July 17, 2013

Charles Oliver: Officials’ conduct suspicious in Texas

Charles Oliver

— David Wells, an investigator with the Polk County, Texas, district attorney’s office, knew something was wrong when he saw a judge texting an assistant district attorney during a trial last year. Judge Elizabeth Coker had suggested a possible line of questioning in the case, which she was presiding over. Wells reported what he saw to his boss, District Attorney Lee Hori. It isn’t exactly clear what Hori did. He says he handled the matter administratively, but he also says he did not suspend the assistant district attorney, Kaycee Jones. Jones was elected a judge herself in November. Now, the State Commission on Judicial Conduct and the State Bar Association are investigating both Coker and Jones.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court has barred former Oklahoma County district attorney Robert Bradley Miller from practicing law for 180 days for misconduct in two capital murder cases. Miller did not tell defense attorneys that a key witness in the trials had received a deal from his office in another case in return for his testimony. Miller also withheld other exculpatory information from the defense and used fake subpoenas to force two minors to become witnesses in the trials. Two men spent 16 years in prison after being convicted in those trials before a federal judge threw out their convictions. The state bar association had recommended that Miller be disbarred, but the court chose a lesser punishment.

Five towns in Connecticut have agreed to pay $3.5 million to the family of Gonzalo Guizan. Guizan was shot to death five years ago in a friend’s home in Easton during a raid by a joint special weapons and tactics team. Guizan was unarmed. In fact, police found no firearms in the house.

As a member of the European Parliament, Marine Le Pen had immunity from many types of prosecution. That blocked prosecutors from charging her with inciting racism for comparing the sight of Muslims praying in the streets of Paris to the Nazi occupation of France. So Parliament members held a secret vote to remove her immunity. Le Pen made the remarks that got her in trouble three years ago, but no one seemed to care until her party gathered 18 percent of the vote last year in the first round of France’s presidential election.

The United Kingdom has launched an investigation of the Serco Group, a company that provides services to governments. An audit has reportedly found that Serco overcharged the British government tens of millions of pounds to monitor offenders on parole and those who have been released on bail. Serco’s U.S. subsidiary Serco Inc. recently won a $1.2 billion contract to handle applications to the health insurance marketplaces set up by the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Charles Oliver is a staff writer for The Daily Citizen.