Mimesis Law
29 June 2017

Planned Parenthood: Law Over Party Politics

Jan. 26, 2016 (Mimesis Law) — Let me preface all of this by saying that like most white kids growing up in my part of Texas in the 1970s and 1980s, I was raised Republican. My dad is a business owner and a Marine who served three tours of duty in Vietnam.  Fiscal conservatism and strong national security positions were and are important issues to my family.  As I grew older and became interested (and then involved) in criminal justice, I found that I identified more with the pro-death penalty and high sentences that were typical of the Republican “tough on crime” platform.

In Harris County, Texas, the vast majority of my friends who seek elected office run as Republicans – from the District Attorney to Judge to Justice of the Peace. Quite frankly, it is my personal (if biased) belief that the Republicans generally field the best criminal justice candidates in the County.  If a candidate wants to get elected to a countywide office, they are well advised to run as a Republican.  With the exception of 2008, the Republicans generally sweep.  As of this writing, I’ve only voted in Republican primaries.

While Getting Elected in Harris County 101 has consistently required winning the Republican Primary, it seems that more and more the key to winning that nomination is making sure that Republican voters know that you are the candidate who is the farthest to the right on the political spectrum.  Sadly, that has led to the death of the moderate Republican candidate.  Even in the criminal justice system where issues like gay marriage, Syrian refugees, and abortion rights have virtually zero effect, Republican candidates must let the party constituency know how violently opposed they are to those things.

The Republican kingmakers, Steven Hotze and Terry Lowry, audition all of the Republican candidates for their “endorsement,” which comes with some purchased ad space in their “Slate” mailers.  Any candidate who hopes to gain their favor must toe the party line if they want their endorsements.  Sadly the endorsements of Hotze and Lowry do, in fact, make or break elections.  I thought I knew the definition of the word “unseemly” until I watched how the Republican Machine works in Harris County.

Absolutely none of the Republican Party platform crap has any place in the criminal justice system. Zilch.  The Law is what the Law is. Slimy kingmakers who don’t have law degrees have no business attempting to dictate it.

The reason I write this long-winded preamble is because today, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, under Republican D.A. Devon Anderson, showed that law matters more than party politics.

Last year, Republican Governor Greg Abbott and Republican (and currently indicted) Attorney General Ken Paxton asked the Harris County D.A.’s Office to investigate a series of disturbing videos produced by a group called the Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion group led by David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt.  As you may recall, the videos purported to have caught representatives of Planned Parenthood offering to sell fetal tissue and body parts.  The videos drew outrage, despite Planned Parenthood stating that they were doctored into a format that was extremely misleading.

Governor Abbott and General Paxton must have anticipated that their Republican friend, D.A. Anderson, would get an indictment against Planned Parenthood for the heinous crime of attempting to sell body parts. It would be great to show what a strong stand Texas is  taking against those murdering abortionists!  If no indictment panned out, Abbott and Paxton could say, “hey, we tried,” and point out it was Anderson who must have dropped the ball.

Unfortunately for Abbott, Paxton, and the gang at the Center for Medical Progress, the investigation didn’t turn out the way they hoped. No indictments were issued against Planned Parenthood or anyone involved with that organization.  At that point, the D.A.’s Office and Anderson could have just said, “oh well,” and moved on.  They could have done a little speech about how the evidence was inconclusive and yada yada yada.

But the D.A.’s Office didn’t stop there.

“We were called upon to investigate allegations of criminal conduct by Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast,” said [Devon] Anderson, a Republican. “As I stated at the outset of this investigation, we must go where the evidence leads us.  All the evidence uncovered in the course of this investigation was presented to the grand jury.  I respect their decision on this difficult case.”

In a truly shocking move, the Grand Jury investigating David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt’s accusations against Planned Parenthood found probable cause to indict Daleiden and Merritt instead.  Both were indicted for the second degree felony offense of Tampering with a Governmental Record, and Daleiden picked up an additional misdemeanor charge of attempting to buy a human organ.

The rejection of indictments against Planned Parenthood, coupled with the indictments of Daleiden and Merritt, tend to indicate that they were trying to pull something over on somebody. As of this writing, copies of the indictment aren’t available on the Harris County website.

Whether they falsely made some identification to bolster their credibility, or whether the videos they made were ultimately considered to be falsified evidence, is unclear at the moment.  Daleiden apparently was unaware that his attempt to purchase fetuses was illegal in and of itself.

