As a former prosecutor and judge in Harris County, Texas for 30 years, and now as the founder and co-chair of the Congressional Victims Rights Caucus, I have heard and seen the gamut of crimes against individuals, families and property. But I have also heard and seen far too many cases of justice denied because the right people failed to act.

Such is the case of Lindsay Brashier.

Lindsay Brashier was a promising 18-year-old college student when her life was cut tragically short. Lindsay was a passenger in a car driven by her roommate, Evelyn Mezzich. Both girls were students at the University of Texas, just two months into their first semester. Lindsay was studying to be a surgeon and frequently donated large portions of her time to community service. But, on the night of November 10, 1996, Evelyn was driving drunk. She fell asleep at the wheel and collided with a telephone pole. The collision killed Lindsay instantly and permanently paralyzed a third passenger.

Mezzich was indicted for intoxicated manslaughter. In Texas, that means she was charged with a felony for drinking, driving and killing someone in the process. Shortly after, Evelyn jumped bail and she and her parents fled to their native Peru, where she continues to reside in freedom today.

A few years ago, Evelyn started a MySpace page. From the looks of it, youd never know she was a fugitive. She posted pictures of herself, partying, drinking and dancing with her friends. She listed drinking as one of her favorite activities, and even uploaded a video to her site that showed a Paris Hilton look-alike running from the cops and making fun of drunk driving. In my opinion, there was no indication that she showed any remorse for her part in Lindsays death, other than the hollow irony of the quote she chose to place on her page: Lifes too short, so live it up!

It has been nearly fourteen years since Lindsay was killed. Evelyn Mezzich is now 32 years old. She is married and has a son. She continues to live out her life in comfort and security, courtesy of the government of Peru, while Lindsays family is left without answers, closure, or assistance.

Justice, sure and swift, is the hallmark of the American judicial system. The fact that this case continues to linger unresolved is a failure of the law, order and diplomatic procedures that are put in place to keep us safe. Fundamentally, this failure of justice for Lindsay rests squarely upon the Travis County District Attorneys office and the Departments of State and Justice.

Rather than pursuing Evelyn Mezzich through the arm of the Justice and State Departments, the Travis County District Attorneys office has let the case languish. Only when the case gained attention from a media outlet did the office re-open this case in 2007, formally sending an extradition request to the government of Peru. The request was denied on October 14, 2009. Assistant District Attorney Claire Dawson-Brown sent the one page denial to Lindsays mother, Marilyn, with a short, perfunctory note: The request was denied. Enclosed is a copy of the diplomatic note . . . It is in Spanish and I do not have a translation. And that was that. I am not aware of any further effort made on their part to pursue this case in any capacity.

It is likewise intolerable that the government of Peru continues to protect Evelyn Mezzich. We have an extradition treaty with Peru specifically to handle these types of situations, and Peru should act according to its obligations. Should they fail to take the required action, the State Department should reprimand Peru diplomatically and economically by withholding foreign assistance. It must be clear that the United States does not reward countries that harbor those individuals who do our citizens harm.

I have personally written to the State Department, to the Justice Department, to the American Ambassador to Peru and to the Peruvian Ambassador to the United States expressing my concerns and urging them to have this denial overturned. I have additionally asked to meet with each them personally so we can discuss the actions they are taking in this case.

Justice is what we do in America. I will continue to work to bring Evelyn Mezzich back to the United States to face the justice she deserves.

Congressman Ted Poe represents Texas second district. He is a former prosecutor and felony court judge in Harris County, Texas, and the founder and co-chair of the Congressional Victims Rights Caucus. Please direct comments to vrc@mail.house.gov or to (202) 225-6565.

Copyright In Cold Blog

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The new Supreme Court pick, Elena Kagan, has never been a judge. She's never seen a courtroom from the bench. She's never had a judge's responsibilities. Elena Kagan has never instructed a jury or ruled on a point of lawany point of law. She's never tried a criminal case, a civil case, or even a traffic case. She has not decided even one constitutional issue.

We don't know whether or not she believes the Constitution is the foundation of American law or whether she thinks, like many, the Constitution constantly changes based upon the personal opinions of Supreme Court justices. But either way, Elena Kagan has never had to make a constitutional call in a court of law in the heat of a trial.

She has never admitted evidence or ruled out evidence or ruled on the chain of custody regarding evidence. She has never made even one decision regarding any rule of evidence. She has never ruled on the exclusionary rule, the Miranda doctrine, an unlawful search and seizure allegation, a due process claim, an equal protection violation or any constitutional issue.

She has never impaneled a jury. She has never instructed a jury on a reasonable doubt or sentenced a person to the penitentiary. She has never had to decide whether a witness was telling the truth or not. As a judge, she has never heard a plaintiff, a defendant, a victim, or a child testify as a witness. She has never made that all-important decision of deciding whether or not a person is guilty or not guilty of a crime.

