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Posts under ‘Crime and Punishment’

Palau catches a little heat for hiring John Bradley

Hilarious. The president of Palau has defended appointing a US lawyer who left his previous role as Texas county prosecutor amid controversy over an innocent man who spent almost 25 years behind bars. President Tommy Remengesau confirmed former Williamson County district attorney John Bradley would take up a position as assistant attorney general in the […]

Charles Sebesta may finally have to face responsibility for his actions against Anthony Graves

Very good news. It’s been eight years since the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals found that the DA who prosecuted Anthony Graves for capital murder had done something unconscionable : withheld favorable evidence and used false testimony to secure a conviction—a conviction that sent Graves to death row. Since that federal ruling came down in […]

Walking a mile in their ankle monitors

You have to admire this kind of dedication to one’s office. Though she has never been convicted of a crime, Marsha McLane is having her every movement these days tracked by a satellite-monitored anklet, just like thousands of ex-cons in Texas. Charged with rebuilding a little-known state agency that supervises high-risk sex offenders, she is […]

John Bradley’s second act

Lisa Falkenberg brings a fascinating and unexpected update to the story of John Bradley, the former Williamson County DA and Texas Forensic Science Commissioner who served as one of the main villains in the Michael Morton case. Since losing elected office, Bradley has tried to find work. In 2012, I wrote about him applying to […]

Grits on the HPD staffing debate

Grits weighs in on the HPD no-investigations story with some suggestions for how to proceed. Here’s how to boost the number of police officers available on patrol while freeing up officers to work as detectives in the burglary and other backlogged divisions: Implement verified response for burglar alarm calls, requiring alarm companies to verify a […]

Construction of joint processing center and forensics facility approved to begin

Good. Several major building projects – including a state-of-the-art facility for the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences and a voter-approved jail inmate processing center – officially are in the pipeline after Commissioners Court on Tuesday approved a $305 million capital improvement program. [...] At the top of the list is the $100 million city-county […]

We need more context to the HPD no-investigations issue

Regular commenter Steven Houston left this feedback on my “More reaction to the HPD no-investigations report” post. It raises some good points and helped me focus my thinking on a couple of things, so I wanted to reproduce it and react to it here. I’ve commented on this issue for years, including a number of […]

Perry grand jury may be winding down

We are getting close to some action on this. A grand jury looking into whether Gov. Rick Perry abused his power with a veto threat appears closer to wrapping up after current and former Perry staffers were behind closed doors with the panel Friday. “It’s getting to the point where we’ll have talked to all […]

Some things are worth paying more for

How much would you pay for fewer faulty convictions? Prosecutors say the state’s new Michael Morton Act, a measure designed to prevent wrongful convictions by forcing district attorneys to be more transparent in criminal cases, is driving up evidence costs. “That is an issue for a lot of folks,” said Rob Kepple, executive director for […]

When might marijuana be legalized in Texas?

Very interesting debate going on in the Baker Institute Blog about when marijuana might be legalized in Texas. Here are the posts they’ve published, in decreasing order of optimism: Texas will legalize medical marijuana in 2015 and regulate marijuana similarly to alcohol in 2017 Texas will legalize marijuana in 2019 Texas voters will push for […]

More reaction to the HPD no-investigations report

I’m not the only one that wasn’t impressed by Chief McClelland’s response. [Burglary victim Heather] Heinke’s experience is not unusual in the nation’s fourth-largest city. A recent HPD staffing study says that 15,000 burglaries and thefts, 3,000 hit-and-run crashes and 3,000 assaults were simply set aside last year without a follow-up investigation. Houston police commanders […]

Almost nobody is following Rick Perry’s lead in defying the Prison Rape Elimination Act

Emily dePrang has the story. Back in March, Gov. Rick Perry sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder declaring his intent to defy a federal law designed to reduce sexual assault in prison. It was a very Perry letter, slinging around terms like “ridiculous” and “unacceptable” and “costly regulatory mess.” But perhaps the […]

McClelland’s response

I have to say, I’m not impressed. Defending his department’s failure to investigate thousands of crimes last year, Police Chief Charles McClelland on Thursday said the understaffed Houston Police Department does not and should not have a goal of aggressively probing every crime reported to it. “We work violent crimes first. If someone steals your […]

Those uninvestigated criminal cases

To say the least, this is big news. The Houston Police Department, already reeling from a scandal involving shoddy work in its homicide unit, was dealt another blow Monday when a report revealed that some 20,000 burglary, theft, assault and hit-and-run cases with workable leads were not investigated in 2013. The authors of the city-commissioned […]

Another slap on the wrist for a prosecutor behaving badly

Weak. Very weak. The Texas Bar Association has issued a public reprimand to state district Judge Kaycee Jones for her role in clandestine texting during a criminal trial while she was a prosecutor and before her election to the bench last year. Jones, who oversees the 411th court in Polk, Trinity and San Jacinto counties, […]

Harris County tries to get smarter about drunk driving

That seems to be the thrust of this story. Convicted drunken drivers soon could face tougher scrutiny through a series of reforms designed to reduce the rate of drunken driving fatalities in Harris County, among the highest in the nation. Repeat offenders, and those arrested for egregious blood-alcohol levels while behind the wheel, will be […]

More on the Pratt resignation deal

I’m still shaking my head about this. The Harris County district attorney still could investigate and charge former family court Judge Denise Pratt, despite striking a deal with the freshman jurist to resign to avoid prosecution on charges of tampering with government records. Asked to elaborate on the terms of the agreement that led to […]

