Far too many times over the past several years, our DA’s Office has been called into question for practices that were not in keeping with that trust. As the next District Attorney, I will bring a new era of transparency and trust to the office. I do not believe in playing favorites for political allies. I do not believe in breaking the law in order to enforce it. And I do not believe anybody is above the law.”
Zack Fertitta is a native Houstonian. He attended Episcopal High School in Houston before obtaining his Bachelor’s degree from Southern Methodist University and a law degree from South Texas College of Law. Zack is married to Elizabeth Fertitta. They are the proud parents of two young children. He and his family are members The Church of St. John the Divine.
To learn more about the Zack Fertitta Campaign, visit www.zackforda.com.
Follow Zack on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/#!/ZackforDA
Follow Zack on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Zack-for-DA/218361354877970?sk=wall
Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos Responds to Statements By Political Opponents
Houston, TX—Harris County District Attorney Patricia “Pat” Lykos today fired back in response to the entrance of Mike Anderson into the race for Harris County District Attorney and a written statement critical of Lykos’ administration.
In her statement, Lykos said, “I welcome the opportunity to present to the public the accomplishments of my administration and our vision for the future. It is a shame that some politicians and union bosses would attempt to besmirch the reputation and accomplishments of the 500+ public servants at the Harris County District Attorney’s Office who are committed to the cause of justice. The attempt to tear down our accomplishments for political gain is despicable and I will fight to my last breath against such political opportunism.”
“I am proud to have an unprecedented cooperative working relationship with federal, state and local authorities to combat organized crime and serial criminals. The results are that crime rates are down.”
Lykos went on to say, “The duty of the District Attorney’s Office is to seek justice and to protect the lives, property and rights of the people of Harris County and that is exactly what we have been doing since I took office.” In the almost three years of my administration, we have filed over 324,000 cases, of which over 120,000 were felonies. My job is to be tough on crime and I’m very good at my job. I’m tough and don’t’ back down and maybe that has ruffled the feathers of the union bosses and political establishment, but, quite frankly, I answer to the people of Harris County, not the special interests.”
“As a former Houston police officer, I have the highest respect for what my brothers and sisters in blue face every day on the streets of Houston. I know the dedication of our federal, state and local officers because I too have been committed to the cause of justice throughout my career as a police officer, a judge and now, as the Harris County D.A. Lykos said.
“When I became District Attorney the office was scarred by scandal and distrusted by many in Harris County. We have restored public trust and confidence and the office has received many awards for the outstanding achievements of our extraordinary people; awards for honesty and integrity, excellence and crime prevention.”
Lykos went on to detail a record of accomplishment and innovation that includes the creation of a number of new sections including the Cold Case and Fugitive Apprehension unit, which has already led law enforcement to dozens of fugitives. “At the DA’s office, we vigorously prosecutes dangerous criminals; as part of our mission to serve and protect, the office has created initiatives that disrupt gangs, prevent crime, protect victims and improve the criminal justice system.
Lykos ended by saying, “Recently, we have been attacked for obeying our duty to assure due process of law. The major cities and metropolitan counties of Texas, require a minimum of 1/100 gram of a controlled substance for the filing of a drug possession case. This is the smallest amount that can be tested twice, once by the state and once by the defense. Anything less destroys the evidence and there is nothing to present to a jury.”
About Pat Lykos—Pat Lykos has dedicated her career to the pursuit of justice. She started as a Houston police officer, working her way through graduation at the University of Houston and the South Texas College of Law. She entered private practice and went on to be elected to County Court and State District Criminal Court judgeships and presided over more than 20,000 cases in her 14 years as a felony court judge. Pat Lykos took the Oath of Office as Harris County District Attorney on January 1, 2009 and is the first woman to hold that position in the 170-year history of the office. She has been featured on numerous local and national television programs such as Nightline, 48 Hours and Crime in America. For more information about Pat Lykos, visit www.patlykos.com