Tuesday, April 17, 2007

What is a deadly weapon?

Meanwhile, Rep. Jerry Madden is laying out his HB 1148 in the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee this morning. The bill would limit the definition of a "deadly weapon," which right now can be virtually anything, inhalers, socks, sewage, pumpkins and frogs. The revised statute would disallow what the Criminal Defense Lawyer's Association called "creative" uses of the statute by prosecutors.

As the debate played out, the prosecutors are primarily concerned about charging drunks with a "3g" offense for intoxication manslaugher. The "deadly weapon" the DAs are most worried about is a car that's not used with "intent" to cause death or bodily injury. They want to bump those offenses up to the same level as using a deadly weapon in an intentional murder. I don't think that's how most people imagine the deadly weapon statute should be used.

Rep. Madden said he thought the language would still let prosecutors charge intoxication manslaugher with an enhanced penalty because it applies if defendants "used OR intended to use" the weapon. This language would simply reverse efforts by DAs to stretch the language, he said.

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Abilene Reporter News

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URL: http://www.reporter-news.com/abil/nw_state/article/0,1874,ABIL_7974_5489184,00.html
Brownwood DA reviewing surveillance tapes in TYC abuse case
By Associated Press
April 17, 2007

Posted 2:29 p.m. HOUSTON — Surveillance tapes that allegedly show a former youth prison guard entering a supply closet with a teenage inmate weren't shown to grand jurors who declined to indict him on abuse charges, but authorities are reviewing the tapes to determine if they can make a stronger case.

The tapes were discovered at Texas Youth Commission headquarters in Austin on Friday, nine days after a grand jury decided not to indict the former guard accused of abusing three teenage girls at the Ron Jackson facility in Brownwood.

"The tapes will enable us to review the case to see if they makes for a more compelling presentation," Brown County District Attorney Michael Murray said. "Then we can evaluate and decide whether to present it again to the grand jury or leave it as it is."

Murray said he had been aware of the existence of the tapes, but TYC officials did not turn them over to investigators.

The tapes turned up after Richard Steptoe, an investigator with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Inspector General's office, asked TYC officials to show him the collected evidence. He had the three or four tapes within minutes. The inspector's office has been called to assist the investigation of sexual and physical abuse cases at TYC.

Steptoe's boss, John Moriarty, said his office was still trying to determine why the tapes had not been turned over earlier. The tapes may have been left behind in the offices of TYC officials who resigned or had been terminated, Moriarty said.

In 2005, the TYC said it confirmed the guard had sexually abused at least three girls at the Brownwood facility. The official report stated that the footage supported details given by each of the three girls.

The girls told investigators the guard used the supply closet to have sex with them. The tapes allegedly show the seven-year-veteran, over a number of days in 2004, entering and exiting the supply closet with at least one of the girls.

"Several times that day (the alleged victim) went into the closet followed by (the guard) a few minutes later," the report stated.

The guard was allowed to resign. The case was forwarded to the local district attorney after the more publicized sex abuse scandal at the West Texas TYC facility broke in February.


Information from: Houston Chronicle, http://www.chron.com

Information from: San Antonio Express-News, http://www.express-news.com

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