The Local Crank

Musings & Sardonic Commentary on Politics, Religion, Culture & Native American Issues. Bringing you the finest in radioactive screeds since 2002! "The Local Crank" newspaper column is distributed by Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc.

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Location: Cleburne, Texas, United States

Just a simple Cherokee trial lawyer, Barkman has been forcing his opinions on others in print since, for reasons that passeth understanding, he was an unsuccessful candidate for state representative in 2002. His philosophy: "If people had wanted me to be nice, they should've voted for me."

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Texas Criminal Justice System Different for Poor, Rich!

Also, air is good for you! I shouldn't be so snarky, but things like this rarely surprise me anymore. Maybe I've gotten too cynical for this job. Granted, this is a pretty egregious example of the double-standard, but in my experience it has less to do with race than it does with class. I have seen my share of poor whites given a harsher sentence than a well-to-do person (of whatever race), given the same fact pattern. Part of it, of course, is human nature; judges and prosecutors (and defense counsel and jurors) are people, too. They have their own built-in prejudices, or more to the point, they have a natural tendency to identify more with people who are like them: professional, well-educated. Another problem is the indigent defense system. Dallas County now has a public-defender's office staffed with professionals, and there are now minimum standards for attorneys who accept court appointments in counties that don't have a public defender (the overwhelming majority of them). When Tyrone Brown was adjudicated in 1990, it was not unheard-of for lawyers literally straight out of law school being assigned to defend persons facing first degree felony charges, with the possibility of life in prison. A wise old attorney from New Braunfels once told me the (possibly appocryphal) story of his first court appointment right after being sworn in as a member of the bar: a capital murder trial. And, of course, there's the unfortunately not apocryphal story of the death row inmate in Texas whose lawyer slept through significant portions of his trial. And, finally, you have the fact that trial judges in Texas are elected, and on partisan ballots. And so are courts of appeals and so is the Court of Criminal Appeals, which has become so rabidly one-sided in its opinions as to become a "national laughingstock," according to one of its own members, Justice Tom Price.

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