Succeeding Devon Anderson, Kim Ogg was sworn in as the Harris County district attorney Monday morning in a packed auditorium at South Texas College of Law — Houston, Ogg's alma mater.
After taking the oath of office, Ogg laid out her vision for the district attorney's office and her prosecutors, many of whom attended the ceremony to be sworn in as well.
"The purpose is justice. For we know that, as our law commands, the district attorney must seek justice above all else, including convictions," Ogg said. "My vision for the Harris County District Attorney's Office is for us together to fulfill this purpose, by making our paramount goal public safety and evidence-based justice for all. This means attaining a just result for the victim, the accused and the community in every single case."
What this looks like in practice, Ogg said, will mean diverting everyone charged with misdemeanor marijuana from jail; reforming the bail system; reprioritizing resources to focus on murders, rapes, robberies and corruption; and following the Michael Morton Act, which requires prosecutors to turn over any exculpatory evidence to defense attorneys. Ogg was interrupted with applause for addressing this law, named for an innocent man put on death row because of prosecutorial misconduct.
"Our strategy for accomplishing these goals will be to keep the public safe by never betraying the public trust, to constantly strive for equality in our use of prosecutorial discretion, to treat those accused of crimes fairly and to treat all crime victims with dignity," Ogg said.
On Friday, Ogg also announced her top brass joining her in upper management. She said after the ceremony that she has divided the administration into two parts: operations and trials. Her second-in-command as chief of staff will be Vivian King, overseeing the office's operations side. King — a prominent defense attorney who has even been part of a criminal defense reality TV Show, Sisters in Law — also has experience in accounting and compliance work, which will come in handy in her new role at the DA's office, Ogg said.
A permanent first assistant — second-in-command on the trials side — has yet to be named, but David Mitcham, a longtime defense attorney and former prosecutor, will play the role in the interim. He will also be the trial bureau chief.
That three people who made controversial decisions in the high-profile capital murder case of David Temple were tapped for top jobs in the DA's office raised a few eyebrows. Last week, Temple was released on bond because of prosecutorial misconduct in his trial (essentially, Michael Morton Act violations), and Ogg is expected to decide in the coming weeks whether to retry him.
Ogg, however, now has invited three people who supported a highly controversial alternative suspect theory — pushed by Temple's defense attorneys — to join her in the top administration. They include Stephen Clappart, a DA's office investigator at the time of the Temple case who will now be Ogg's chief investigator; John Denholm, a former sheriff's lieutenant and now Ogg's intake shift chief; and Jim Leitner, the DA's first assistant at the time of the Temple case who will now be her intake and grand jury bureau chief. Leitner, a Republican, lost his run for county attorney to Democrat Vince Ryan.
Expect a more thorough look at this trio of new hires from our staff writer Craig Malisow, who examined the Temple case in detail in our 2015 cover story, "Unreasonable Doubt."
Here is a complete list of all of Ogg's management staff appointments:
Vivian King – Chief of Staff
David Mitcham – Interim First Assistant and Trial Bureau Chief
Hon. Barbara Hartle – Administrative Bureau Chief
Jim Leitner – Intake and Grand Jury Bureau Chief
Yvonne Q. Taylor – Training Coordinator
John Denholm – Intake Shift Chief
Nathan Beedle – Misdemeanor Division Chief
Sean Teare – Vehicular Crimes Unit Chief
Alex Forrest – Environmental Unit Chief
Collen Barnett – Floating Felony Court Chief
JoAnne Musick – Sex Crimes Unit Chief
Carvana Cloud – Family Criminal Law Unit Chief
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