Harris County Theocracy

Paul Kennedy asks, “How do you react when a judge asks a defendant entering a guilty plea whether or not he believes in Jesus?”*

If you’re not from ’round these parts, that might seem like a strange question. But if you’re not from ’round here, you likely don’t have judges like John “Years of Trial Experience” Clinton. Paul introduced the story last Thursday: Judge Clinton, who has been on the bench since January, has been asking probationers if Jesus was their savior;** if they do has been offering them credit for sixteen hours toward their community service for reading a Christian religious tract: this Christian self-help book, to be specific.

Here is a sample of the conditions of probation Judge Clinton was imposing on defendants (see condition 24):
Judge Clinton Jesus Conditions
Judge Clinton says that only nine defendants were placed on these conditions. But how many defendants have gotten worse deals because they didn’t profess Christianity? How many suspect (with good reason) that they did? How many of the nine felt pressured to profess a Christianity that they did not truly feel? How many defendants decided that they weren’t going to get a fair shake in Court Four because they weren’t Christians? How many bystanders saw these forays into theocracy and figured that that was just the way things worked in Harris County?

Judge Clinton wants to help people. He has said so, and I absolutely believe him. Christians trying to bring non-Christians into the fold never intend to do them harm. But there are limits to what a judge can do in the courtroom, and asking defendants if they believe in Jesus, no matter how sincerely, is so far out of bounds that, while we can be certain that Judge Clinton’s heart was in the right place, we have to wonder what in the world was going through his head. This isn’t a rookie mistake; this is a never-went-to-law-school-nor-gave-a-moment’s-thought-to-the-Constitution mistake. If the judge is so unfamiliar with the First Amendment that this seemed okay to him until the judges’ counsel told him otherwise, what hope is there in his court for the Fourth, the Fifth, or the Sixth?

[Channel 11 picked up the story.]

[Eric Davis’s take on the story.]

[Murray Newman weighs in.]

* If you’re the ACLU of Texas, you file a complaint; if you’re the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association or any of the lawyers witnessing the conduct, you don’t.

** Judge Clinton denies asking this; a reliable source maintains that she heard him do so.

9 responses to “Harris County Theocracy”

  1. Mr. B., good morning. He must have jumped ship – because in 1984 he worked for the Devil. When I met Mr. John W. Clinton Employee #055725 on 03/02/84 (Friday) around 10:00 AM as he conducted a Show-up at Station #4725. HPD Incident Report page 2.007 shows he worked the back and page 2.008 shows he willingly ‘worked’ the Show-Up. As Satan’s lil helper, he knowingly picked a 31 year old & a 27 year old to stand next to two 20-year-old suspects. The Show-Up consisted of (5) five people, which leaves one 5’ 07 17 year old.

    On page 2.009, he is shown rightfully confronting the crime victim after a “positive’ identification was made on myself as the gunman where he mentioned the Report having ‘Black’ haired suspects. He allowed the crime victim an opportunity to change his Original description(s) where the gunman’s straight ‘Black’ hair & no mustache was changed to straight ‘Brown’ hair & the other person’s straight ‘Black’ hair was now straight ‘Blond’ hair.

    Those keeping track of description(s) should know that I had wavy light brown hair and a mustache. The person test-driving my father’s vehicle had short blond curly hair. Despite these gross descrepentcies being caught by Mr. Clinton, despite his attempt to do the “Right’ thing, page 2.007 (last paragraph) shows that he had already “called the DA’s Intake and talked to the DA and told him about the line-up and the DA stated he would take charges.”

    Detective turned Lawyer/Attorney turned Judge and now at some point he embraced Christianity in which he forced fed inmates Bible lessons hoping for better or lighter probation. I call bull-shit on the bayou and the hypocrite in #4. Thanks.

  2. With Mr. Bennett’s permission I hope to present the following, which is long to avoid, being vague:

    *Open letter to Mr. John W. Clinton.
    I confronted Judge Hearn of the 263rd about the group effort to convict the innocent and he decided to let God handle it. I confronted the crime victim and his family inviting them to appear on Oprah and Assistant D. A. Mr. Casey J. O’Brien replied saying it was taken as a threat. I confronted Mr. O’Brien in the Comment section of a Simple Justice Post titled – “Plea-Bargaining 201” in which he avoided the topic by inserting that Judge Hearn was a man of God. Now today I learn that you got God and have been passing him out like candy. Well, good for you. Mr. B. says, “Judge Clinton wants to help people. He has said so, and I absolutely believe him.”

    I say, if you want to help people – think about considering the ones whose lives you ruined in your haste to close cases in a group effort to convict the innocent in 84? I will meet with you in the waiting room of the Law Offices of Bennett & Bennett (if Mr. B. will allow it?) or on top of a crane in downtown Houston if you prefer. Channel 11 could host it for all I care, as long as I get to see your face when you try to explain who or what made you participate? My HPD Incident Report, Police Photo & Entire Case File, indicates that everyone from the Judge all the way down to the H.C. Sheriff’s Deputies knowingly and willingly took part in what can only be described as a conspiracy. Sadly the joke has spilled over to the Taxpayers and Voters.

