Immediately after the conclusion of newly elected Harris County District Attorney Mike Anderson’s first mandatory training session for Assistant District Attorneys, several people that were appalled by the “training” asked me to look into it. So I filed a Texas Public Information Act to obtain a copy of the video taken at the training session, along with any Powerpoint slides or other materials used during the training.
After watching the entire presentation, I can see why people were upset, but frankly, after the way he handled his campaign last year, I’m not surprised by it. In fact, the image of DA Anderson standing before a room and talking about integrity disgusts me. The entire tone of the video suggests a sort of “bunker” mentality, an us against them, almost a “whine-fest” from the trainer, Rob Kepple of the Texas District and County Attorneys Association. Did you know the Innocence Project is the “enemy” of prosecutors? Nevermind that their work has resulted in the release of innocent men and women convicted by prosecutorial abuse. DA Anderson goes so far as to say that in the eyes of the Innocence Project, prosecutors are nothing more than pondscum. I suppose the old axiom is true – no good deed goes unpunished.
The “training” also describes our legislature as “out to get them” – “them” being prosecutors because they are “government employees” and the legislature apparently hates government employees. Oh, and the only reason crime has gone down since the 1980’s in Houston is because the legislature built more prison capacity. But now, “they” want to release criminals in prison for minor offenses because it is a whole lot cheaper to put someone on probation than it is to house them in a prison. Imagine that.
Mr. Kepple goes through a whole series of how people cheat in life and it isn’t cheating if you get away with it. I think his point was to say that prosecutors can’t do that but you’ll have to watch it to see how bad he made that point. And remember Pedro Oregon? You know, the guy that was killed dead, dead, dead because a bunch of yahoo cops forced a drunk driver to give them the address of his “dealer” and then started shooting for no reason? Yeah, he presents that as an example of using Johnny Holmes’ stellar reputation to get away with anything. Just totally bizarre.
Obviously, there are the obligatory shots at former DA Pay Lykos – hey, what do you expect from juveniles? And I really liked the part in Mr. Holmes’ remarks where he states that it is the DA’s job to set policy and the ADA’s job to follow it. It would have been nice to hear him say that during the campaign when the ADA’s were helping the Anderson campaign because they didn’t want to follow former DA Lykos’ policies. But hey, what is consistency when you want to go back to the “good old days”, right?
But you know what? I’m biased. Very, very biased in this case, so I won’t say much more about it. I urge you, no, beg you, to watch these videos and decide for yourself if this is the type of mentality that Harris County prosecutors should have. It’s a good thing that DA Anderson stated during the campaign that his job wasn’t to worry about taxpayer money, that was the job of the Harris County Commissioner’s Court. His job is to lock people up – who cares about cost to the taxpayer and whether or not it reduces crime in the long run? See this Texas Observer story for a taste of that philosophy.
I broke the video into four parts: Anderson’s opening remarks, Holme’s opening remarks, and Kepple’s presentation split at their 10 minute break. And the last video is the complete, unbroken video that I received from the DA’s office, just so you can’t say I left anything out other than a couple of minutes at the beginning while people filed in.
Anderson’s opening remarks:
Holmes’ opening remarks:
Rob Kepple, part 1:
Rob Kepple, part 2:
Entire, uncut video from the training session: