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Posts under ‘Crime and Punishment’

Whitmire files complaint against bail-denying magistrates

Good. An influential Texas lawmaker on Thursday filed formal complaints against three Harris County magistrate judges after they were captured on videotape rushing misdemeanor defendants to jail without considering no-cost bonds. State Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, filed the complaints with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, citing an article published Thursday in the Houston Chronicle […]

New Sheriff not interested in defending current bail policies

Good. After defeating Sheriff Ron Hickman in the election this month, Sheriff-elect Ed Gonzalez is already sticking his nose in Hickman’s official business — mainly, the lawsuit filed against him. Hickman, along with the county, all the county judges and five bail hearing officers, has been sued for participating in what a national civil rights […]

David Temple granted new trial

Wow. The state’s highest criminal court on Wednesday granted a new trial to David Temple, a former Katy football coach accused of killing his pregnant wife in 1999. In an opinion posted online Wednesday morning, the court of criminal appeals sided with Temple’s lawyers, who argued in state district court in 2015 that Harris County […]

Collin County Commissioners Court are a bunch of jerks

Unbelievable. In an attempt to lay the legal groundwork to quit funding Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s prosecution, Collin County is refusing to pay a longtime local attorney for his work defending indigent clients. On Monday, the Commissioners Court voted 3-2 to block payment to J. Matthew Goeller, a McKinney defense attorney who has provided […]

The answer is to always cram more people in the jails

Seriously? Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman is asking the state jail commission to let nearly 200 inmates sleep on plastic cots on the floor of the already overcrowded county jail system, a request challenged by more than a dozen Houston-area lawmakers. The lawmakers note that county officials have not fully followed the advice of their […]

Off to trial for Paxton

No more appeals, so a trial is in the works. Lawyers for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton are no longer asking to have a state securities fraud case against him dismissed, moving him closer to a trial on the criminal charges. Paxton’s legal team confirmed Tuesday that it was getting ready for a trial, five […]

Collin County won’t fight its special prosecutor bill

For now, anyway. The Collin County Commissioners Court on Monday voted to take “a careful review” of the cost of prosecuting Attorney General Ken Paxton, while appealing to residents to set aside emotions and avoid attacking the court’s future decisions. “Regardless of how any vote comes down today, or future votes come down, one thing […]

CCA declines to take Paxton off the hook

Sorry, Kenny. The highest criminal court in Texas said Wednesday it will not hear Ken Paxton’s appeal of securities fraud charges, putting the attorney general on a path to facing a trial in the coming months. “Today’s ruling marks an end to Mr. Paxton’s almost year-long attempt to avoid being judged by a jury of […]

John Bradley to leave Palau

He’s coming home. Former Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley is resigning from his job as attorney general in the Republic of Palau. Bradley sent a letter to the president of Palau on Sept. 13 announcing his plans to quit his job Nov. 30 due to family reasons. […] The president of Palau, Tommy Remengesau, […]

More lawyers for the bail practices lawsuit

I’m still not thrilled about this. Harris County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to add another law firm to the county’s court fight against bail reform, a group whose job will be representing 16 county criminal judges who were recently added to a pending federal civil rights lawsuit. […] Records show Harris County already has paid […]

It’s not just Precinct 4

There are problems with evidence rooms in other Constable precincts as well. With Harris County’s Precinct 4 Constable’s Office mired in scandal over the improper destruction of 21,000 pieces of evidence, serious evidence cataloging and control problems also have been uncovered in the constables’ offices in Precincts 3,6 and 7, according to interviews and audits […]

Internal report on Precinct 4 evidence destruction

The more you look, the worse it appears. One of the first hints of anything awry in the Precinct 4 property room came in an email from evidence manager Christopher T. Hess. Harris County District Attorney “Investigator Kerry Gillie called today about the evidence for case 13-50054,” he wrote in the Feb. 29 email to […]

More on the Precinct 4 evidence destruction scandal

Lots of cases have been compromised. District Attorney Devon Anderson’s office first learned in April that the mistaken destruction of evidence in Harris County’s Precinct 4 had likely compromised more than a thousand criminal cases, including more than 400 in which defendants had already been convicted, records released Tuesday show. Anderson immediately launched a criminal […]

Miller avoids charges for his questionable trips

Can’t catch ’em all. Travis County prosecutors will not press criminal charges against Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller for tapping taxpayer funds for two trips that involved personal activities — including an appearance in a Mississippi rodeo and the receipt of a medical injection in Oklahoma called the “Jesus Shot.” “We have decided to close […]

Spending money to defend our terrible bail practices

Ugh. About $170,000 in tax money has been paid to outside attorneys to defend Harris Country officials from a federal civil rights lawsuit alleging that the bail bond system discriminates against poor people, records show. That’s more than the cost of a six-month pilot project that would have provided attorneys for indigent misdemeanor offenders at […]

Family of Sandra Bland settles its lawsuit

I hope this brings them some peace, but more importantly I hope it leads to fewer inmate deaths, in Waller County and elsewhere. The family of Sandra Bland — who died last year in a Waller County Jail cell — has reached a settlement with Texas officials in a wrongful death lawsuit, a lawyer for […]

The bigger debtors’ prison problem

It’s not just Harris County. Last week, an Amarillo attorney released documents that he said showed the city jailed disabled people simply because they were unable to pay municipal fines. According to the Amarillo Globe-News, the victims of this apparent debtors’ prison system include “a disabled veteran on social security who owed $539; a woman living on $490 […]