    In 1984 you chose pitchforks over Bible lessons. In 2011, you chose Bible lessons over giving second chances or ordering re-investigations. Today, I confront you in a public forum regarding government documents showing you couldn’t care less about there never being any “OTW” Outstanding Traffic Warrant in my name. FYI – I confronted the Constable’s Office and spoke directly to Mr. Estes and he verified “No OTW” existed. You are shown blatantly ignoring gross descrepentcies in the description(s) as you ran not walked to obtain charges. You attempted to confront the victim but ended up enabling him, which allowed the actual criminals to get away. You were a bad man and a horrible Detective in the 80s & now you are a Judge being confronted about it.

    Oh yea, you remember as you sat in the 263rd and Mr. O’Brien had the Court Reporter bring in that black .38 caliber Rohm revolver w/ a 5 or 6 inch barrel and dropped it on the table in front of the jury? Well, you should because your case involved a crime victim describing that he “was concentrating” on either a .22 or a .25 black revolver w/ a 2-inch barrel in his face. If you do nothing else, at least come clean about the “Mystery” gun.

    O’Brien must have flaked because he created two (2) State’s Exhibits docs. with one being handwritten and dated 1984 listing it as #2. The second document is typed up and dated 1991 with #2 being Judgment & #2-A being Photo of Gun making a total of three (3) number twos. Despite this, the FBI, DPS, H.C. Adult Probation & everyone in between has verified that the person test driving my fathers vehicle and myself have never been arrested for possession of a firearm – much less while being on probation at time of arrest. There are “no records available” regarding where it came from, where it was checked out from, where it was checked back in, where it was stored at for 10 years, nor the Method and Location of its destruction. ZIP-NADDA. Strangely as it is, the Exhibit clerk wrote me saying she “personally destroyed it in May of 1995”.

    Which brings us back to the one that knows there weren’t any weapons confiscated at anytime but allowed one to be entered as a State’s Exhibit and dropped in front of the jury. What do you have to say for yourself, will you take it to the grave, save it for the death bed last attempt to get really right with your God, or come clean and tell the truth? Both the ball & Bible are in your court. Thanks.

  3. It’s unusual, but, thanks to Thomas Griffith, I am speechless. When I can catch my breath and stop crying, I’m certain I will fall to the ground like Alex Scharff and roll around.

  4. It’s not the concept of educating defendants which is faulty, it’s the execution of it by using religious materials. So help the guy out and suggest better books. I give clients all sorts of books. The most helpful I’ve found are It’s Called Work for a Reason, and Shut Up, Quit Whining and Get a Life, both by Larry WInget. But, hell, give me some better ideas.

  5. The thought of one of the judges I appear in front of asking those sorts of questions makes me cringe a little…but I’m not sure why. I say this because the judges in my neck of the woods routinely order out of custody defendants to attend AA or NA meetings and those programs both contain a spiritual element, and those conditions of honor release don’t raise my hackles. I think you nailed what it is for me: the appearance that maybe it might make a difference if a client were to say “No, I don’t believe in Christ.”

    If this judge is as honorable as you say, I imagine he will change his approach if challenged.

  6. I am trying to decide which is more jaw dropping, the original blog entry describing a judge in 2011 proselytizing from the bench, or the comment section that follows.

  7. Mr. B., good afternoon. I just wanted to thank you for allowing me the opportunity to leave a comment on your Post and especially for allowing me to publicly confront Mr. Clinton via an Open Letter. I apologize for high jacking your Post in order to do so. In lieu of the Full Pardon – for innocence that was denied to me, I’ve chosen to squeak my ass off.

    In order for a victim of the system (VOTS) to heal properly he/she must consider confronting those that are shown to have operated the train. As of 03/29/11, I’ve completed that task and to be honest the mental scabs are still present and oozing due to not one single person affiliated with the Harris County, Texas Railroad taking time to deny and/or respond to anything much less to where in the hell the gun came from.

    *Which brings me to the topic of Firearms. The ‘Judge Clinton and Jesus Conditions’ document above has a box at the bottom titled – ‘Weapon Forfeiture’. Could you verify that – if a person was on Deferred Adjudication at time of arrest and the State created two State’s Exhibits docs. dated seven years apart with one listing a firearm, would the Adult Probationer be charged with possession of a firearm while on probation? Would there be a Chain of Custody or further documentation that becomes part of the entire case file? Can the State substitute a .38 with a 5 or 6 in barrel for an alleged .22 or .25 with a 2 in barrel in a jury trial? Thanks for your consideration in clearing up old nagging issues.

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