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Posts under ‘Crime and Punishment’

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 […]

More on the jailed rape victim

The Chron pens a harsh editorial. Although a spokesman for the district attorney’s office has admitted this miscarriage of justice should never have happened, Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson defends the prosecutor involved in the case. She says the prosecutor tried to find a suitable place for the sexual assault survivor to stay after […]

Harris County DA drops charges against video fraudsters

Disappointing, to say the least. Criminal charges against the anti-abortion activists behind undercover recordings of a Houston Planned Parenthood facility were dismissed Tuesday. David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, the videographers who infiltrated Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, had been charged with tampering with a governmental record, a second-degree felony charge that carries up to 20 years […]

Falkenberg talks to DA Anderson about jailed rape victim

Worth reading, as you would expect. I’m going to quote from the conclusion: [Assistant DA Nick] Socias appeared to have diligently tried to help, but he seemed to be trying alone. Anderson’s office said she wasn’t informed about the situation until near the end of trial. She should have been involved from the start. The […]

Looking again for a new justice complex

Got to do something about this sooner or later. Mayor Sylvester Turner has formed a committee to study how to acquire a new police headquarters and courts complex for Houston. Former mayor Annise Parker spent more than two years studying how to replace the city’s aging “justice complex” but ultimately abandoned it without having found […]

Roadside drug tests

Maybe this isn’t such a good idea. A Houston police officer pulled Barry Demings over as he headed to work in Beaumont and plucked a spot of white powder off the floorboard of Demings’ year-old Ford Explorer. Demings had just detailed the SUV – and wondered later if a speck of soap upended his life. […]

Why would you even think to put a rape victim in jail?

I am outraged. The 25-year-old rape victim, frightened and long-suffering from mental illness, agreed in December to testify against the Houston man who brutally assaulted her in 2013. She hoped to put him behind bars for life. But that decision landed her in the Harris County jail for more than a month over the Christmas […]

Abbott pushes for hate crime status for targeted killing of police officers

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Gov. Greg Abbott wants the targeted killing of a police officer to be deemed a hate crime in Texas and urged lawmakers to send him such a bill to sign during next year’s legislative session. Abbott announced Monday his plan to lobby for adding his […]

We’re outsourcing inmates again

We never learn. Harris County, in the latest move to keep its swelling jail population in check, is pursuing an agreement with neighboring Fort Bend County to send inmates to the suburb’s jail. A Harris County Sheriff’s Office spokesman called the measure precautionary. If it is approved by commissioners at their meeting Tuesday, it’s not […]

America’s deadliest prosecutors

Fascinating. In anticipation of the 40th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark death penalty decision, Gregg v. Georgia, today the Fair Punishment Project released a new report called America’s Top Five Deadliest Prosecutors: How Overzealous Personalities Drive the Death Penalty. The report identified America’s five deadliest head prosecutors out of the thousands that have held that office across the […]

Sandra Bland, one year later

The timing of this is tragically appropriate. With confident, and sometimes vulnerable, lyrics, a group of poets and singers Sunday afternoon commemorated the life of [Sandra] Bland, who had been found dead in her Waller County Jail cell three days after her arrest. Authorities ruled the 28-year-old’s death a suicide. More than 75 people assembled […]

Dallas

I don’t have anything insightful to say about the horrible events of the past few days – the police officers in Dallas, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and so many others before them. I started talking to my 12-year-old Olivia about Philando Castile on Thursday, and I told her I don’t have much faith that people […]