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Posts under ‘Crime and Punishment’

Paxton’s first day in court

It was a little weird. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Thursday pleaded not guilty to violating state securities laws, while also telling the judge presiding over his felony case that he currently does not have an attorney. Joe Kendall, Paxton’s lead counsel until Thursday morning, appeared in the Tarrant County courtroom with the first-term […]

Will Sandra Bland’s death help lead to bail reform?

That would be a fitting and just outcome if it does. Harris County and the state should reform an unfair bond system that punishes the poor more harshly, according to civil rights leaders, legislative officials and criminal experts who gathered Wednesday in front of the county’s criminal justice center. Reform, they argued, could prevent another […]

Forensic Science Commission to examine bite mark evidence

Good. The board charged with ensuring that reliable scientific evidence is used in Texas courtrooms agreed on Friday to investigate cases in which bite mark analysis was used to secure a conviction. “We’re talking about the whole field, the validity of the field of bite marks,” said Dr. Vincent DiMaio, the chief presiding officer at […]

Siegler gets sued

Oy vey. Prominent former Houston prosecutor Kelly Siegler built a 20-year career out of securing convictions in tough murder cases, especially those that for years had been unsolved. It was that reputation for tenacity and pluck that landed the local legend a starring role on “Cold Justice,” a nationally televised reality show, after she left […]

Siegler responds to Temple case allegations

She comes out swinging. Legendary former prosecutor Kelly Siegler for the first time has responded to allegations of 36 instances of prosecutorial misconduct during an infamous 2007 murder trial. In a statement to the Houston Chronicle by her lawyer, noted Atlanta attorney Lin Wood, Siegler said: “The Chronicle has neglected to mention that the findings […]

Paxton gets a court date

Mark your calendars. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton will make his first court appearance on securities fraud charges later this month. State District Judge George Gallagher issued an order on Friday that sets Paxton’s initial appearance for 10 a.m. Aug. 27. But instead of being at the Collin County Courthouse where the indictments were issued, […]

Harris County DA to investigate Planned Parenthood clinic here

I haven’t spent any time writing about the misleading attack videos on Planned Parenthood being put out by yet another shadowy anti-abortion group, so let me dispense with this. Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson said Wednesday her office has begun a criminal investigation into the Houston branch of Planned Parenthood after the release earlier […]

Three panels investigating Sandra Bland’s death

One was appointed by the Sheriff: In the wake of the controversial arrest of Sandra Bland and her jailhouse suicide, Waller County Sheriff R. Glenn Smith has asked for an independent panel of civilians to evaluate all aspects of the way he runs his department, from the cell blocks to the streets, and make public […]

Sandra Bland’s death ruled a suicide

That’s only part of this tragic story. Waller County prosecutors said Thursday that a preliminary autopsy found that Sandra Bland committed suicide, but they pledged to continue investigating the circumstances surrounding her controversial arrest by a state trooper as well as her death in a county jail cell. “The pathological findings … conclude that the […]

Dashcam video from Sandra Bland arrest released

The Press has a good writeup. I’m just going to quote the two bits of transcript they provided: “What’s wrong?” the trooper asked as he delivered Bland her ticket. “You seem very irritated.” “I really am, because I feel like it’s crap for what I’m getting a ticket for,” Bland said. “I was getting out […]

Sandra Bland’s death being investigated as a homicide

Doesn’t mean that’s how it will be ruled, but it’s at least a sign that it’s being taken with appropriate seriousness. The probe into Sandra Bland’s hanging death inside a Texas jail — which a medical examiner ruled a suicide last week — now includes the possibility of murder. “This is being treated like a […]

More allegations against Kelly Siegler

Here they come. Howard Guidry was 18 years old when he was charged being the triggerman in a 1994 murder-for-hire case that involved a Missouri City police officer and his estranged wife. Twice he was convicted and sent to death row, and both times the prosecutor who sent him there was Kelly Siegler, the legendary […]

The David Temple case

I have not followed this very closely, but it definitely deserves all the attention it has received. There’s a 1,300-page offense report detailing the investigation into the fatal shooting of Belinda Temple in 1999. There are audio tapes of witnesses who saw the pregnant teacher at Katy High School on the day she was killed […]

What happened to Sandra Bland?

This is horrible. There are big questions about the final hours of Sandra Bland’s life. The official story is that the 28-year old committed suicide by hanging herself in a Waller County jail cell. Her family doesn’t buy it. Bland, a black woman who graduated from Texas Prairie View A&M and had recently accepted a […]

Sheriff asks for more funds for body cameras

Good move. The Harris County Sheriff’s Office recently applied for a grant from the Department of Justice to purchase 750 wearable body cameras, a new technology aimed at improving government transparency and accountability after a year of high-profile police-involved shootings around the country. A 30-day trial run with body cameras by a few dozen deputies […]

What Dallas County can teach us about jail overcrowding

Why can’t Harris County be more like Dallas County, at least in this regard? Dallas County’s jail population has hit an all-time low. That means more spacious jail tanks and fewer bologna sandwiches. If the trend continues, it could add up to big savings for taxpayers. The jail, the seventh-largest in the country, is the […]

Outsourcing inmates again

We’ve been down this road before. For the first time in three years, the Harris County sheriff began transferring busloads of inmates this week to other correctional facilities to avoid overcrowding at the state’s largest jail. The jail population is currently at 93 percent of its 9,434-bed capacity, Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman said Monday. […]

Bail reform for Harris County?