It would be easy to think that the credit for these indictments goes solely to the members of the Grand Jury, but that would be misleading. The District Attorney’s Office did not have to present the Grand Jury with the option to indict Daleiden and Merritt.  But they did.  And they should have.  And it was what justice required.

For those keeping score at home, that brings the score to

Duty to Seek Justice: 1

Duty to Republican Party: 0.

Make no mistake about this, Devon Anderson is about as pro-life as they come. I’ve known her for a little over 15 years, and her personal beliefs very much align with the Republican Party.  No one could ever accuse her of being a dreaded R.I.N.O.  I’ve seen her give speeches at Republican functions that would make Ronald Reagan pale in comparison.   She doubtlessly knew this would not sit well with her party, but she proceeded with integrity.

Governor Abbott, on the other hand, was a little less dignified.

“Nothing about today’s announcement in Harris County impacts the state’s ongoing investigation,” Abbott said.

Really? Nothing?  Your two star witnesses in this case just got indicted for Tampering with Evidence and that doesn’t impact your investigation, Greg?  Didn’t you used to be Attorney General?  As a trial lawyer, I gotta tell ya, that’s kind of a big kick in the crotch from the old evidentiary standpoint.

Fortunately, it is too late for Devon Anderson to draw an opponent in the Republican Primary this election cycle.   The die-hard conservatives are already foaming at the mouth.  The conservative website, The Federalist, is already saying the indictments were unfair because Lauren Reeder, a prosecutor at the Harris County D.A.’s Office, is on the board of Planned Parenthood.  The intellectually dishonest article insinuates that Reeder had something to do with the indictments, when in fact, she was completely uninvolved with the case.  They post her personal information in some attempt to shame her, and, I suppose, shame Devon Anderson for employing her. The Federalist is going to be really mad when they find out the D.A.’s Office hires gays, blacks, and Hispanics, too.

Things like Abbott’s boneheaded statement and The Federalist’s lame attempt at a smear campaign are what make me feel so very alienated from the Party I grew up in.  That level of vitriol and intellectual dishonesty are a far cry from the values I was brought up to respect.  Doing the right thing in the face of dire consequences is a much more admirable character trait.  That’s what true public service is about.

Today, Devon Anderson and her prosecutors at the District Attorney’s Office reminded me of that.

And for that, I am profoundly grateful.

UPDATE: The government documents that were falsified were fake California driver’s licenses with fake names on them.  They are charged with using them with intent to defraud.

17 Comments on this post.

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  • Unplanned Parenthood: Law Triumphs Over Politics | Simple Justice
    26 January 2016 at 9:05 am - Reply

    […] Fault Lines, Murray Newman has written the definitive post on how Harris County District Attorney Devon […]

  • Richard G. Kopf
    26 January 2016 at 12:48 pm - Reply

    Murray,

    Thanks for this extensive and thoughtful post. In many ways, it made my day.

    All the best.

    RGK

    • Murray Newman
      26 January 2016 at 9:41 pm - Reply

      Thank you, Judge Kopf.

  • Cornflake S. Pecially
    26 January 2016 at 1:30 pm - Reply

    Murray you and others have given a lot of credit to the DA. Is it possible that the “results” here are the direct result of members of the grand jury asking the right questions and insisting that the DA keep his nose on the evidence trail?

    P.S. If Fault Lines ever puts up a behind the scenes and headlines post about grand juries, someone from Texas should wright it.

    • Murray Newman
      26 January 2016 at 9:45 pm - Reply

      It is a possibility that the Grand Jury was driving the train, but I tend to doubt that the idea originated with them. Since Grand Jury proceedings are confidential, we’ll probably never know. I’ll talk to Greenfield about writing about behind the scenes at Grand Jury, but he tells me that I need to stop writing about Texas.

      I think he’s just jealous because he doesn’t live here.

      • Cornflake S. Pecially
        27 January 2016 at 5:13 am - Reply

        You guess? I have been hearing rumors that we can expect an indictment on at least a dozen felony counts of Texas Jeliousy any day now. Sounds like they might even tack on wire fraud. And from the sounds of what you are saying he might even have some serious Texas antitrust vulnerabilities to worry about.

        He is going down unless he is smart enough to get out in front of this and cooperate with Austin on bringing down the entire New York Wanna Be Cowboy Cartel.

