A group of Houston criminal defense attorneys was distributing yellow cards outside the door of a Harris County courtroom last week. The cards warned criminal defendants that the judge in that courtroom and his staff may try to persuade them to plead guilty or no contest, without the benefit of an attorney.
According to the defense attorneys, they had heard complaints about the judge's alleged conduct, and were concerned the judge was denying defendants their constitutional rights. They argue the defendants have the right to be informed of those rights before they enter a plea that could have life-changing consequences.
For his part, the judge in question insists he's following the law and giving everyone who appears in his courtroom a fair chance. He acknowledges that he and the defense lawyers often disagree, but insists he takes his responsibility to the public very seriously.
The lawyers say they don't plan to lodge a formal complaint about the judge. But they say they will return with the warning cards if the alleged pressuring of defendants continues.
Every individual who is accused of a crime in Texas has the right to an attorney, the right to a trial by jury, and the right to mount an aggressive defense if they choose. These rights apply whether the individual is charged with capital murder or simple possession of marijuana. No one should ever be pressured to enter a guilty plea if they do not understand these rights. The best way for a defendant to be informed of their rights is to have an experienced criminal defense lawyer in their corner.
Source: abc13.com, "Judge Accused of Violating Defendants' Rights," June 27, 2014