|The home of Texas prosecutor|
That's when the bullet-riddled bodies of Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, were discovered at their home about 20 miles outside of Dallas. The slayings came less than two months after Kaufman County Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse was killed in a parking lot a block from his courthouse office. Authorities apparently have no solid leads in either case, although they suspect the killings might be connected.
A quick search on the Web reveals that the Texas justice system has been in crisis for years, especially if you are a citizen who has seen your constitutional rights trampled or your tax dollars wasted because of public corruption. But that reality apparently did not hit home to elites in the justice system until some of their own started turning up dead.
Consider this report from The Dallas Morning News, quoting Kaufman County Sheriff David Byrnes:
Authorities had worked frantically Saturday night to confirm that other officials were safe, and sources confirmed that security was being provided at the homes of others who authorities feared might be targets.
However, Byrnes repeatedly declined to discuss specific concerns about security, though he acknowledged “taking precautions to protect other elected officials. . . . ”
And though he would not discuss what protection for officials may be in place, he acknowledged the slayings of the McLellands and Hasse were worrisome.
“It’s unnerving to the law enforcement community and the community at large, which is why we’re striving to ensure the community we are providing public safety,” he said. “We’re meeting all our duties, plus our investigative duties.”
So Sheriff Byrnes finds the assassinations of two prosecutors and one spouse to be "worrisome," and the law-enforcement community finds it "unnerving." That's understandable, of course, but have Byrnes and his colleagues been unnerved about the following headlines I pulled off the Web in about five minutes' time?
* Texas gets near failing grade for corruption risk (March 20, 2012)
* Corrupt Texas judges going to jail this month (April 27, 2011)
* Judge, DA, and lawyer accused in Texas corruption case (September 7, 2012)
* Texas sheriff arrested, charged in corruption investigation (March 6, 2013)
I found those cases of Texas-sized sleaze, plus several others, in a Web search of less than five minutes--covering only the past couple of years. Geez, what if I had searched for 10 minutes and gone back, say, to 2005? I probably still would be sorting through all the material.
The point, however, seems clear. Texas' justice system is a cesspool of corruption, but as long as it affects regular citizens, elites like Sheriff Byrnes don't much seem to care. In fact, you don't hear a peep out of them--and that's because sheriffs, judges, DAs, and lawyers are the ones benefiting from that criminal activity.
What happens when a criminal turns the table, and heaps suffering upon the elites? It's time to yell, "Sweet Jesus, we got a crisis on our hands!"
I can imagine such a reaction if similar events transpired here in Alabama. Let's consider the following scenario:
Over the course of five weeks, five lawyers from large Birmingham firms turn up dead, their corpses filled with bullet holes. These slayings occur at a rate of one per week, and authorities quickly pick up on a pattern. One lawyer is gunned down while he works in his yard. Another dies while having sex with his mistress. One is killed while checking under the hood of his Mercedes. One dies in a hail of gun fire while cleaning debris from his pool. Finally, one is slain while having sex with his wife. (This, of course, is an unmistakable sign that our scenario is fictional.)
I can hear the howls of alarm and concern from the usual high-profile lawyers who tend to be quoted in the local press. Doug Jones of Haskell Slaughter, Matt Lembke of Bradley Arant, and Drayton Nabers of Maynard Cooper Gale would be among the local lawyers fretting over "a crisis in our justice system."
"Something must be done," they would screech. "Someone is trying to keep the wheels of justice from turning."
Jones, Lembke, and Nabers, of course, are well aware that Alabama's justice system has been marked for years by corruption--in both state and federal courts. In fact, Jones, Lembke, and Nabers are just three of many lawyers who have helped create our dysfunctional justice system.
But you never hear them raise a concern as long as everyday Alabamians are the ones suffering at the hands of corrupt judges, prosecutors, lawyers, and the like. But let a few members of the justice elite experience some suffering and . . . well, Jones and Co. would be in panic mode, just like the one now gripping justice elites in Texas.
The killings in Texas are unmistakably alarming, and they have all the trappings of a terror campaign. One prosecutor was killed near his office, and another (plus his wife) was killed at his house. That seems to send this message to certain authorities: "You are not safe at work, you are not safe in your homes, and your loved ones aren't safe either."
Was the messenger wronged by someone in the Kaufman County criminal-justice system? Does the messenger perceive that he was wronged, even though his issues were handled correctly under the law? Is the messenger a madman who has decided to target officials in one county for no apparent reason? Could the messenger be affiliated with a white supremacist group called the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, as reported in The New York Times?
Perhaps we will learn the answers to those questions before too long. But for now, justice elites in Texas are in a state of siege, and they are feeling terrorized. That's ironic because that's exactly how it feels to be on the receiving end of a court-related cheat job.
My wife and I know that from 12 years' worth of personal experience. I know it from reporting on cases involving fellow Alabamians--some well known, others relatively unknown. I'm talking about people like Sherry Carroll Rollins, Don Siegelman, Bonnie Wyatt, Richard Scrushy, Angela Drees, Sue Schmitz, and more. I know it from reporting on cases next door in Mississippi, involving people like Paul Minor, Wes Teel, John Whitfield, and Oliver Diaz.
A great philosopher once said, "Karma's a bitch." Someone seems to be driving that point home right now for justice elites in Texas. Perhaps their brethren in other states would be wise to pay attention.