The Precinct 4 evidence destruction debacle

What the heck is going on here? The Harris County Precinct 4 deputy who was fired after destroying evidence in hundreds of pending criminal cases this year has been wrongfully tossing evidence without following department protocol since 2007, Constable Mark Herman announced Tuesday. Herman’s announcement comes just after Houston defense attorney Paul Morgan wrote a […]

Reducing pot prosecutions one county at a time

Some Texas cities are taking direct action to dial back the drug wars and reduce their jail population. As lawmakers have wrestled in recent years with easing restrictions on marijuana use – an issue they likely will confront again when they convene in January – prosecutors in the state’s most populated areas are relaxing their […]

Susan Hawk resigns as Dallas County DA

Thus endeth her short but incredibly tumultuous time in office. After struggling with mental illness, including three admissions at psychiatric treatment centers, Republican Susan Hawk stepped down from her position as Dallas County District Attorney on Tuesday. “It is with a heavy heart that I must tender my resignation as Dallas County District Attorney,” Hawk […]

We now have data about police shootings of civilians

The Chron reviews the first year’s worth of data. Texas police reported shooting 159 people in the first year that the state tracked such cases under a groundbreaking new law. Officers in Houston shot 31 of them – compared to eight in San Antonio and Dallas and five apiece in Fort Worth and Austin. Houston’s […]

“Unholstered”

Some really good work by the Trib here. The Texas Tribune spent almost a year attempting to collect information on police shootings from departments in the state’s 36 largest cities, which have a population of 100,000 or more, and was able to confirm 656 fatal and nonfatal shooting incidents involving 738 individuals that occurred between […]

Three updates on county-related lawsuits

Update #1: Judges sued as part of Harris County federal court bail challenge. Attorneys challenging the constitutionality of Harris County’s pretrial bail policies have added all 16 of Harris County’s misdemeanor court judges as defendants in a federal civil rights lawsuit this week after mediation aimed at settling the dispute broke down after only two […]

A good day in court for Paxton

He may well get those SEC charges dismissed. Lawyers for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission received skeptical treatment Friday from a federal judge who is considering whether to dismiss the civil fraud case against Attorney General Ken Paxton. From the outset, U.S. District Judge Amos L. Mazzant III noted that the SEC’s case against […]

Paxton’s day in SEC court

That’s a slightly misleading headline, but you get the point. Lawyers for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton will argue Friday morning in a Sherman courtroom that the federal civil fraud case against him should be dismissed, their latest effort to unwind the legal troubles that have dogged Paxton for more than a year. […] In […]

Paxton rejects settlement talks with SEC

Not a surprise. Attorney General Ken Paxton, facing charges he duped investors in a North Texas startup, is refusing to engage in settlement talks with the U.S Securities and Exchange Commission – and could be the last holdout in the case if it goes to trial. William Mapp, the founder and CEO of the company […]

What’s that definition of insanity again?

How many times are we going to find ourselves in this same situation before we finally accept that we need to do something different? The Harris County Sheriff’s Office has cut funding for law enforcement operations to cover exploding overtime costs at the department’s understaffed jail, a move critics say could harm public safety while […]

HPD wants control of crime scene forensics for officer-involved shootings

No. Houston’s acting Police Chief Martha Montalvo, with the support of the powerful Houston Police Officers Union, has made a behind-closed-doors bid to take back control over the troubled Crime Scene Unit from the city’s independent forensic science lab. The Crime Scene Unit is small but critical – its technicians gather and photograph evidence from […]

More focus on bail practices

Something needs to be done, whether via the ongoing lawsuit or other means. Sandra Thompson, a University of Houston law professor, has spent hundreds of dollars bailing her cousin out of jail for minor offenses. “I get steamed under the collar when I think about this issue,” Thompson said. “I’m really mad and I’m ready […]

Bail practices lawsuit update

There was a hearing in court this week, and the judge was skeptical. U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal declined Thursday to rule on whether Harris County should be dismissed from a lawsuit intended to force officials to reform a tough bail system in which more than 70 percent of jail inmates are being held pretrial. […]

Rangers hand off Miller case to Travis County DA

Here we go. The Travis County District Attorney’s Office has begun reviewing the findings of a criminal investigation into Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller’s travel, a top prosecutor said Friday. “We received the investigation (from the Texas Department of Public Safety) earlier this week,” said the prosecutor, Gregg Cox, the head of Travis County’s Public […]

Legislation to ban the jailing of rape victims proposed

Hard to argue with, I must say. The controversial jailing of a rape victim to ensure her testimony could lead to a new state law protecting victims’ rights to an appointed attorney. State Sen. Joan Huffman is joining with Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson and Sheriff Ron Hickman to push for new legislation to […]

Paxton appeals to CCA

Last chance to avoid a trial or a plea deal. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is appealing the securities fraud charges against him to the state’s highest criminal court, in one last bid to dismiss the case before it potentially goes to trial. Paxton’s attorneys filed the appeal Tuesday with the Texas Court of Criminal […]

Jailed rape victim’s lawyer calls for special prosecutor

To investigate the actions of the DA’s office that led to her incarceration. Prosecutors broke the law when they jailed a rape victim in order to secure her testimony against her attacker, the woman’s attorney claimed Monday in a letter to Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson. Attorney Sean Buckley said he believes prosecutors illegally […]