Friday, November 09, 2007

Murderers on Probation: The 'Flip Side' of Texas Tough

It may be, as the Arkansas Times editorialized recently, that "Capital punishment, not football, is really Texas' favorite sport." But Texas is also the home of "Unequal Justice," reports the Dallas News, focusing on cases of murderers who received probation. See their powerful website focusing on the "flip side" of Texas justice - dozens of murderers who received the lightest punishments instead of the ultimate one. The site previews a major feature story that will be published on Sunday. Via Stand Down Texas.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Anyone who has ever sat through a David Kelly crime drama knows that it you don’t allow flexibility in sentences for murder you end up with horror stories about a family member getting 25 to life for a mercy killing. It’s good that the Legislature has faith in judges and juries to make just sentences.

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that Dallas County, who leads in DNA exonerations, also leads in light sentences for murder. The best argument the article makes is that the criminal justice system is erratic and unpredictable on both sides of the equation. At least in these cases, if some escaped justice in one instance, many still went to prison when they violated their probation. Because of the finality of the death penalty, the injustice can't be undone.

sunray's wench said...

I'm curious to know what you would consider to be a 'light' sentence for murder? Though the end result is sadly the same in each case, the events leading up to it are as individual as you or I, and a system that can see and adjust itself for that fact is a good one, imo.

Mark Bennett said...

The Dallas News documents history here, but I wouldn't call it news. Since Texas juries will no longer be able to give probation for murder (for murders after 9/1/2007), there won't be as many murder probations in the future.

The true flip side of Texas Tough is that Texas considers that some complainants (rather than just defendants) "need killin' ".

JT Barrie said...

This makes great scare headlines - especially if you're after more jail bond monies. Same for sex offenders. The reality is that the majority of killers and sex offenders pose a danger only those closest to them. Many are unlikely to be repeat offenders. Putting them on probation makes sense. Exploiting this to fund for jails also makes sense. Incomplete information can lead to sleazy politicians holding our public safety hostage to new tax increases. Of course the spending is driven by popular feel good measures cracking down on users of arbitrarily banned drugs and professional women and the industries that revolve around them - except for the prison and law enforcement industry [they are "our" bad guys].

Anonymous said...

I guess the real question is why is Dallas County's probation-for-murder numbers so disproportionately high? The judges and district attorneys have some answering to do. From a risk management perspective, it is unwise to place murderers on probation. Case in point, several of the murderers committed serious assaultive offenses after being granted probation. So, why is there such a casual approach to granting probation-for-murder in Dallas Co.? It's not a common practice around the rest of the state.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

FWIW, 5:26, those cases would have been for the previous DA, and many of the judges in Dallas changed over in January 2007 as well.

Anonymous said...

The full-length Dallas News package is up now with stories and videos.

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/spe/2007/unequal/index2.html

Anonymous said...

Grits, I understand that the disproportionate numbers are a result of many of the GOP judges and GOP DA that lost their seats in the last election. However, the fundamental problem is the exploitation of the legal loophole called deferred adjudication probation that allows DA's and judges to plea bargain murder cases and avoid the tough decisions associated with trials. It really doesn't matter if the probation-for-murder problem is the result of the lazy, apathetic GOP DA and judges who all lost their seats last Nov., the potential for abuse exists with the new Dems as long as the loophole exists. Check out dallascounty-pops.com and you'll see that Dallas Co PO's have been on this message for some time now.