Thursday, February 14, 2008

Phelps Takes A Flyer

In a predictable move, letters to the editor are hitting the Bryan Eagle supporting candidates for Brazos County Attorney. This morning a letter authored by one, Kirk W. Brown, was written in support of Shane Phelps. (Brown is also supporting Phelps financially btw). Brown accused the current administration of "perpetrating a cruel hoax" on the citizens of Brazos County. Here's part of what Brown had to say:
Over the past three years, about one-third of the DWI cases have been reduced to lesser offenses, equivalent to a slap on the wrist for committing a life-threatening crime. When I asked why, I was told that the county attorney can't get a jury in Brazos County to convict a first-offense DWI or that our courts don't have the capacity. Of the 2,000 DWI cases filed in the past three years, only 24 have been tried. How do we know we can't get a conviction if we don't try? Surely our county courts can each handle more than four DWI cases each year . . .

Rod Anderson (Eagle, Feb. 2) said that it takes finesse to come up with plea agreements without creating huge backlogs of jury trials. He said, "I've managed the job for the past 15 years" and that he doesn't intend to make any major changes if elected. The backlog of DWI cases has increased from 91 three years ago to 400 at the end of 2007. As those cases age, they will become more difficult if not impossible to prosecute.
Brown's "slap on the wrist" criticism reveals his deep misunderstanding about how DWI cases actually get resolved. In the alternative, it reveals Phelp's failure to woodshed his witness properly. In either case, it's misinformation and needs clarification.

If one-third of DWIs are being reduced in Brazos County, then two-thirds are being prosecuted to a conviction. That's not too bad for an opinion crime, which Brown conveniently fails to acknowledge. Even if all 24 jury trials were tried to an acquittal, 1309
DWI convictions [(2000 x .666) - 24] during the past three years is not bad.

Of course, Brown does not reveal what's happening to the DWIs reduced. Typically, a DWI (class B misdemeanor) reduced in Brazos County gets pled to obstructing a highway, also a class B misdemeanor. That might not sound so bad. But ask the defendants how they like getting placed on probation subject to all the alcohol related conditions. Ask them how they like paying fines, court costs, and attorneys fees. "Slap on the wrist" is a rank mis-characterization of the facts and self-serving to Phelps.

Brown also complains
the backlog of DWI cases has increased from 91 three years ago to 400 at the end of 2007. Does Brown have a clue why? Well, if his facts are correct it tells me the current administration is reducing FEWER DWIs rather than more. It tells me the criminal defense lawyers are queuing-up their DWI cases up for trial since they have little to lose by doing so. See here for details. It tells me the County Court administrators might not have such great docket control.

In any case, do you know what usually happens when someone takes a flyer and goes off the front? They usually get caught. And when they get caught it's an awfully painful experience to catch back on before the finish.

No comments: