Monday, March 21, 2005

Your lawyer was asleep? Well, we'll get you a lawyer who works for the other side

It looks increasingly likely that the legislative answer to Texas's problem of death penalty defendants receiving inadequate court-appointed lawyering, will be for the pool of eligible lawyers to be widened to ex-prosecutors. Say what? You heard it right. Ex-prosecutors otherwise insufficiently experienced as defense lawyers.

My own representative in the Texas House, tough-on-crime Republican Terry Keel (a pleased-with-himself ex-prosecutor with a mullet hair style, which you'd think would be a liability outside the halls of the Capitol, especially in front of a jury, were he himself to receive employment under his new law--maybe he knows that) filed the bill. He also chaired the committee the bill came out of, and the legislation is on track to get final House approval today. Too many people on death row? Let's grease the skids.
I watched a news clip of Keel bullying an ACLU lawyer who appeared before the committee, who had her facts straight but was not allowed to present them because Keel interrupted every third word she spoke with variants of the rhetorical question "don't you realize ex-prosecutors can do the best job because they know how prosecutors think?" If Keel would have ever allowed her to actually finish an answer, I am sure she would have pointed out that that is not necessarily a good job qualification, especially if these people _still_ think like prosecutors, as Keel, quite revealingly, does.
Texas is on a collision course with reality, law'n'order wise, because the state is seriously strapped for money and the harsh-sentence orgy of the past 20 years is presenting the state with a funding problem. The only thing more sacred in Texas than being tough on crime is keeping taxes low. What to do? It's a problem. One of the bills filed (not by Keel) is Texas's own version of extraordinary rendition--to fund privatized Texas prisons in Mexico. Fortunately for everyone, the Mexican government, which has enough problems, is not interested.

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