        Especially if the Texas Rangers get Albany’s permission to assist with the arrest and cooperate with the  extradiction. It’s gonna be all over when they see that cowboy hat of his on the coat rack and smash it down over his ears after they cuff him for the  perp walk out of his New York lair.

        It’s gonna be ugly. The best he can hope for is probably going to be a plea to Texas Envy and that’s if he gets a judge to accept 90% of his motions which I don’t see happening.

        I will be looking forward to the Behind the Scenes and the Unknown Powers of the Grand Jury series of posts. I think your audience will enjoy it and learn something.

        Greenfield will get over it. Besides it will give him something to read while he is awaiting trial because no way a judge is gonna let him out on bail. Who knows he might even learn something about being all hat with no cattle while he is cooling off in the clink.

  • Eva
    26 January 2016 at 2:19 pm - Reply

    I’m not a Republican but I did respect the way the party presented itself about 20 to 30 years ago. They were an honourable opponent and upon occasion I have voted GOP in the distant past depending on the candidate. I am not impressed with the way the GOP has evolved here recently and actually feel sorry for folks who have those middle of the road GOP values considering how far right the party appears to have gone.
    Part of me wonders why we have elected offices such as this DA’s office which would just make itself vulnerable to politicization. I’m tired of hearing about “tough on crime” political candidates veering off further and further right into that “political spectrum” just to impress voters apparently. Our country is really very good at putting people in prison, I believe we are at number one across the world pretty much. That’s impressive.
    Yet I am so glad to hear of this DA Devon Anderson. Your article was like a breath of fresh air to me.. If I were in her county I would vote for her considering I’m a liberal with some libertarian learnings that’s saying something.

  • Roxanne Chester
    26 January 2016 at 4:19 pm - Reply

    Looking forward for every teen and illegal immigrant carrying fake ID being prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
    And while I live in Montgomery Co. not Harris, it is a relief to know that at least one officer of the court is willing to follow where the evidence leads. I know that is not the current view that most of us have of the Texas criminal justice system!

  • Scott Jacobs
    26 January 2016 at 6:32 pm - Reply

    My favorite part is how the guy is being charged with trying to buy baby parts, but the people he was trying to buy them from – and who seemed willing to do so – aren’t being charged with trying to SELL baby parts…

    • shg
      26 January 2016 at 7:15 pm - Reply

      Apparently, the evidence didn’t bear that out. You remember evidence, right?

    • Josh
      27 January 2016 at 9:39 am - Reply

      “seemed willing”? You should consider that what “seems” to be so may not be so when dealing with videos that have been heavily edited to push an agenda. What actually “seems” to be the case is that CMP were repeatedly soliciting criminal activity, trying to entrap PP into doing something illegal (which they ultimately never did). What they failed to take into account is that the solicitation is itself illegal, as is cooking up fake government documents to advance the scheme. There’s a reason why entrapment is illegal, it attempts to bring about criminal activity where there otherwise may have been none but for the actions of the entrapper. There are enough crimes out there for LE to worry about without “activists” trying to manufacture new ones just to discredit people or groups they don’t like.

  • Bill Stapleton
    27 January 2016 at 8:39 am - Reply

    You say that Devon Anderson has integrity, and explain how she has. In doing so, you demonstrate that you have integrity too. From a Bernie supporter.

    • Dave
      27 January 2016 at 10:48 am - Reply

      I want to second this statement.

      As a Sanders supporter, we may disagree on a few topics but both you and Devon Anderson have my utmost respect.

  • Michelle M Wilhelm
    27 January 2016 at 10:07 am - Reply

    Perhaps there is hope for us after all.

    Thank you for this post.

    Best,
    MMW

  • Legal Experts Weigh in on Planned Parenthood Case | Law Deluxe
    27 January 2016 at 1:18 pm - Reply

    […] official has come under fire from pro-life groups. Houston criminal defense lawyer Murray Newman, writing at Mimesis Law, comes to her defense, saying Ms. Anderson made the right call despite the potential political […]

  • Sue
    27 January 2016 at 3:10 pm - Reply

    This made my day also. In this day of dishonest news reporting, dishonest politicians, dishonest public servants this is a breath of fresh air. Thank you.

  • Planned Parenthood & The Journalistic Agenda Exception
    2 February 2016 at 8:54 am - Reply

    […] 2, 2016 (Mimesis Law) — The reaction was mixed last week when a Harris County, Texas Grand Jury declined to indict Planned Parenthood over allegations that they h….  The decision was made even more controversial when that same Grand Jury indicted two members of […]