Debbie Brooks and Marti McAnulty, whose sons had been shot at by former U.S. Congressman Craig Washington last year, finally had their day in court on Wednesday, attempting to sue a Harris County prosecutor for violating their victims rights.
The two mothers claim that Lynne Parsons of the DA's office failed to notify them of a plea agreement with Washington ahead of time and that their sons were never allowed to enter a victim impact statement for the judge to consider before Washington was sentenced -- all rights afforded to crime victims under Texas law.
In December, Brooks filed a lawsuit in small claims court against Parsons. Crime victim advocates have said it was the first time someone tried to sue a DA in small claims court for damages stemming from victims rights violations.
But it was not to be. On Wednesday, the judge dismissed the case because, under the law, prosecutors are immune from such lawsuits against them.
Brooks says she is down, but certainly not out.
"I think we anticipated that this would happen," she tells Hair Balls. "Really by law, the judge didn't have a choice. But if no one ever did anything and laws were never changed, women would not be allowed to vote, for instance. So we're moving forward and hoping to get this changed."
Brooks has a staunch ally in Houston Crime Victim Advocate Andy Kahan, who says, "Wars are not won in the first battle. The real issue will be fought in the Legislative session."
Kahan says he is requesting meetings with local state senators to discuss sponsoring legislation to give victims remedies if their rights are trampled. Nine states currently have offices set up to investigate victims' complaints and at least one state require the DA to show a proposed plea agreement to a victim before the deal is completed. Texas has neither.
"The bottom line," says Kahan, "is that victims rights in the state of Texas are simply a mere courtesy. And unless we have sanctions and remedies when they are violated, it will continue to be lip service. And I'm hoping the Brooks and McAnulty families can be the catalyst for change."
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