On Sunday, October 5, 2014 11:15 AM, "bhabern@aol.com" wrote: Scott Henson at Grits ask me for my comment. Here is what I sent him. Habern

-----Original Message----- From: bhabern
To: gritforbreakfast
Sent: Sun, Oct 5, 2014 9:48 am
Subject: Ms. Freeman

Ms. Freeman has a long past as a voting panel member who, in my opinion, displays prejudice, incompetence, and is consistently unprepared to participate in hearings (called parole interviews) where a prospective parolee is being considered for release. However, this problem is but one of many that need addressed by the Texas Legislature regarding the long outdated, secretive, and at time unconstitutional actions of the Texas Parole Board.

When last David O'Neil (chairman of the Corrections Committee of the Tx Crim Defense Lawyers Asso) and I met with Sen. Whitmire, we discussed these issues, and he acknowledged there were issues we discussed that gave him concern, however, as he pointed out, there was not a single vote on his committee by any member of the Leg who was interested in taking up these issues. However, I personally like Whitmire , and he did show a reasonable degree of concern. He made clear he had no support within his committee to instigate any changes.

I have been appearing before the Texas Parole Board for approximately 40 years representing inmates seeking parole. I have published approximately 20 articles on the topic of our parole board, I was chairman of the Tx Criminal Defense Lawyers Committee on Corrections for over 20 years, and have successfully sued the parole board in federal and state court at times over unconstitutional practices this agency has engaged in.

In my 40 years of dealing with voting parole panel members I have never filed a grievance on a panel voter until approximately a year ago after yet another entanglement with Ms. Freeman. Before filing my grievance I sought through public media to discover if others had experienced the same type of disrespect, lack of preparedness, disinterest in hearing the evidence as I experienced from Ms. Freeman. I had many responses. My efforts were the result of prior encounters I have had with Freeman, but particularly one where she limited me (in a very complicated case) to a 15 minutes presentation and would not even allow the mother of the client an opportunity to speak about a central topic of which the mother had professional knowledge. Many who contacted me were other lawyers, and some from members of families who had attempted to deal with Ms. Freeman without counsel. Overall the lawyers were most supportive of what I was about to do, but they did not wish to put their names on any official grievance. They were fearful of retaliation. Frankly, my response to that fear was, "Then why in hell did you go to law school? I think lawyers have an obligation to expose wrongdoing in any state government office where wrongs are being done.". In the end we had myself, three other lawyers, and, as I recall, 4 other families who did file official grievances. (There are specific rules the board has published for filing such grievances and some lawyers told me they were just going to call Ms. Owens. I explained that would get them no where.)

Mr. Chavez was then a new board member assigned to the same office (Huntsville) as Mr. Freeman (a commissioner) . The grievances were apparently processed, and I later learned that it befell CHavez (as the unit Board member) to sanction Ms. Freeman over the grievances. Because of the stupid secrecy policies the legislature continues to afford the board, the details of any sanction was never disclosed to me, however, I tried to discover what those sanctions were. I was told that information was privileged-- -even if I filed the grievance. I suggest anytime the legislature creates a state agency which is cloaked in secrecy, they have created and blessed that agency with the opportunity to bathe in deceit, unethical conduct, and, at times corruption.

Recently I have been told by a reliable source that Chavez was most serious in his sanctions arising from our grievances regarding Ms. Freeman. So severe was his action that she went and complained to Chairman Owens over her being sanctioned. I am told that later Chavez was called into Owens office where Owens expressed her disapproval of his actions in the Freeman matter. From that point forward I understand their relationship did not improve.