She has never ruled on a life-or-death issue.

Elena Kagan has never made a judgment call from the benchnot a single one. Yet, as a Supreme Court justice, she would be second-guessing trial judges and trial lawyers who have been through the mud, blood and tears of actual trials in actual courts of law. How can she possibly be qualified to fill the post of a Supreme Court justice?

 

Kagan is an elitist academic who has spent most of her time out-of-touch with the real world and with the way things really are. Being a judge would be an exercise to the new Supreme Court nominee. She has read about being a judge in books, I suppose. She might even have played pretend in her college classroom, but she has never held the gavel in a courtroom. Her first time to render judgment should not be as a member of the United States Supreme Court.

Aside from never being a judge, she has never even been a trial lawyer. She has never questioned a witness, argued a case to a jury or tried any case to any jury anywhere in the United States. Real-world experience makes a difference. Reading books about something and actually doing it are two completely different things.

People's lives and livelihoods are at stake in these courtroom decisions, particularly when they reach our highest court. Courtroom experience is fundamental to being a judge on the Supreme Court. As anyone who has been through the court system can testify, a courtroom is a whole different world.

Putting Elena Kagan on the United States Supreme Court is like putting someone in charge of a brain surgery unit who has never done an operation. She may be qualified for the classroom, but she is certainly not qualified for the courtroom. She should stay in the schoolhouse since she has never been in trial at the courthouse. The Supreme Court is no place for on-the-job training.

And that's just the way it is.

To read this article online, click here.

The new Supreme Court pick, Elena Kagan, has never been a judge. News reports say she doesn't have trial court experience as a lawyer. As a lawyer, she never questioned a witness or made an argument before a jury. She's never been a trial judge so she never had to make a constitutional ruling in the courtroom in the heat of trial. She's never heard a civil case. She's never heard a criminal case. She's never even heard a traffic case. She's never ruled on the rules of evidence like the exclusionary rule. She's never instructed a jury on reasonable doubt or sentenced a convicted criminal.

Why should Elena Kagan be confirmed to a lifetime appointment to the most powerful court in the world? She'd be judging trial lawyers and trial judges who've been through the mud and the blood and the beer of courtroom trials. A trial--maybe something she's never even seen. She's an academic elitist that's never tried a case. That's like putting someone in charge of the brain surgery unit that's never done an operation.

And that's just the way it is.

To read the article online, click here.

America is a nation founded on the rule of law, not the rule of men. That's why we have a Constitution and not a king. Law must apply to everybody and it must apply equally, regardless of race, color, or creed. People don't get to pick and choose which laws are enforced. They don't get to decide which laws they like and which ones they don't.
In particular, foreign leaders dont get to pick and choose what laws we establish and enforce in our country either. Mexican President Felipe Calderon was an invited guest in the Peoples House recently, yet it seems to me he forgot whose house he was in. Like most Americans, I was taken aback by his scolding and hypocritical attack on the laws in our country.

A good friend of mine in Texas explained it perfectly. He said, "Calderon lives in a lawless country and doesn't want the United States to enforce our laws either. It was like we invited a guest over for supper, he brought along all of his friends and his family, complained about the food, griped about our neighborhood, then drove off in our pickup truck.''

President Calderon blamed America for the violence in Mexico. He blamed America for illegal guns going South and illegal immigration and drugs going North. Well, I have a solution for him: Americans should just seal the border. The 2nd Amendment is not up for negotiation with foreign leaders; securing our border and enforcing our laws shouldnt be either.

Whether President Calderon likes it or not, United States federal law requires people to sign the guest book when they enter our country, otherwise they are here illegally. Which, by the way, is also the law in Mexico. There is a lot of fear mongering, political hype, and misinformation about the State of Arizona trying to legally protect itself from illegal entry into its state.

President Calderon and our own administration officials are criticizing Arizona's new illegal immigration enforcement law, yet they haven't read the bill. In my questioning of Atty. Gen. Holder, he admitted he had not read it, yet claimed it was unconstitutional and threatened legal action. As a result of this questioning, news reports indicated other top officials hadnt read it either. As a former judge and prosecutor, it became clear to me that the people criticizing this bill had not read it because if they had they would have seen that it is unquestionably constitutional.



I have read the bill. After all, its a short read, unlike the 2,000-page healthcare debacle.

The bill mirrors the existing federal law, but goes a step further, explicitly prohibiting racial profiling four separate times and including punishment for the misuse of the law. Again, unlike the ambiguous healthcare bill, it doesnt take a team of lawyers to decipher. It is spelled out in plain language so everyone can easily understand it, including our highest ranking officials and President Calderon.

