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Harris County’s Communal Ineptitude Snares Another innocent Man

Friends –

According to today’s Houston Chronicle, a man from Milwaukee spent 47 days in jail because of a case of mistaken identity. To be fair, the mistaken identity issue is hard to follow. Still, our criminal justice system failed this man.

He was arrested even though he committed no crime. He got out on a PR bond. He then foolishly decided he didn’t need to go to court since he committed no crime. He was re-arrested and spent 47 days in jail before HCSO figured out they had the wrong guy.

I suppose he was lucky that it was only 47 days, not 47 months or 47 years.

As a criminal defense bar, we can’t be content with this kind of situation. There is plenty of blame to go around. I am more interested in solutions than blame. However, to solve problems, one must first acknowledge that they exist. In this county, we have plenty of problems and currently a shortage of solutions.

The famously inept current HCDAO Intake division did its best to do its worst. The charges should never have been accepted. However, this intake division has proven time after time that facts are not of import to them; they need no solid evidence of a crime to file criminal charges.

The defense lawyer assigned to the case was Jerome Godnich. Jerome is a very bright, experienced & likable guy. But he never found time to visit his client. Perhaps he didn’t have time because of his caseload. According to the Chronicle, last year, Jerome worked on 434 felonies and five capital cases. Here again, there are only so many hours in the day, and even a great lawyer with 400+ felonies may have trouble finding time to visit a client in jail on a misdemeanor. On its face, that appears to be what happened.

Lawyers need reasonable caseload limits so that they can effectively assist all of their clients.

Shame on our system for locking up an innocent man because of Harris County’s Aptly named “ criminal justice” system’s communal ineptitude.

Robb Fickman

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