Twin Peaks fiasco dragging on endlessly, expensively
Two years after the Twin Peaks biker shootout in Waco, there are "no trials in sight," reported the Waco Tribune Herald. Grits hopes we've seen the last of state-government bailouts in the form of Governor's grants to McLennan County covering costs in this case. The rest of the state shouldn't have to pay for the McLennan District Attorney's bravado and buffoonery. The reason for the outlandish cost is primarily the decision by DA Abel Reyna to charge dozens of people just for being there even though most people who've seen the discovery agree that the actual shooters were all killed by police snipers. Federal litigation has already ensued. Most of these cases should have been dismissed long ago. Let folks in Waco pay for it.
In favor of innocence reforms
Attorney Charles Eskridge had a nice letter to the editor in the Houston Chronicle articulating support for innocence reforms in HB 34 by Smithee, which arose from the Timothy Cole Exoneration Review Commission.
Parole revocations not Texas' big problem (probation is)
Grits wasn't surprised to learn from the Marshall Project that Texas doesn't rank high on the list of states that revoke parolees for technical violations. After the 2007 decarceration reforms authored by Sen. John Whitmire and Rep. Jerry Madden, parole revocations for technicals plummeted. It was probation departments, where revocations decisions are made by local elected judges, where revocations for technical violations have remained stubbornly high.
Lies, damn lies, and (not always) secret video
Here's another case, this time out of Bell County, where an unarmed man was shot and law enforcement lied about what happened. "Bell County Sheriff Eddy Lange told media representatives gathered at the scene that [Cpl. Shane] Geers shot [Lyle P.] Blanchard during a “gunbattle.” But dashcam video showed Mr. Blanchard was unarmed, 40 yards away. This is another prime example why police records including video should be subject to the Public Information Act even in cases where a conviction was never obtained. Those are exactly the instances - like this one, where the subject of the video is dead - where there's the greatest public interest in that information being made public.
Questioning the rise in frequency at which 'unarmed men allegedly reach for empty waistbands when facing armed officers'
An incident in Houston was the subject of a dissent by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor decrying the court's one-sided jurisprudence when it comes to police shootings. See coverage from the Houston Press. The ABA Journal reported:
Sotomayor lobbed her complaint in a dissent from a cert denial (PDF) in an excessive force case. The dissent, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, included a footnote that read, “Some commentators have observed the increasing frequency of incidents in which unarmed men allegedly reach for empty waistbands when facing armed officers.”
Sotomayor argued that the court should have accepted a case that involved Ricardo Salazar-Limon, who was shot in the back by a Houston police officer as he walked back to his car. The officer said he shot Salazar-Limon in October 2010 because the suspect ignored his order to stop, turned toward the officer, and raised his hands toward his waistband. Salazar-Limon had said he was trying to walk away from a confrontation.
The shooting happened after Salazar-Limon was pulled over for suspected drunken driving and then resisted being handcuffed. Salazar-Limon sustained “crippling injuries” as a result of the shooting, according to Sotomayor.
Because there were competing accounts of the incident, the case should not have been decided by summary judgment, Sotomayor said.
The cert denial, Sotomayor wrote, “continues a disturbing trend regarding the use of this court’s resources. We have not hesitated to summarily reverse courts for wrongly denying officers the protection of qualified immunity in cases involving the use of force. … But we rarely intervene where courts wrongly afford officers the benefit of qualified immunity in these same cases.”