Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Texas Governor's Pardon Stats - It Is Overwhelmingly Unlikely To Receive A Pardon From Perry

I occasionally have people contact me about pardons. In the simplest explanation, a pardon is an application by a person with a criminal conviction (or deferred adjudication probation) to request that the governor pardon him / her for the crime, and it restores all the rights which one has lost and allows one's record to be essentially cleared. The application is provided to the Parole Board which makes a recommendation to the governor. As you can see by the numbers below, far more than 1/2 the time, the board recommends not to grant the pardon. But even more interesting is the number of times that, despite the board's positive recommendations, that Perry denied the applications.

Most of the folks who have contacted me about pardons have been people who were very young when they got into trouble (remember that criminal laws treat 17 year olds as adults), were often experimenting with drugs, committed a non-violent crime (often drug possession), and have lived life as a law-abiding citizen since their law trouble. Over the years, several people have contacted me whose convictions were 25 to 30 years old. I have told them all the sad truth about pardons with the current governor - no matter what the factual circumstances, it is not likely one will receive a pardon. (You can bet that there are many people who apply who circumstances are similar to those I have spoken with.) I feel that taking a fee, and it would be a large fee because of the amount of time involved, would almost be like stealing from the client. Check out the numbers below (and I apologize about the formatting. I could not get the layout correct.)

Year # considered # recommended # granted

2001 76 30 2

2002 410 66 3

2003 285 90 73

2004 259 42 9

2005 221 44 0

2006 183 48 11

2007 148 24 12

2008 176 27 6

2009 158 52 8

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Why I Do What I Do

Though I made the decision not to intervene in the situation I reported, and I told mother of my decision, she wrote me this wonderful e-mail. I hope that I deserve her kind words, and that I do make a difference for people - even when I do not personally represent them. I believe in what my colleagues and I do in defending people. It is not just the way I make a living, but it is the way I try to live my life. Helping. Here is a portion of her e-mail:

"Thank you for your kindness in answering me. Though not the answer I prayed for, I appreciate your attention and perspective . . . I was hoping so much from your initial response (I realize now the misunderstanding) that there was a break in the exhaustion and frustration in trying to defend [son] . . .

So I will soldier on in my fight for his representation, but a bit wiser from your words and my belief in humanity lifted being reminded that there are still people who care about right or wrong even when it doesn't pertain exclusively to them. I so respect the warrior in you and your keeping your eye and having the courage to call BS when you have come to the conclusion something must be done. I wish a lawyer not doing anything at all equalled a lawyer doing something wrong.

. . . Should I be successful [in getting another lawyer appointed], I would ask for you to be appointed. . . . Should I win the lottery or break down and take a loan against my home, I will contact you.

Whatever this challenge brings, I want you to know that people like you are rare and that you do make a positive difference. Thank you for championing me when you thought it right and for having honor. . . ." [signed mother]

This note made my year.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I Don't Get Involved

So an update. After several e-mails back and forth between me and concerned mother, I was finally able to get a quote from the recording. It was, in essence, that if mother had the ability to pay for a in-patient drug rehab facility, the lawyer thought that the judge might consider it. The implication was that in the lawyer's opinion, the court would not waste county resources on the kid to give him another shot, and that the court would not consider the free program being proposed by mother.

THIS is a completely different situation than the one I think was first presented to me. I'm glad that I hesitated and got the quote. While one might disagree with the manner in which the lawyer is proceeding (many details left out), one cannot find that lawyer is being unethical with mother or kid. Lawyer is just trying to figure out how to get around the judge's general rules to help kid.

It truly is a matter of misunderstanding, and the situation will continue to be misunderstood, I'm afraid. Mother, while a loving and caring person, is likely an enabler because she has every excuse in the world for kid and his problems. (He committed at least one burglary of a habitation while out for the day from his rehab program. One of those situations that make it hard to justify giving him another chance at rehab.)

So, I guess I got involved enough to determine that this is not an unusual situation, and that the lawyer has probably not done anything wrong. My "super hero" cape shall go back into the closet and I will, once again, mind my own business.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Do I Get Involved?

Today I received an e-mail from a concerned mother. Her son has some kind of felony charge - the type not relevant - and has been appointed an lawyer. Her concern is real and legitimate. She has a recording from this lawyer saying that IF the mother pays the lawyer some money, then the lawyer will approach the judge about putting the defendant son in the Cenikor program. If mother does not pay, then the lawyer will not approach the judge about the program.

My response? What the hell?! Not only is this just morally wrong, but it is unethical (and if she were to be paid and still filed a voucher, it would be illegal.)

Mother contacted me after reading some of my old posts (sorry chums and fans for being away so long) because she didn't know what to do to help her son. You know what? Neither do I really.

Of course, I advised mother that she and son should file a grievance against lawyer when it is all said and done. The lawyer is stupid enough that she left a voice mail of her proposal. Mother needs to be involved in the grievance process because she is a witness and the target of the solicitation of money.

But what can be done for the defendant now? Of course, it is not really my problem. I have no connection to the case except the e-mail I just received, and I have no obligation to help them. Or do I now that I am aware of the unethical behavior? And even if I do have an obligation, my obligation is to report it to the State Bar - not to the district judge. But again, how does that help defendant because his case will be long settled before the State Bar grievance board even looks at the case?

I asked some questions of mother and will await the answers while I contemplate how to proceed. I am considering obtaining a copy of the recording and going to the judge of the district court where the case is pending and report it myself. (Too many times judges have little patience with defendants who complain about their appointed attorneys for many reasons - including that the complaints are often ridiculous and lie.)

I really do not have time to get involved, but if I don't, what does that say about me and my concern about people in general getting a fair shake? And, I am concerned about that.

What to do, what to do . . .