How was the DA's first year?

September 13, 2010 3:52:49 PM PDT
We're a year and a half into an overhaul of the Harris County District Attorney's Office, and today, we're getting a closer look at just how much things have changed. Among those changes is an increased focus on people who were wrongfully convicted. When District Attorney Pat Lykos was elected into office, she promised big changes.

Now after 18 months on the job, she's put out a review of those changes into a report. But as Eyewitness News found out after doing some checking, not every change can be documented in black and white.

Michael Green is a man with a job and a mission to help free more wrongly convicted inmates. But his release this year after spending 27 years behind bars didn't come easily, and not without a sea-change in the Harris County District Attorney's Office.

"One thing I know, the state of Texas and any other state don't want to do is to admit they're wrong, or find out that they'd made this type of mistake, really," Green said.

Green's release is just one of a number of accomplishments Lykos says she's proud to highlight in her first annual review of the office.

"Justice is the highest good, and injustice is the worst of the bad," Lykos said.

With the creation of a post-conviction review division, Lykos has instituted a divert program for first-time DWI offenders, and the office is no longer prosecuting trace amounts of drugs. It's all part of an effort to cut back on backlog and increase the office's effectiveness.

But it hasn't been frustration-free.

"The biggest frustration is the budget freeze," Lykos said. "We have been frozen for an entire year. That means we can't replace anyone who's left this office; when we promote people, we can't give them a raise."

Eyewitness News Legal Analyst Joel Androphy says the biggest change is the simple fact that someone other than Chuck Rosenthal, the embattled former DA, is now in charge.

"Anybody coming in after Rosenthal was going to get graded very high," Androphy said. "He just set the bar so low because of his performance."

Another goal for Lykos is the creation of a regional crime lab. Negotiations between the county and the city are ongoing. Both are supporting it but making it happen will take a while.

Read the 35-page report from the District Attorney's office


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