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2013-04-01

Texas Prosecutor Linda Geffin, Victim of Brutal Attack at Home, on the Killing of DA Mike McLelland

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Following the killing of Texas District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia McLelland, in their home, we speak to Linda Geffin, the senior assistant prosecutor for the Harris County attorney’s office in Texas, who herself survived a brutal attack by an unknown intruder at her home last year. Geffin, who says the incident may have been linked to her efforts against human trafficking, discusses her ordeal and explains why it has helped inform her public advocacy work, including backing the commuting of a death sentence for Duane Beck, whom she prosecuted. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Before you go, Linda Geffin, I wanted to talk about a different issue with you. You know, we just had a segment on the killing of the district attorney and his wife in Texas, as well as the Kaufman County assistant prosecutor. We don’t know who have killed them. I mean, this all happened in Texas, where you are, as well. You work in the district attorney’s office in Houston, in Harris County. You had your own experience being viciously attacked in your home. Could you talk about that, if you would right now?

LINDA GEFFIN: Sure. In addition to working on Mr. Buck’s case, my main job is a civil attorney at the county attorney’s office, using civil remedies to close down fronts for human trafficking. We had a successful run. We closed down many illegal enterprises. And one Saturday, I came home, and before I knew it, I was brutally beaten. And I ended up in the ICU for a week, and I had a skull fracture and serious head injuries, as well as some other injuries.

Many people that I know in the human-trafficking field were so certain, and told me to get out of my house, that it’s related to the work I’m doing, but there’s this tendency to not believe that attorneys, prosecutors, people working on these types of cases, get hit. And I was the target of a hit. And the perpetrators are still out there. About a month after this happened to me, in the city of Arlington, Texas, another city attorney had a hit taken out on them, also working on sexually oriented businesses. They caught that guy. And it’s—clearly, from your earlier segment, it’s something that goes on that people don’t recognize.

AMY GOODMAN: I’m looking at an article in the Houston Chronicle that talked about the fact that you, Linda Geffin, were beaten senseless by an unidentified intruder who left your skull cracked and bleeding, an eye blackened, massive fist-sized bruises on your chin and your chest. Yet, now, they have not found the person who did this. And this is how many years later, or how many months later?

LINDA GEFFIN: It’s about a year and a half. It happened September 17th, 2011. And, no, they haven’t found anybody. No.

AMY GOODMAN: You weren’t raped. You weren’t robbed.

LINDA GEFFIN: No. And that’s one of the reasons it points to professional job. I had money out. I had jewelry out. Nothing was taken. Nothing was disturbed. I wasn’t sexually assaulted. And it was clearly—and by the nature of the injuries on my head, in the back of my head, the certain shapes of them, a friend of mine, former special ops, told me that that’s either somebody who knows martial arts or a professional hit. So, it’s—you know, if somebody had followed me home from the grocery store, had me unconscious, it’s likely I would have been sexually assaulted, or they would have taken things from my home. But they were in, they were out. I was unconscious for a day and a half, 'til Sunday, when a friend came by. And I'm very, very grateful to have lived through it.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, you certainly have been public about your fight against human trafficking. You agreed to speak on the Today show, in Texas Monthly, a host of community groups, launched a website called uncoolbeans.com to show how modern slavery—[modern-day] slavery enters the supply chain of common commodities, joined the region’s federal Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance. Has this changed the way you do your work? How do you protect yourself now?

LINDA GEFFIN: It changed for a while. It took me a year to recover. And I’m—and I’m doing a lot better now. And what it has done for me, actually, in an ironic twist of fate, is I look at my assault as a gift. I look at it with gratitude, because there aren’t many moments in one’s life where you’re actually brought to your knees and given the opportunity to reconstruct, redo, throw away the bad, enhance the good. And I have a much greater sense of clarity now. And I am very adamant about things that are important to me, and they generally fall under the categories of justice—the whole slave trade, which is of course a huge growing industry; child labor; and Mr. Buck’s case, which is a poster child for what is wrong with the death penalty. But I can now approach these cases with a lot of clarity. And I’ve been inspired for many years by a quote by Elie Wiesel, who says, "There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to speak out." And that quote resonates with me even stronger now.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Linda—

LINDA GEFFIN: And—

AMY GOODMAN: Linda Geffin, the response of other prosecutors in your office—you’re still in the Harris County DA’s office; you’re assistant prosecutor there—coming out for a commuting of Duane Buck’s sentence, even though you were involved with helping to achieve his death sentence?

LINDA GEFFIN: Yeah, actually, I’ve gone across the street. I’m with the county attorney’s office. Here in Harris County, it’s two separate buildings. I was with the DA’s office for 10 years. Now I’m with the county attorney’s office. And I haven’t—it’s different buildings, but I haven’t heard any negativity about what I’m doing.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you so much, and I’m so sorry you’ve gone through what you’ve gone through personally. Linda Geffin, assistant prosecutor who helped win the death sentence for Duane Buck in ’97, now opposes his execution. And thanks so much to Christina Swarns, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, head of the Criminal Justice Project there.

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, there has been a tar sands leak in an ExxonMobil pipeline in Arkansas. We’ll speak with Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org. Stay with us.

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