O Canada

I wrote a bit here about an email that circulated through the Rosenthal / Siegler DA’s office mentioning “Canadians” on the jury. “Canadian”, as it turns out, is a cryptoracist code word for “Nigger”. (Others may coyly write “the N-word” instead: it seems to me that when we use that circumlocution we insulate ourselves, to our discredit, from the full horror of the word.)

There is more to the story. First, the prosecutor (I’m not going to hide his identity, but I am not going to use his name: I don’t feel inclined to emphasize it here, because this isn’t about him but about a culture of sanctimony in the Rosenthal / Siegler DA’s office that engendered the pretense that prosecutors are better than others, which in turn led to illegality, unethicality, and general sleaze) talked about the incident with a local Fox News reporter (Fox 26 should be commended for making raw footage of interviews available as well). Credible denial, right? That’s what I thought I don’t know this prosecutor well, but I was prepared to believe that he didn’t know the significance of his words.

Well, here’s the disappointing “real story”, as related to me by criminal-defense lawyer (and former prosecutor, though she left the office long before this incident) Vivian King:

This is what happened. The email went out about winning the trial even though they had 3 “Canadians” on the jury. A black prosecutor who was offended and hurt by this email blast, went to the court where the case was tried the next day and pulled the jury list to confirm his suspicion that [the prosecutor] was using “canadian” as a code word for Nigger. [The prosecutor] tried to stop the clerk from giving the prosecutor the list, but the clerk, who was black, gave it to him anyway. The 3 jurors referred to by [the prosecutor] were confirmed as being black (ie., Canadians, Niggers, etc). The blk prosecutor confronted [the prosecutor] right then and there man-to-man in private. As [the prosecutor] told his version of the story to people in power, this blk prosecutor was black-balled and is receiving “threats” right now so I cannot disclose his name. Eventually, Joe Owmby [a black senior prosecutor] did some email research on the use of this phrase — that Canadian is the racist code word for Nigger, like Australian is the code word for gays — and presented it to Lyn McClellan [a white more-senior prosecutor] to stop the rift. This prosecutor was hurt and alienated by the powers that be in the office and had to quit to find a peaceful work environment.

[The prosecutor] definitely knew what he was doing when he wrote the email which was definitely a racial slur or code. I’m sure he’s a good guy to those he likes. But to black lawyers, who have to deal with racist messages (sometimes meant only for us) this is a very hurtful thing. Stop defending him and just accept it. He’s a racist. Those who are friends with him, if you care, please try to improve his secret attitude so our clients are not treated unfairly, just b/c they’re black or have a black attorney. And since blacks are always so forgiving, a lot of us have known of this incident since it happened, and just continued to do our jobs and try to get along with prosecutors who we know don’t like us. We’re tired of it. And more might be surfacing soon. That’s why [defense lawyer Alvin Nunnery] made the comments he made on Fox. He’s tired. That’s why Kelly’s voir dire of the black venireman became public (Also note that that blk venireman’s best friend was a white prosecutor who was his son’s god father and Kelly knew it before she used a preremptory challenge on him. Before she made the Lakewood church comment. Before she made the false stmt that Quanell X was the leader of the NAACP, this radical group of which he is not even a member.)

To recap: a white prosecutor in the Chuck Rosenthal and Kelly Siegler DA’s office sends out an email blast to every prosecutor in the office using a code word for “Niggers”. A black prosecutor investigates; the white prosecutor tries to block him from finding out that the jurors in question were in fact black. The black prosecutor finds out despite; he confronts the white prosecutor in private. The white prosecutor runs to management with his version of the story. The black prosecutor is blackballed and alienated, and even now is receiving “threats”. The white prosecutor is still working in the office. Put all of that together with the blatantly racist emails that Chuck Rosenthal either sent, or received and kept, and you start to get the idea that, beneath the culture of sanctimony, there might be a hidden culture of racism in the Chuck Rosenthal / Kelly Siegler DA’s office.

More on that soon, I promise: former ADAs have historically remained quiet after leaving the office about the problems with the office; now that there are cracks in the dam, I expect more accounts of racism and other misconduct in the office to trickle out.

Apropos of the impending election, I expect Kelly Siegler to distance herself as much as possible from her friend and boss, Chuck Rosenthal. Every time another account of dishonor in the office comes out, she’s going to have a hard time explaining what she did, from her position of power and respect within the DA’s office, to set the office on the strait and narrow path.

Update: The Prosecutor’s Response.


