Want Revenge? Gain? Attention? Be a Witness!

The Harris County District Attorney’s Office is looking for other people who allegedly may have been involved with Judge Donald Jackson.

Donna Hawkins, a spokeswoman for the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, said investigators in the public integrity division want to know whether there are other people who have any knowledge of similar behavior in Jackson’s court.

Someone in the Harris County District Attorney’s Office should have been smart enough to ask for the appointment of a special prosecutor in this case. It is unseemly, at best, for the Office to investigate and prosecute a judge before whom it has in the past and may in the future prosecuted defendants.

Judge Jackson is fair and follows the law (this wouldn’t be worthy of mention, but there are more than a few judges in this county about whom the same can’t be said), which means that he has often made calls that displeased the State. Every court-trial acquittal, every granted motion to suppress, and every sustained defense objection at trial could come across as motive for the Harris County DA’s Office to prosecute the judge.

What happens if the complainant’s allegations don’t hold up in court and Judge Jackson returns to the bench? Pat Lykos will (through her subordinates) be representing the State before a judge whom they have tried to take down. It’ll be awkward, at best. Having shot at the king, the Harris County DA had better not miss.

We don’t know how strong the evidence against Judge Jackson is. Here‘s the misdemeanor indictment, with the complainant’s (Ariana Venegas’s) name redacted out. It’s conceivable that the DA has recordings of Judge Jackson making the sexual advances (if that’s what they are—”a relationship that’s more than a one-night stand” isn’t necessarily sexual, and might be definitively nonsexual) alleged. The Office isn’t talking about the evidence against Judge Jackson, and properly so: it would be forbidden by the Disciplinary Rules from discussing the evidence with the press.

But when the State has a strong case, it doesn’t go trolling for witnesses. Only when a big case is dicey do prosecutors put out word that they’re looking for witnesses to testify to X. We see it often in murder cases: the State’s case is southbound when a witness materializes to whom the accused confessed everything (at least everything that can be gleaned from the public record) while they were incarcerated together. It’s like magic—if they want badly enough to believe it, with such testimony the State can convict even an innocent person!

The State’s call for witnesses against Judge Jackson isn’t going to bring in a lot of jailhouse snitches. What it will unearth is:

  • People with an axe to grind against Judge Jackson (because as often as he made calls that displeased the State, he made calls that displeased defendants);
  • People who pled guilty in Judge Jackson’s court, suffer buyer’s remorse, and see the possibility of personal gain; and
  • People who don’t have anything to say but like the idea of being associated with a criminal case that they’ve read about in the paper.

If Judge Jackson truly solicited sexual favors from one defendant, then he most likely did the same to others; maybe someone else will turn up whom he asked for “a relationship that’s more than a one-night stand” in exchange for  favor in court. Distinguishing that signal from the noise of people who seek revenge, gain, or attention will be the trick.

4 Comments

  1. This could have been handled quite differently. There is actually a State investigative body ( i forget their exact name) that could have investigated the allegations, put all witnesses under oath and bound to silence, and if there was determined to be substance could have recommended disciplinary action and preferred charges back to Harris County with the recommendation of a Special Prosecutor.

  2. Interesting you would point out how he is so fair & rules so often against the State. My experience has been so so as an attorney who used to get appointments in his court but now longer does (I’ll not detail why here). BUT, he was not fair in at least one instance in which I am aware, Mark. I’m not sure where you get your info from but I had a writ I filed about a coerced plea by Duncan (I’m sure you’ve heard the many, many, did I say MANY stories about his horrible behavior), and though it was absolutely obvious the plea, just as in many cases was coerced, Jackson, fairly new to the bench & a real buddy to Duncan, ruled against me. Of course it was a factual question so I wouldn’t win on appeal & didn’t waste time or money on it, but come on, Mark. You do appeals & writs. Ever had one about Duncan? If so, you could not say he is fair or against the state. Moreover, he is definitely a breast man.

  3. A couple of thoughts I had. One was how much does this help the original DWI case? The other thought was look on the bright side at least he is accused of looking for some sort of commitment.

  4. All you need is one of the witnesses saying the judge requested a ‘special session’ from a defendant, and he’s screwed. no matter if the case is weak or not. it is supremely easy to convict, and incredibly difficult to defend against a Sexually related charge.

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