A Texas prosecutor who was accused of using the word "Canadian" as a racial slur in an e-mail could be part of the focus of an ongoing probe into the actions of another district attorney.
The e-mail, sent out in 2003 by Harris County assistant district attorney Mike Trent, has recently come to light as part of an investigation of Harris County Texas District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal, who is accused of sending racist and sexist e-mails.
In 2003, Trent sent a staff-wide e-mail congratulating his colleague Robert Freyer for winning a conviction.
In the e-mail, Trent wrote: "He overcame a subversively good defense by Matt Hennessey that had some Canadians on the jury feeling sorry for the defendant and forced them to do the right thing."
In fact, there were no Canadians on the jury, but there were some African-Americans.
The e-mail drew criticism from some who said the word "Canadian" is a racial slur against African-Americans, and questioned Trent whether he was using it in that context.
Trent denied the charge, saying he had been speaking with Freyer earlier and that Freyer had used the word Canadian in a conversation about the case.
'Do you guys think I'm crazy?'
From that conversation, Trent said he believed there were actual Canadians who had sat on the jury. When Trent asked Freyer what he meant by Canadians, Trent said Freyer told him he had used "Canadians" to describe "liberals" on the jury, the Texas Lawyer reported.
"Do you guys think I'm crazy?" Trent wrote recently in a blog post. "Am I insanely stupid enough to send a racial slur to 250 lawyers? Litigious, complaint-ready lawyers, some of whom are African-American? That is just absurd."
Trent has suggested it was reasonable to believe Canadians may have been on the jury because all that is needed to be a juror is to have a valid U.S. driver's licence.
But the Harris County District Clerk's Office told the Texas Lawyer that Canadians could only sit on a jury if they also have U.S. citizenship or they slipped through the system designed to eliminate non-U.S. citizens as prospective jurors.
"In retrospect, I realize I should have questioned this more," Trent wrote.
Trent has apologized to those who were offended by what he wrote. He has also noted that in 2006 he received an award from the Anti-Defamation League for prosecuting a hate crime.