One must remember that my grievance was not the first issue Freeman appears to have had while with the Board. She started out in the Palestine office, but was moved to the Angleton office, and I am told it was because of interpersonal issues. While at Angleton she is reported to have had on going issues with other voting panel members. In a final issue, it is reported that Freeman and one of the best and most enlightened members ever to serve on the parole board, Linda Garcia (now an Asst. D.A. in Harris County), had a disagreement with Freeman. I understand when Garcia called Chairman Owens to complain, that very afternoon, Garcia got a phone call from the Governor' s office and it was Garcia that was terminated. As a result we should not be surprised at what has happened to Chavez, who all reports indicate was developing into a first class member of the Board. Freeman was then moved to the Huntsville board where upon arrival she totally stopped affording inmate families or their lawyers face to face interviews. She would limit phone interviews to 15 minutes (a totally insufficient time to present a complicated case). She regularly allow a family member to listen to the presentation of the lawyer, but she would not allow that family member to say anything. Such a practice was extremely disrespectful to the family, and a practice I never before encountered from any other voting member in my 40 years. It also spoke badly for the P.R. between the board and the public.

It is my personal opinion that those lawyers who deal with the board on a regular basis let the matter of Freeman go too long without objection. In the last year while representing a young man from a very successful and respected East Texas family called me when they learned that Freeman was to be the lead voter on the son's case. They had her the previous year and had been rude, and disrespectful to them. The family ask that I withdraw my request for an interview (hearing). They had experienced the abuses Freeman previously bestowed on them in a prior hearing by Freeman, and they had objected in writing to her prior disrespect. In that prior presentation for parole Ms. Freeman would not even allow the mother of the offender the opportunity to speak.

Ms. Freeman had gotten to the point where she never granted a lawyer or family a face to face interview. While the law does not require the board to afford such interviews, it is a rather common practice in every office throughout the state except the Huntsville office after the arrival of Ms. Freeman.

In the course of my involvement over the Freeman grievance and resulting in my request from my client to withdraw my requested interview with Freeman this year I filed, I received a letter from Chairman Owens directing me to address such requests to Chavez who was in charge of overseeing the actions of other voting panel members in the Huntsville office. Looks like the authority she afforded him came with a chain around his neck so Owens could jerk it at her will. I do not think, based on my experience in this matter, that one can separate the dismissal of Chavez and the indictment of Freeman. Owens clearly appears to have acted to protect Freeman in the past, and it is my opinion that seeking Chavez's resignation is just another form of her retaliation. Again, that is my opinion.

In closing I wish to make clear that overall I have a high opinion of the current voting panel members throughout Texas, except as for Freeman. I cannot imagine any other board member or commissioner trying to pull off what Freeman is alleged to have done in her indictment. On the other hand, if I had been asked which voting panel member would engage in such activity, Freeman would have been the first and only current voting board member I would have predicted. She leaves me with the belief that as a quasi-judicial administrative parole voter, she leaves fairness at home when she goes to the office.

Most board members and commissioners are fully aware of the emotional trauma that attaches to the offender and his/her family when going through a parole consideration. Once engaged in trying to speak for an inmate at a parole interview it can be an emotional and heart wrenching experience for anyone undertaking such an event. We are better off without having to face Ms. Freeman in such a situation.

Bill Habern
Attorney at Law
Huntsville, Texas

Notation from PAPA: I am most grateful to Mr. Habern for relating what he has been dealing with in the Parole Issues, BUT, my question is why does TEXAS have a system set up that requires families to have to hire a parole attorney in order to make a difference in the decisions to start with...is that fair, is that justice, not to mention the wrongness of the system to start with, what happens to the "GOOD TIME" that the Inmate earns then has to sign it back over to the state in order to be paroled, doesn't sound like "GOOD TIME" for Inmates to be put on a leg-monitor, pay fees each month, then have to endure more of the parole officers abuse, not to mention that no one answers the phones when a parolee has an emergency late at night or on the weekends or on the holidays, then the Inmates gets sent back to prison plus it is mandatory for parolees to have a job, BUT, then the Inmate is required to take the day off from work to go sit and wait in the parole office all day...how can the Parolee keep a job plus out in West Texas many of the Inmate work on the rigs and the rigs are NOT in town so they have to take the day off because it is to far to get to the parole office....there needs to be some reality checks as to how the parole system destroys people's lives...Just PAPA's opinion and what has been witnessed