2015.28: Billy Harmon, Hubris, and Defilement

 Posted on January 25, 2015 in Uncategorized

A couple of years ago I wrote a post about the prevalence of judges coaching prosecutors:

In short, the judiciary acting as an adjunct to the prosecution shouldn't surprise anyone. Elected judges identify with the state. There are very few who will decide close calls for the defense. There are many more who will bend over backwards to make sure the state wins. What Coker did with Jones is little different than what Narcise does with Cousteau. But Narcise doesn't text Cousteau, or if he does Cousteau is smart enough not to commit the texts to paper.

Now I've found a judge who is so brazen about coaching prosecutors that he doesn't care who knows it.

Meet Billy Harmon, Judge of Harris County Criminal Court at Law Number Two.In a DWI case in Court Two, Tyler Flood filed a motion in limine asking, among other things, that Harmon "refrain from...[c]oaching the prosecution....":

Motion for Judge Harmon not to Coach Prosecutors

Harmon denied the motion. In other words he refuses, even when asked on the record, to refrain from coaching prosecutors in the court on which he sits. (And no, judge, it's not "your" court.)

Flood is engaged in a running struggle against Harmon. In Simpson v. State he appealed the denial of a motion to recuse Harmon because of the MADD plaque on display in the view of the jury. The judge who heard the recusal (if a party moves to recuse a judge and the judge doesn't recuse herself, another judge hears the matter and decides whether recusal is appropriate) said, "The motion to recuse is denied, but I would strongly hope that the Judge would do the right thing and take down the plaque."

Justice Sharp dissented in Simpson, writing in part:

To display behind the trial bench a plaque awarded by one of the most well-established interest groups in the nation not only fails to keep the interest group at bay, but also invites others to take notice that, in the judge's capacity as a public official, his actions merited the group's commendation. When that interest group is Mothers Against Drunk Driving-a group dedicated to the proposition that the offense for which the accused citizen is being tried in that very courtroom is a very bad and potentially horrific thing-the sanctuary has been twice defiled: not only by the agenda of the interest group, but also by the hubris of the judge charged with the responsibility of assuring a fair and impartial DWI trial.

The fact that the voters of Harris County pulled the lever marked "R" to allow Billy Harmon to work in County Criminal Court at Law Number Two doesn't give him the right to dishonor it.

p.s. There's another wrinkle to this story that will bear watching. When Flood sent an associate to the clerk's office to get a copy of the motion in limine, the associate was given this:

Motion for Judge Harmon not to Coach Prosecutors (Tampered?)

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