Arizona acts because Washington doesnt. The White House gave more lip service to the issue last week when they announced they were sending 1,200 National Guard troops to the border. As it turns out, these troops will not actually be securing the border, rather offering tech support in an office.

We protect the borders of other nations every single day. We do not send our military to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border to do data entry. We send them with guns and the explicit mission to secure the border. It seems to me we continue to do a political dance when it comes to our own border and side step real efforts to get the job done.

I welcome the National Guard, the additional funding and more technology to the border region. It is very much needed. But, there is no replacement for actual boots on the border. Our current policy is to catch them after they illegally cross. Then we have to deal with the consequences like deportations, prosecutions, drug gangs in our jails, etc. We should stop them before they cross and the only effective way to do that is to put armed troops on the border, not 20 miles away guarding computers.

All the technology in the world will prove useless if we dont have the manpower to make it effective. We cannot continue to say one thing and do another. The Border Patrol wants the Guard on the border, but they shouldnt have to be guarding the Guard. Give them guns and let them do their job.

Enough of the lip service and kowtowing to foreign leaderssecure the border. Where I come from, you dance with the one that brung ya. Its time the United States government dance with the American people.

And that's just the way it is.

Today, the administration will put on another show for the American people. The nationalized healthcare naysayers have been summoned to the White House to give their ideas on healthcare reform. Yet, the President announced his newly packaged plan days ago. So whats the point?

Is this a meeting to exchange ideas and move forward in a bipartisan manner or a meeting to say this is my plan, get on board or get out of the way?

The American people see this meeting for what it is. But, what I dont understand is how this administration can continue to think that the people arent smart enough to see that for themselves. We keep hearing that the White House has an open door and that this is the most transparent Congress in the history of our country. The door may be ceremonially open, but the window to hear the people must be closed. The public has overwhelmingly rejected the idea that the government knows what is best for the rest of us.

Patrick Henry so eloquently stated: The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of the rulers may be concealed from them. Unfortunately, that is exactly what is happening. The leadership in both chambers of Congress penned their bills under lock and key and far from the eye of not only the public, but the rank and file members of their own party. And after a public scolding for those that disagreed and promises that our path forward would be different, the President rolled out his bill written again by a secret select few.

So one has to wonder, what is this meeting all about? Is bipartisanship really on the table at this point? I guess that depends on your definition. In this case, bipartisan means anyone who disagrees with the White House gives in.

And after this so-called olive branch is extended, the Republicans will continue to be chastised for somehow stonewalling the process. Which is an amazing political feat; given the Democrats have a clear majority and a direct path to the Presidents desk. But, its those pesky Americans that just wont let that happen. You see, the White House may not be listening, but those members of Congress that have to go back home are.

Most of the American people oppose the government plan to take over healthcare. It costs too much; it borrows too much; it taxes too much; it's inefficient; and it gives government bureaucrats the control of our personal medical decisions.

But aside from the obvious, it also goes far beyond the restraints set forth in the Constitution. The Constitution sets limits on what dictates of pain the federal government is allowed to inflict on the rest of us. The people decide what is best for themselves and our country, not the government.

When our forefathers set forth to create a free and democratic republic, they wanted to make sure that they created checks and balances within our government to prevent one party or one body of government from having absolute power over the people. Our leaders would be wise to remember this.

As legislators are being summoned by the executive body this week, one cannot help but recognize the irony. The laws in our country originate in the legislative body, not the executive. While the president certainly has the authority to propose ideas for legislation, it is far beyond his constitutional power to create it.

The American people are tired of having their voices ignored and their constitutional rights trampled on and set aside to further the political agenda of a few. The secret backroom deals, payoffs, paybacks, all reminiscent of the British Secret Star Chamber, were the final arrogant acts of a government out-of-control that caused the people from all over the political spectrum to act.

America is a representative republic. That means the people talk, the government listens; and acts on the peoples ideas. That is the way it works. The American people are not going to get on board when it comes to giving up their healthcare to the government -- or any other decision over their personal lives. If you missed the second shot heard round the world in Massachusetts, there will be plenty more where that came from. And thats the way it is.

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, missing in action from the Vietnam War, have been identified and will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors.
The Department of Defense announced today its recruiting and retention statistics for the active and reserve components for fiscal 2008. Although the Marine Corps retained far more first term personnel than last year, it did not meet its ambitious first term reenlistment goals and it achieved 95 percent total retention.

The Administration has set an arbitrary date of July 31, 2009 to have a new comprehensive reform plan signed into law. The debate in Congress over a plan is really just beginning and we should not be forced to take a hurry-up approach to such an important issue. Its critical to get it right, rather than to just get it done.

