HOUSTON – Harris County, Texas’s flamboyant District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal is in a heap of trouble after years of iron fisted domination of the county courts. Rosenthal, who backs right-wing Bush supporter and crony Gov. Rick Perry, is under fire after investigators turned up a number of e-mails recently which the DA allegedly sent improperly using the county e-mail system.
These e-mails apparently included pornography, love letters to his secretary, campaign re-election work as well as racist and sexist jokes. Rosenthal has distinguished himself by his merciless prosecution of Harris County’s African Americans and the poor.
Even the Harris County GOP Chair Jared Woodfill has called for Rosenthal to resign immediately. Other public officials such as County Judge Ed Emmett have joined the chorus calling for Rosenthal to leave office. In fact, investigations are underway which could lead to Rosenthal’s prosecution and jail time.
It should be remembered that Rosenthal targeted not only minorities and the poor, but the mentally ill as well. He is the DA who gained national notoriety for his prosecution of Andrea Yates, the mentally ill woman who killed her children during a psychotic episode.
Many people commented on how his office attempted to criminalize mental illness during the trial and at one point sought the death penalty. Yates was found guilty in the first trial and was sent off to the Texas prison system. She was re-tried, however, after the exposure of the false testimony of one of the DA’s paid expert witnesses and was acquitted by reason of insanity.
Recently elected labor-backed Houston City Councilmember Jolanda Jones summed up the DA’s most troubling misdeeds in a recent op-ed for the Houston Chronicle. “Regardless of the good intentions of many who work under [Rosenthal],’ Jones wrote, ‘he sets the tone – and it is decidedly off-key.’
Jones continued: ‘Those who work at the Harris County Courthouse every day have seen the results – a pattern of bias against minorities and the poor. When the defendant is African American or Hispanic, Rosenthal’s attorneys strike most, if not all, blacks and Hispanics off the jury.’
Jones, who is African American, also pointed out, “When I’ve tried to stop that practice, I get accused of pulling the ‘race card.’ Well, my answer has been and will continue to be this: ‘When you stop being racist, I’ll stop pulling the card.”
Jones further noted that many within the county and city governments have ‘observed that Rosenthal’s prosecutors routinely request and receive harsher punishments for minorities and the poor than they do for others who are charged with like behavior.”
She recommended Rosenthal resign, and if he refused to do so he ‘should be prosecuted with the same compassion and justice with which he prosecuted the minorities and the poor who have come before his office.”