So it was with much interest that I read the following editorial, which is an endorsement for the guy who is running against Harris County District Attorney Chuch Rosenthal. Please keep in mind that this blog cannot and will not endorse candidates for political office. (It's NCADP's blog, after all, and NCADP cannot tell people who to vote for because of our tax status.)
We are allowed, however, to talk about politicians and their record on the death penalty. And Chuch Rosenthal was the person who decided to seek a death sentence for Andrea Pia Yates, the woman who was convicted in the drowning deaths of her children after suffering from post-partum psychosis.
Here's the editorial:
Houston Chroncile Endorsement
The Chronicle urges voters to elect Reginald McKamie to bring a renewed sense of justice to the Harris County chief prosecutor's office Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle
The Chronicle recommends voters support Reginald McKamie, the Democratic nominee in the race for Harris County district attorney, to bring new leadership to the office.
An attorney in private practice representing clients in civil and criminal matters, McKamie vows to return sorely lacking fairness to an office obsessed with securing convictions rather than seeing that justice is done.
McKamie is well-versed in the county's widespread criminal justice problems and wishes to restore people's trust in the office by ensuring that only the guilty are convicted.
McKamie supports the death penalty, but he is troubled by the furious rate at which Harris County sends inmates to death row. Of Texas' death row inmates, 161 out of 451 were convicted in Harris County. "Yet we are no safer than citizens in Dallas or Austin," McKamie contends.
He points to District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal's pursuit of the death penalty for Andrea Yates, the mentally ill mother who drowned her five children, as an example of overzealous prosecution. McKamie says he favors a moratorium on executions until problems with the Houston Police Department crime lab and mishandled evidence are resolved.
McKamie supports establishnment of a sentence of life without parole.
Rosenthal, the incumbent, says he opposes this option to the death penalty because it would produce hopeless inmates who are more difficult to manage.
It's a weak argument for not allowing a jury to show mercy or to avoid the risk of irreversible error.
Accused felons deserve a defense as vigorous as the prosecution they face.
McKamie says Harris County should establish a public defender system in which lawyers on both sides have matched resources to secure expert witnesses, independent investigators and outside forensic testing. By contrast, Rosenthal asserts that a public defender office would create "a new administrative bureaucracy" — just like the one he heads. What works well for the prosecution ought to work well for the defense.
McKamie says he wants to send drug addicts into treatment to ease prison crowding so that space remains for housing violent predators. A 1986 graduate of the University of Houston Law Center, McKamie also has an undergraduate degree from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and a master's from the University of Southern California. He is a 30-year naval reservist.
Rosenthal had been a prosecutor 22 years when he was elected district attorney in 2000. Despite his experience, Rosenthal was blindsided by the HPD crime lab scandal that uncovered problematic evidence testing, unqualified lab technicians who gave questionable trial testimony, and lost and mislabeled evidence.
Those problems cast doubt on thousands of prosecutions and the integrity of criminal justice here. Yet, Rosenthal refuses to stand aside to allow the sort of independent investigation needed to restore faith in the system.
In his first campaign, Rosenthal ran on the platform that he would run the district attorney's office as John B. Holmes Jr. had in his two-decade-long tenure, a period during which this county emerged as America's death penalty capital. Rosenthal apparently believes maintaining Holmes' legacy means stubbornly clinging to a doctrine of never admitting mistakes.
The residents of this county should cast a vote for McKamie and signal the need for change.