The problem with the current plan is that there is no plan. Government-run healthcare is not the answer. I firmly believe the best government is a limited government and this is especially true when it comes to healthcare. If you love the competency of FEMA, the efficiency of the post office and the compassion of the IRS, youre going to love Dr. Uncle Sam.

It is essential that any plan for healthcare must include input from doctors and patients, not bureaucrats. For me, this is non-negotiable. Additional taxes are not the answer. I will not vote for a plan that raises taxes. The current proposal not only would require a tax increase to pay for it, but it will also consider taxing healthcare benefits.

Decisions about our personal care cannot be made by a 25-year-old in a cubicle in Washington. It must be doctor-patient driven. Coverage should be affordable and portable for both the patient and the provider. I want to see small business owners have the option to join together to provide benefits to their employees that they are currently forbidden by law to do.

The Administrations current plan will cost over a trillion dollars and still will not cover a majority of the uninsured. There are currently too many people in the systems that dont contribute to it financially, including the millions of people living here illegally. The Administrations plan will add to this number exponentially. We simply cannot afford this.

People come to the United States, particularly the Texas Medical Center, because despite all of our systems flaws, its still the best care in the world. We cannot move to a system that doesnt allow our elderly care because some bureaucrat decides their quality of life factor doesnt meet the standards. We cannot take the decisions out of the hands of the professionals the doctors. We dont have to look at Europe and Canada for examples of failed government heath care systems. Our own Veterans Affairs system is riddled with far too many bureaucratic disasters to list.

While there are many ideas for reform, one thing is for sure: more government is not the answer.
I have recently sent out an email survey asking, Do you support or oppose the idea of government run healthcare? Over 80% do not support a government run healthcare.

And thats just the way it is.

Bye-Bye Billions

June 12, 2008

Bye-Bye Billions

Congressman Ted Poe TX-02

This week, the US Congress voted to send $1.4 billion in tax payer money to Mexico and Central America to rout out the drug cartels and end the violence in their countries. This well intentioned plan, known as the Merida Initiative, is good in theory we help defeat the warring drug cartels along Mexicos northern border and we in turn see a relief in the violence spilling over along our southern border. However, we are only funding one side of this war. Not one red cent will be spent in our country to protect the American side of the border.

Its all fine and good to think that with our financial help Mexico can defeat the cartels and we will all live happily ever after. But, the reality is that they are not going down without a fight and we are sending billions of dollars in military and law enforcement equipment south of the border with no guarantee of how it will be used or worse, how it will be used against us. Where do we think the cartels along the border are going to go? Guatemala? I dont think so, they are coming here. And, without funding our side of the border in this fight our local law enforcement is left defenseless again.

Late last year, President Felipe Calderon went on Mexican radio to once again criticize our immigration policies and arrogantly demand that no conditions be put on this billion dollar donation and if there were he wouldnt accept it. Who does he think he is? Are we just going to hand over a billion US dollars and not expect to have oversight in how it is spent? Apparently so.

President Calderons demands for a no-strings-attached handout were met with little opposition in Congress. I was only one of 106 Members to vote against this bill. In addition to Mexicos arrogant demands, the Mexican Interior Minister said they only have this problem in their country due to their close proximity to the worlds largest drug consumers. I guess that was supposed to be a thank you.

Maybe if the Mexican government wasnt one of the most corrupt in history they would have better handle on the drug cartels terrorizing their citizens and taking over their country. I have a problem with training their military and handing over helicopters and hightech law enforcement technology to a country with a poor track record. Many of the notorious drug cartel enforcers known as the Zetas defected from the Mexican military after being trained here in the United States at the school of the Americas in Georgia. Every branch of their government and military has been infiltrated by the cartels.

According to the DEA, there have been 250 suspected Mexican military incursions into the United States in the last ten years. Homeland Security repeatedly denied this until they were forced to admit it when video surfaced documenting the incursion. I went down to Neelys Crossing in Hudspeth County along the Texas border where Sheriff Arvin West detailed another encounter with Mexican military aiding the cartels.

Humvees mounted with machine guns, flanked by armed Mexican soldiers, were 200 yards into the United States securing the area for the smugglers. Our guys dont have mounted machine guns. Fortunately for us, the standoff ended without gunfire. But this type of incident is not uncommon along our borders, yet we continue to refuse to protect our border against invasion.

Our border sheriffs and law enforcement are outmanned and outgunned. I have traveled from one end of the Texas border to the other and every single county, city and township needs help fighting crime on the border. It is irresponsible to leave them defenseless. If Mexico wages war on the cartels along the border, the violence that is already wreaking havoc in our country is going to explode. You dont bring a knife to a gun fight and expect to win.

If it were up to me, I would have told President Calderon and his demands adios and sent it to our own border. There is a war going on along our southern border, not just in Mexico, but in the United States. Once again, the US government is on the wrong side of the border war.

And thats just the way it is.