Reaction to Rosenthal email in-box

January 9, 2008 9:06:17 PM PST
A lot of the controversial emails in Harris County DA Chuck Rosenthal's in-box contained racist and sexually explicit jokes, and even some pornographic videos. And some people say it's sending a bad message to everyone. More than a half dozen attachments could be described as pornographic or racists. Rosenthal has yet to explain to Eyewitness News the context of these pictures and videos. Still for some people, the material makes them question integrity at the district attorney's office.

There are short videos of naked women, some performing sex acts, many too explicit to show on television, all in the Harris County district attorney's email files. One email attachment called 'fatal overdose' depicts a black man passed out surrounded by watermelon and fried chicken.

NAACP branch president Carol Mims Galloway is just one of many Houstonians outraged by emails released from Rosenthal's computer. The DA hasn't provided any explanation for the emails subpoenaed as part of a federal lawsuit. They could have been part of investigations or spam.

"If the emails are from him himself and he was a part of it, that it would show perhaps that there has never been any fairness in the DA's office as it relates to African-Americans at all," said Mims-Galloway.

"It saddens me, but it doesn't surprise me," said former Precinct 7 Constable Perry Wooten.

Wooten believes he experienced racial basis at the DA's office first-hand.

"I've always known about racism and discrimination in Harris County," said Wooten. "I fought it for 20 years."

Five years ago, Wooten was convicted in a Harris County courtroom for theft by a public servant. He continues to appeal that verdict. His attorney believes the DA's office discriminated against his client.

"The state used its preemptory strikes to exclude black potential jurors solely because of their race," said attorney Brian Wice.

Donna Goode, the assistant DA from Wooten's case, says her use of strikes was legitimate and in no way racially motivated. She finds Wooten's suggestion of racism ludicrous.

As for the pornographic material in the email attachments, we're unclear if Rosenthal watched or read them. Cassandra Thomas with the Houston Area Women's Center calls pornography in a professional setting wrong.

"What profession believes people should be degraded? What profession believes people should be oppressed?" said Thomas. "I would think no profession."

The assistant DA also said Wooten's own lawyer struck one black juror because he was financial analyst.