By: Jolanda Jones
HOUSTON- [Part 2] After my clients’ arrest, I immediately arranged for bail. As it turned out, the bail bonding company had to wait for the Harris County Jail to get the paperwork together. Finally, before 5pm, the jail got the paperwork together and my clients were released from the very same building that they were arrested in. They were not taken to the Harris County Jail as is normal procedure. They actually waited for their processing to be complete in the comfort of the District Attorney’s Office. After I and some more supporters picked them up from the DA’s Office, we went to eat at a local reggae restaurant.
Then the trial setting began. My clients always showed up to court on time with various supporters as well. DA Lykos assigned a special prosecutor, Mark Vinson, an attorney who worked in the DA’s office for many years before he retired. Mark is an African-American. I am thankful that DA Lykos assigned him because I think that’s the smartest moved she made. When Mark was first assigned, he gave Lykos’ company line that my clients were late and thereby weren’t entitled to their meeting; that they were asked to leave by her and didn’t and were therefore arrested for criminal trespass. I respectfully disagreed with Lykos’ company line and explained what really happened. I also explained that various media was there the whole time and that video would prove my clients were telling the truth and Lykos was not. I also explained that Lykos’ move to arrest my clients was political and her effort to get my clients off of the media during her republican primary. Mr. Vinson advised me that he would check my facts and get back with me. He asked me if we could work anything out. I advised him that the only way my clients would work this out was for a dismissal or a jury would have to decide it. My clients didn’t do anything wrong and if there was a trial, it would be a trial of the criminal court system in Harris County because that is what speech my clients were exercising when they were arrested.
We came back to court. Mr. Vinson was not through checking his facts but he did speak about a plea. I told him in no uncertain terms that my clients’ position had not changed from the previous setting specifically this was either a “dismissal” case or a “trial” case and nothing in between. He shared stories with me of victories (as a prosecutor) and how he thought this case would turn out the same way. I obviously disagreed. Our discussions were always pleasant and professional.
Finally, the day before our last setting, Mr. Vinson and I spoke. I began to explain that if the cases weren’t dismissed then we should just set them for trial on the next day. He interjected that he had completed his investigation and he decided, that based on his investigation, that the cases should be dismissed with prejudice, in the interest of justice.
The next day in court, Mr. Vinson did as he had advised the previous day. He spoke with my clients and let them know how he came to his decision. He then dismissed the cases, with prejudice, and in the interest of justice.
Part of me is happy that I spared my clients a trial but another part of me is sad that I won’t get to try the criminal justice system in Harris County, Texas. The system is not fair and it treats minorities and poor people differently than it treats non-minorities and the wealthy.
I’m proud to have represented my clients because they were willing to risk their freedom and record to stand up to the system. It was definitely a David versus Goliath fight and we won. They live to protest another day. So the next time you see Brother Kofi Taharka, Sisters Krystal Muhammad and Maria Elena Castellanos, please give them a hearty thank you. They stood up for people other than themselves and got caught up in the crossfire.
Their story is a story of how justice can prevail if you stand up and have a good lawyer fighting for you. Power to the People!