Harris County Advocacy Groups Blast DA Kim Ogg’s Push for Additional Prosecutors

Letter calls on Harris County Commissioners Court to turn down request

Style Magazine Newswire | 12/9/2019, 11:21 a.m.

When D.A. Ogg came to you for more prosecutors in January, you wisely rejected that request, though you did provide Ogg a 7% budget increase of $5.8 million. In addition, you ordered a comprehensive study to look at caseloads in Harris County.

She came back to you at least three times before today. In April, you gave her four additional prosecutors to investigate environmental crimes, and in July you gave her seven prosecutors and three investigators in the aftermath of the tragic results from the police department’s Harding Street raid. With that approval, however, Commissioners expressed concern, “warn[ing] Ogg,” according to the Chronicle, “against coming to Commissioners Court with a series of small hiring requests.” As County Judge Hidalgo stated, “We need to be thoughtful, and making clear, that we’re not opening the door for the 102 new prosecutors to be brought piecemeal. There’s a reason why we wanted to look at an evaluation of the criminal justice system as a whole.”

When D.A. Ogg came to you in February, she claimed she needed the extra prosecutors in order to clear cases and help people trapped in the system who shouldn’t be. As many of us pointed out then, there are two glaring problems with this argument. First, as detailed in the book Locked In by John Pfaff, the most likely impact of hiring more prosecutors is increased incarceration; the explosion in the number of line prosecutors has been identified as one of the drivers of mass incarceration. Second, and directly related, we still do not know what has caused there to be, according to her numbers, such an extraordinary explosion of cases during her administration, especially in light of the fact crime has gone down. Given her regressive stances on numerous other issues that have arisen during her term, there is no indication she has taken sufficient steps to reform practices by drawing fewer people into the system in the first place. In fact, Harris County continues to have the highest number of ICE arrests in the nation, and the overwhelming majority of those arrests are a direct result of contact with the criminal legal system, including the overzealous prosecution of low-level and nonviolent offenses. Prosecution for even the lowest level offense can result in deportation for long-time immigrant residents. Immigrant families in Harris County, constituting 25% of the county’s population, are torn apart every day because of D.A. Ogg’s inefficient use of prosecutorial resources.

Between February and now, D.A. Ogg has taken a number of actions that are cause for concern. Among them:

Despite campaigning to reform the bail system, and in fact continuing to say she supports bail reform, she took extraordinary measures to oppose Harris County’s historic package of reforms.

A court took the rare step of fining a prosecutor in her office for withholding evidence that could have been helpful to the defense.

Despite the myriad problems associated with the death penalty, including tremendous strain on resources, D.A. Ogg continues to push for the execution of a man whose death sentence was overturned because it was found that prosecutors likewise withheld evidence that could have spared him from the death penalty, as well as in two cases of people with intellectual disability, one of whom is also mentally ill.