What do Judge Judy, the Harris County DA's Office, former U.S. Congressman Craig Washington and this week's feature have in common?
Well, wait just a moment and find out.
This week's feature takes a look at the statutory rights afforded to crime victims under Texas law, and how numerous victims around Houston feel that the DA's office is not doing a very good job protecting and enforcing those rights. One such victim is Debbie Brooks, whose teenaged son was shot at two years ago by Washington. The former congressman ended up admitting to illegally firing and cut a plea deal with prosecutor Lynne Parsons for two years of probation. Brooks claims that Parsons made the plea bargain behind her back and never properly told her about deal, violating her and her son's victims' rights.
In nearly all cases, victims who feel their rights have been walked on do nothing about it. But not Brooks. She has filed a virtually unprecedented lawsuit in small claims court against Parsons for violating her victims' rights, claiming mental anguish. One of the reasons why victims never sue prosecutors is because by law, assistant DAs are generally immune from being sued under these circumstances.
But things may be looking up for Brooks.
In an unexpected move, she says that the judge in small claims court recently told her that he would hear the case.
"The judge said that he's not going to throw this thing out," Brooks tells Hair Balls, "so I should expect to hear about a court date and to bring my evidence. It kind of surprised me. Lawyers have told us that by law the judge must throw it out, but we're still going to go to court and see what happens."
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So, what does TV's Judge Judy have to do with all of this?
A couple of weeks ago, says Brooks, she got a letter in the mail from a producer on the show asking if Brooks would be willing to try the case against Parsons before Judge Judy. Brooks says that researchers on the show apparently scour small claims court files all across the country looking for interesting cases, and the lawsuit against Parsons hit the mark.
It is highly unlikely that this legal fracas will make it on air, but for a moment, Brooks was tickled by the idea.
"At the very least," she says, "it would give us the opportunity to have our say. I was kind of thinking that we've got nothing to lose, but I highly doubt that Parsons would ever agree to do it. At this point, we're just working on moving forward with the case in small claims court."