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prosecutors at the hands of legislators involved probation. \(At press time, the governor has yet to issue his vetoes. Final passage of criminal justice legislation is not assured until he R-probation for some offenders, gives judges more discretion over probation periods, and in some cases increases supervision of probationers. Most prosecutors hated it but were overwhelmed by an intense lobbying effort by the ACLU and others on behalf of probation reform. It also appears they A divide between the big city district attorneys and their small town peers might have contributed to a setback on another issue: life without parole. took their own power for granted. When HB 2193 came up in the House committee hearings in April, no one opposed it. In Houston Democratic Sen. John Whitmire’s criminal justice committee, however, four DAs registered opposition. Ann Del Llano, a lobbyist with the ACLU of Texas, said people were wondering where the prosecutors had been. Bradley, of Williamson County, was the only DA who actually spoke against the bill. He took issue with the five-year limit it would impose on most probation periods, the lenience on technical violations \(such as failing for probationers who return to prison to receive time-served credit. “[T]he bill would add no new services, severely damage our ability to protect society from criminals and increase the likelihood that criminals will be sentenced to prison,” Bradley wrote in an Austin American-Statesman editorial attacking HB 2193. “[T]hese ‘savings’ don’t take into account the pain that new victims of crime will feel, the costs of re-arrest and prosecution that law enforcement will absorb, and the cost of finally imprisoning these repeat criminals for even longer prison sentences?’ Bradley pushed a narrower rewrite of probation laws that would not allow anyone who had committed a crime above a misdemeanor to benefit from the early release. The governor’s office brought roughly the same rewrite to the Senate committee hearing. And, according to the Statesman, Rep. Gattis R-Austin Bradley’s about a week earlier, when the bill reached the House floor. Between the prosecutors’ lobby, an influential enough momentum might have built up to kill probation reform. But it didn’t happen. Though Harris, Tarrant, and Brazos county DAs signed the witness list opposing HB 2193, Bradley was the only prosecutor to testify. In the committee room, he came off as irritated and arrogant. Whitmire addressed his former committee employee with clear impatience: Bradley: The defendant can commit a bunch of crimes under this bill, and you’re still encouraging that judge, while the guy’s still on probation, to early-terminate that probation despite the fact that he’s done Whitmire: [interrupting] Whoa. Whoa. Back up. We’re not encouraging a judge to keep him on probation even though he’s committed other offenses. That’s just not right, John. Later, the senator even told Bradley to get to the point. “[Prosecutors] were completely uninformed about probation,” says the ACLU’s Del Llano. “They started lobbying against it on May 12, one day before the House debate:’ Sen. Whitmire’s role in passing probation reform was key. The senator also made it clear at the beginning of the session that the prison system was at capacity and there was no extra money to build more prisons. For that reason, he would not be passing sentence increases out of his committee \(see Political 100 enhancements, many backed by prosecutors, died. “In two years the legislature will meet again, and they have the chance of coming to grips with the problem they have ignored for the past four years, namely, the need for more prisons,” one TDCAA member wrote on the group’s website in a typical post. “That is a problem that is much easier fixed than refixing probation again.” Prior to the session, TDCAA also formed a workgroup to toughen drunk driving laws. The association wanted to create an offense for refusing to give police a breath or blood sample, and House Bill 3241 would have done so. “One of the issues that we’ve got in Texas is the long-term viability of breath testing,” said Kepple. “Prosecutors have been looking for ways to basically enhance the viability of the breath-testing program:’ But the bill did not even leave its House committee. carried House Bill 3152, which would stop prosecutors from talking with defendants before they consult with a lawyer. “Seems you mean ol’ prosecutors have been pleading out defendants without allowing defense attorneys to ding the county for a couple hundred bucks,” Shannon Edmonds, the TDCANs second-in-command lobbyist, wrote of the bill on the online forum. The bill, however, passed the Senate on the consent calendar, which is reserved for bills without opposition. Any senator friendly to prosecutors could have removed continued on page 19 JUNE 24, 2005 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 13