Pratt’s resignation deal

Now here‘s an interesting twist to the story. Former family court Judge Denise Pratt’s resignation in late March was part of a deal to avoid indictment, Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson said Wednesday, asserting that the document tampering case would have been difficult to prosecute and that the agreement was the best and quickest […]

We really should comply with the Prison Rape Elimination Act

It’s the right thing to do, and it’s the law. During a House County Affairs Committee hearing Monday, local sheriffs said the most problematic provision of the 2003 law is a requirement that minors be housed separately from adult prison and jail populations. Since Texas is one of only 10 states that classifies 17-year-olds as […]

AG opinion sought for Perry’s use of taxpayer funds for defense

Interesting. A Democratic House leader has asked for a legal opinion on how and if Gov. Rick Perry can bill taxpayers for his $450-an-hour criminal lawyer defending him in a grand jury probe. Perry is under a grand jury investigation on potential bribery and coercion charges after trying to force Travis County District Attorney Rosemary […]

Rick Perry really wanted Rosemary Lehmberg to quit

From the Trib. Even after Gov. Rick Perry stripped funding for the agency that prosecutes state public corruption cases, his emissaries worked to swap the resignation of embattled Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg for restoration of the money, several sources told The Texas Tribune this week. The Tribune learned of the proposal as a […]

The Rick Perry grand jury convenes

Game on. A grand jury was sworn in Monday to look into whether Gov. Rick Perry acted improperly last year when he threatened to kill funding for the Travis County district attorney’s public corruption division unless District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg resigned after her drunken driving conviction. The office of the governor – who carried through […]

Perry lawyers up

It’s getting real. Texas Gov. Rick Perry has hired a high-profile Austin defense lawyer to represent him in an investigation into whether he illegally withheld money from the Travis County District Attorney’s office. KVUE News and the Austin American-Statesman confirmed Sunday evening the hiring of David L. Botsford. The hiring comes as a special Travis […]

HPD’s good, bad, and ugly

The good news is that the testing of backlogged rape kits has led to the identification of a serial rapist in Houston. Houston police on Tuesday for the first time identified a criminal suspect – a possible serial rapist – from testing of sexual assault kits that once gathered dust in the police property room. […]

Perry special prosecutor is “concerned”

As are we all. A special prosecutor investigating whether Gov. Rick Perry abused his authority when he eliminated state funding of the Texas public integrity unit — which investigates government corruption and is housed in the Travis County district attorney’s office — said what he’s found so far is “concerning.” “I cannot elaborate on what […]

Perry says Texas will not comply with the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act

Amazing the number of laws Rick Perry refuses to obey, isn’t it? More than a decade after the Prison Rape Elimination Act unanimously passed Congress, federal standards for implementation of the law have been finalized. Now, Gov. Rick Perry and some prison reform advocates are at odds over what those standards mean for Texas lockups […]

CCA to review dismissal of DeLay conviction

The criminal justice system isn’t done with Tom DeLay just yet. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday agreed to review whether a lower court correctly decided last fall to toss out the prison sentence handed to former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay on money-laundering charges. The state’s highest court on criminal matters announced […]

How much will science advance in the courts?

It’s up to the CCA to decide. Texas’ highest criminal court will hear arguments Wednesday in a case that could affect how evolving scientific evidence is used in courtrooms across the state. For Neal H. Robbins, the high court’s decision will determine whether he gets another shot at arguing his innocence. In 1999, a jury […]

HPD crime lab update

The man who wrote the report detailing all of the HPD crime lab’s problems was back to give a progress report on how things look now. Houston police managers at the once-shuttered crime lab have failed to re-examine tests on DNA, blood and most other forensic evidence on a random basis to ensure the results […]

Inmates and Medicaid

Other states are doing what Texas has declined to do. Being arrested in Chicago for, say, drug possession or assault gets you sent to the Cook County Jail to be fingerprinted, photographed and X-rayed. You’ll also get help applying for health insurance. At least six states and counties from Maryland to Oregon’s Multnomah are getting […]

State Bar investigating Charles Sebesta

Good. The State Bar of Texas has opened an investigation into Charles Sebesta, the former Burleson County District Attorney who prosecuted death row exoneree Anthony Graves. The organization that oversees lawyers is investigating alleged professional misconduct by Sebesta, which, if proven, could result in his disbarment. The investigation was prompted by a complaint that Graves […]

More evidence of Cameron Willingham’s innocence

The scientific evidence against Cameron Todd Willingham, who was executed in 2004 for the arson deaths of his three children, has long been discredited. The other piece of evidence used against him at trial was the testimony of a jailhouse informer, who said that Willingham confessed to him. Now that piece of evidence is under […]

DA investigating Judge Pratt again

Here we go again. Two months after a grand jury cleared embattled state District Judge Denise Pratt of accusations she had tampered with court records, the Harris County District Attorney’s office again is looking into the family court jurist. Houston lawyer Anna Stool, a former federal prosecutor, said she was called in by the district […]

More details on the rape kit backlog results

HPD reports to Council about the progress of testing done on the backlogged rape kits. No false arrests by Houston police have been uncovered during an ongoing $4.4 million testing of thousands of old rape kits, but new suspects have been developed with DNA, leading to an undisclosed number of arrests, police commanders told City […]