Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos, who said, “justice is not a game” during her 2008 campaign, has started three staff competitions that reward taking more cases to trial, the Houston Chronicle reports. Prizes include assisting on a murder trial or a Friday afternoon off. The three prosecutors winning the afternoon off are encouraged to spend it together going to lunch or a movie or bowling. “The purpose of these competitions is to reward folks who go to trial and achieve justice,” said an office memo. “In addition, hopefully it will be fun for all.”
Critics say Lykos has changed the outcome of pending cases. Weaker cases that would have been dismissed or resolved with plea bargains may now go to trial. Defense attorney Mark Bennett posted the memo on his blog. “The D.A.’s office is playing games with people’s freedom, their futures and their lives,” Bennett said. “It seems they’re having trouble getting young prosecutors eager to try cases without turning it into some party game.” Bennett said several of his clients may be affected if prosecutors refuse to offer reasonable plea offers in a bid to get more trial dates.