0 responses to “O Canada”

  1. okay, I know it’s tempting to join the media frenzy slamming the D.A.’s office, but let’s hold on here for a second. I would think that a website run by someone who upholds the principles of “innocent until proven guilty” would be a little more open-minded about the idea of slamming an entire office based on the actions of a few.
    I know the “mystery former prosecutor” who went to the clerk’s office and looked at the jury roster. Out of a respect for his privacy, I won’t name him on the web. However, it should be worth noting that I certainly don’t recall him leaving the office because of a hostile work environment. As a matter of fact, he stayed for quite some time AFTER this incident before leaving the office for a much more lucrative job outside of the criminal arena. I’m a little suspect about the idea that he’s being “threatened” by anybody from the D.A.’s office. Those people involved in this unfortunate e-mail scandal are walking around with their tails between their legs, and they certainly aren’t out starting more fights. Even if they were, the “mystery prosecutor” that I know never feared a confrontation or backed down from a fight that I ever saw.
    It makes me sad to think that quality defense attorneys like Vivian, Loretta, and Alvin feel that there are prosecutors in the Office that dislike them because of their race. I’ve dealt with all three of them, and like them all very much and find them to be excellent attorneys and formidable opponents.
    The e-mail scandal is inexcusable, but I strongly dispute the fact that it is representative of what the Office stands for. I think references to the Rosenthal/ Siegler administration that you keep making are disengenuous for someone who would violently defend against the principle of guilt by association.

  2. Anon,

    Most of the Harris County prosecutors I know appear to me to be honorable, ethical, reasonable people. But so did the prosecutor who sent that particular email, so what do I know?

    I wouldn’t attribute one person’s character flaws to any other individual, but I don’t have a problem holding the organization responsible for the actions of one (or, as you say, a few) of its employees, and every lawyer, down there or out in the real world, who knew about any misconduct by prosecutors and didn’t blow the whistle shares the blame.

    I appreciate your efforts to keep me honest, but I think I’m good on this. What I’m talking about when I blame the office (and Kelly Siegler, who had a position of power and respect and now is running for a public position of greater power) for one lawyer’s abhorrent act is not really guilt by association; rather, it’s guilt by supervision. (Does the buck bypass Kelly on its way to stopping at Chuck? Convince me. She’s not presumed innocent because a) I am not the law; and b) she’s running for high public office.)

    I don’t know the mystery prosecutor; thank you for not enlightening us here. Vivian seems pretty certain of the circumstances surrounding his resignation and his current situation.

    The fact that the prosecutor who wrote the email is by all indications unrepentant (if Vivian’s account is correct, then the prosecutor’s Fox26 interview was not), if true, doesn’t speak well of the Office’s management, and suggests that it is time for a serious housecleaning.

    (I wonder, if I were elected DA, how I would go about it. You can’t just gut the whole office, but how, when perfidy has been swept under the rug for eight years, do you find the few bad apples who are spoiling the bushel?)

    When you say that it makes you sad to think that Vivian, Loretta, and Alvin feel that there are prosecutors in the Office that dislike them because of their race, you seem to be implying that those feelings might not accurately reflect reality. I would bet that it does, and that there are prosecutors in the Office who dislike them and treat them worse than they treat me because of their race. That makes me sad. These excellent lawyers are not whiners, and I am grateful that I haven’t had to experience the bias that they describe.

  3. Ok, so I wrote “N-Word” instead of Nigger. I didn’t want to rise to the top of the google rankings for racial slur searches.

    Australians/Canadians? What is it with the British Empire?

  4. Speak White

    Effectivement, il y a un lien entre le mouvement souverainiste au Qu?©bec et l‚Äô?©mancipation des noirs, aux ?âtats-Unis et en Afrique du Sud. Personnellement, Nelson Mandela et Martin Luther King m‚Äôont beaucoup inspir?© durant les ann?©es ‚Äô60.

    Je te rappelle le livre ¬´ N?®gres blancs d‚ÄôAm?©rique ¬ª de Pierre Valli?®re.

    Lors d‚Äôun r?©cent voyage en Afrique du Sud, j‚Äôai eu la chance de discuter avec de jeunes Sud- Africains. Ils ?©taient tr?®s fiers de me parler de leur nouveau pays et en plus, ils m‚Äôont beaucoup appris au sujet de leur combat et de leur histoire. J‚Äôai ?©t?© tr?®s surpris avec les similitudes avec le parcourt des Qu?©b?©cois. Ils ont bien appr?©ci?© l‚Äôexpression ¬´ N?®gre Blanc! ¬ª. J‚Äôai ?©t?© flatt?© qu‚Äôils fassent le lien avec Johnny Clegg‚Ķ qu‚Äôils ont affectueusement nomm?© le ¬´ Zulu blanc ¬ª!

    « Speak White » de Pierre Falardeau

    Ce po?®me a ?©t?© ?©crit en 1967 par Mich?®le Lalonde. Il ne faut pas penser que ?ßa parle du Qu?©bec d’aujourd’hui. Et le po?®me est loin de ne parler que du Qu?©bec. Il parle du Vietnam, des Juifs, des noirs am?©ricains, de l’exploitation en g?©n?©ral.




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