This would be a big deal. In jails across the country, including Harris County, a majority of the people behind bars have not been convicted of a crime. In the jail complex on the north side of downtown Houston, more than 6,600 people, about three-quarters of the prisoners there, are waiting to go to trial. […]

Lawsuit against county by former crime lab supervisor partially reinstated

It’s a bit of a convoluted story. A federal appeals court has reinstated portions of a lawsuit filed by two former Houston Police Department crime lab supervisors who contended that Harris County prosecutors retaliated against them after they exposed problems with the city’s breath-alcohol testing vans, or “BAT vans.” In a 36-page opinion issued on […]

There are too many questions that need to be answered before we can talk about expanding HPD

Chief McClelland is going to have to start answering them if he wants support for increasing HPD’s budget. Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland last year asked City Council for $105 million over five years to hire hundreds of new officers, a request that came on the heels of a report that showed his department leaves […]

Sebesta disbarred

A fitting end to this story. The former prosecutor who won a wrongful conviction of Anthony Graves for capital murder, sending him to Texas death row where he was nearly executed twice, has been disbarred. In a ruling released Thursday, the State Bar of Texas found that Charles Sebesta committed “professional misconduct” as Burleson County […]

Early returns on body cameras are positive

So far so good. The majority of 100 Houston Police Department officers who have field tested body cameras over a recent two-month period called it a positive experience, though many expressed concern that the technology could endanger officer safety or be used by superiors to discipline them, according to an internal report obtained this week […]

Fighting illegal dumping

Illegal dumping of trash is a huge problem in some Houston neighborhoods. Enforcement is especially tricky because unless you catch someone in the act, there’s little to no evidence to go on. One way to help catch dumpers in the act is with cameras at locations where dumping frequently occurs. Council Member Jerry Davis has […]

Sheriff Hickman

Here’s your new Sheriff, Harris County. Commissioners Court named Precinct 4 Constable Ron Hickman the new sheriff of Harris County to replace Adrian Garcia who resigned last week to run for mayor of Houston. The county leaders took a formal vote Tuesday on the appointment after a brief closed-door session to discuss candidates to fill […]

Separating the Sheriff and the jail

As Commissioners Court prepares to name a replacement Sheriff, they have some bigger plans to discuss as well. A revolutionary idea is being pitched that would reshape the law enforcement agency by removing the troubled jail from the sheriff’s responsibilities. One county commissioner is leading the charge to create a new jail administrator who would […]

Jailhouse woes for the Sheriff

Been a bad couple of weeks for Sheriff Garcia. A year and a half after a mentally ill inmate was found festering in squalor in a Harris County jail cell – apparently for weeks – Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia on Friday fired six jailers and suspended 29 others, the largest disciplinary action within the […]

How many crimes does your police department solve?

Fewer than you think, unfortunately. Violent crime in America has been falling for two decades. That’s the good news. The bad news is, when crimes occur, they mostly go unpunished. In fact, for most major crimes, police don’t even make an arrest or identify a suspect. That’s what police call “clearing” a crime; the “clearance […]

Crusading against court fees

This is important work. Houston attorney Jani Maselli Wood scanned the itemized list of “court costs” that people pay when they get in trouble with Texas law to see how much her indigent client owed even while sitting in a prison cell. Among other things her client was obligated to pay was a $250 DNA […]

Eversole to seek Presidential pardon

For real. Three years after pleading guilty to lying to FBI agents and resigning his post as a Harris County commissioner to avoid further prosecution, Jerry Eversole is seeking a presidential pardon for his misdeeds. In a letter sent to at least one of his supporters, lawyers for the disgraced Pct. 4 commissioner are asking […]

State Bar accuses Willingham prosecutor of misconduct

Wow. In a major turn in one of the country’s most-noted death penalty cases, the State Bar of Texas has filed a formal accusation of misconduct against the county prosecutor who convicted Cameron Todd Willingham, a Texas man executed in 2004 for the arson murder of his three young daughters. Following a preliminary inquiry that […]

You have the right to a phone call

But it won’t help you much if you don’t know what number to call. [Harris County Sheriff’s] Deputies on Wednesday outlined a pilot program they hope will help lower the jail population by letting detainees copy five numbers out of their phone before it is sealed in a bag with the rest of their valuables. […]

We need to know how body cameras are going to be used

Having the body cameras is great, but it’s how we use them that really matters. Harris County’s two largest police agencies are testing body cameras on officers but refuse to release their policies detailing when the cameras should be turned on and off to maximize accountability and minimize intrusiveness. The Houston Police Department spent $108,000 […]

All backlogged rape kits have been tested

Great news. Houston officials have completed the lab testing and review of a three-decade backlog of rape kits, yielding 850 matches in the national DNA database. On Monday, Mayor Annise Parker, District Attorney Devon Anderson and police department and crime lab officials trumpeted the newly complete testing of the 6,600 kits as a major milestone. […]

Michael Morton still has work to do

We should be glad he’s doing it. Michael Morton, who spent nearly 25 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit, said Monday that under current DNA testing requirements, he wouldn’t have had access to the evidence that led to his release. Morton joined state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, and lawyers from the New […]