Could a Domestic Violence Apologist Become the District Attorney in Houston?

What Women Really Think
Feb. 20 2014 11:23 AM

Could a Domestic Violence Apologist Become the District Attorney in Houston?

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Lloyd Oliver wants Harris County, Texas, to stop arresting and prosecuting domestic abusers.

Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Five times criminal defense lawyer Lloyd Oliver has run for judge in Texas' Harris County, which encompasses most of the Houston area, switching parties willy-nilly. Five times criminal defense lawyer Lloyd Oliver has lost. But that doesn't mean he's not a threat in this latest race to be district attorney, reports the Texas Observer’s Emily DePrang, who recently published an interview with Oliver. In 2012, he beat a favorite to win the Democratic primary, no doubt coasting on the fact that most voters don't know much about local races when they're casting a ballot. (He lost the general election by a mere five points.) This time he's up against Kim Ogg in the Democratic primary. Ogg has quite a bit of support and is likely to win, but since no one can figure out how Oliver won last time, there's always a fear that he's going to pull it off again.

Amanda Marcotte Amanda Marcotte

Amanda Marcotte is a Brooklyn-based writer and DoubleX contributor. She also writes regularly for the Daily Beast, AlterNet, and USA Today. Follow her on Twitter.

That is a terrifying prospect, because Oliver appears to be singularly obsessed with stomping out the practice of taking domestic violence seriously as a crime. It's not just that he makes a lot of money defending alleged wife beaters in court. This is a man with a deep, hearty anger at the justice system for daring to prosecute people who hit their partners. At one point in DePrang’s interview, he tapped her hand and claimed that this would be enough to send a man to jail for domestic violence. He was also intent on portraying domestic violence as a "mutual scuffle," as if beating a person and trying to shove him or her away in self-defense are equal actions. Even when DePrang tried to change the topic, Oliver found a way to bring the subject back to domestic violence and how he believes it's usually not much of a crime:

“The children become the victim of hauling Dad away, and maybe Mom too, because they get in a pushing match,” he says. “They get in a verbal argument, a verbal altercation, that, uh, finally resorts to him pushing, her pushing. And now they haul him away. Okay? Now he lost his job. They lose their little apartment. They lose their house. They lose everything. Their kids are disrupted. Their family is disrupted. He can’t come around for, what, 30 to 60 days, can’t even come around the house? Can’t support two households. They lose everything. And again, the victim is who? The children become the victim. The chil-dren. What about the babies, alright?”
At one point, I note that many victims defend their abusers because of fear, economic dependence, or other manipulation. “It’s pretty common, right?” I say.
“Uh, it’s called marriage,” he says and laughs.
“Okay…”
“Or life….” he says. “And you shoving me doesn’t bother me, it doesn’t offend you, let’s leave it alone. It’s called marriage.”
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DePrang obtained a comment from a domestic violence expert, who reminds us that abusers are manipulative. What may seem like an unbothered victim is usually the victim buying into the abuser's lies about how he will never hit her again.

This is hardly the first time that Oliver has campaigned on the platform of functionally decriminalizing most domestic violence. In 2012, he was asked to clarify what he meant when he said that domestic violence victims "should maybe learn to box a little better." His clarification was to characterize domestic violence as a form of foreplay: "There are some people. I don’t understand it, but part of their making love is beat up one another first."

He went on to characterize his work in defending alleged wife beaters as pro-family: "I love to see some man and his wife and children put back together again, and their relationship, they’re working on their relationship to make it better, better, better.” And he added that an act of violence may be a good thing because it compels the couple to "get help and the family stays together."

Oliver is running as a Democrat not for ideological reasons, but because "there's more accessibility in the Democratic Party." While he seems primarily interested in ending most prosecution of domestic violence, he has registered a few other alarming opinions in the past, saying he hates "queers holding hands" and "rag heads." He’s called the Democrat leadership in his county "frustrated homosexuals." 

As DePrang dryly notes, Oliver has been divorced three times. 

Amanda Marcotte is a Brooklyn-based writer and DoubleX contributor. She also writes regularly for the Daily Beast, AlterNet, and USA Today. Follow her on Twitter.

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