Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Open Thread

I'm off this morning to spend most of day at the first meeting of Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Barbara Hervey's newly created Criminal Justice Integrity Unit, discussed earlier by Grits here and here. Until I return, use this as an open thread to let me know what criminal justice topics your tracking that deserve Grits readers attention.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Might want to look at issues where judges are given the right to decide the change of venue that involves themselves. If a person has an issue with the judge, does this further jepordize the person's right to a fair trial.

doran williams said...

Along that same line, we should change the CCP to require that some judge other than the judge who signed a search or arrest warrant hear a motion to quash, if requested by either party.

Anonymous said...

hmm... check out this editorial and the post date...
http://www.statesman.com/hp/content/editorial/stories/08/07/0807tyc_edit.html

Anonymous said...

sorry... here;s the link

http://www.statesman.com/hp
/content/editorial/stories/08/07/0807tyc_edit.html

Anonymous said...

There is an upcoming execution on Aug 21 that is very similar to the case of Kenneth Foster last year, whose sentence was commuted by Perry after a recommendation by the Board of Pardons and Paroles. Jeff Wood also did not kill anyone. The real killer has already been executed.

From the Austin Chronicle:

Wood did not fire the fatal shot and did not participate in the robbery that preceded the Jan. 2, 1996, murder. Nonetheless, Wood was sentenced to die, based on the state's "law of parties," also known as the "conspirator liability" statute. The law provides that if two or more people agree to commit one crime but in the process commit another, each person is guilty of the crime committed – if the crime was "one that should have been anticipated." This is a more nebulous form of traditional accomplice liability (aiding and abetting) that requires the state to prove specific, individual culpability. The difference here is in intent and foresight: Accomplice liability requires intent; conspiracy requires only a finding that the crime was foreseeable.

Critics have argued that Texas' use of the law of parties unconstitutionally broadens the field of death-eligible defendants; the death penalty, they argue, should be reserved for the most culpable and most heinous crimes. In fact, Texas is the only state that uses a conspiracy statute to make defendants eligible for the death penalty. "To pass constitutional scrutiny," Wood's attorney Scott Sullivan argued on appeal, "a sentencing statute must not only narrow the class of persons eligible for the death penalty, it must also ensure sentencing decisions are based upon an individual inquiry" of culpability. Texas' law of parties fails to do that, he wrote. The state, however, argues that the law of parties is not implicated in a decision to impose death: "The Texas capital murder scheme does not allow an individual to be put to death merely for being a party because the law-of-parties cannot be applied in answering the special issues" that jurors must answer, argued then-Bexar Co. Assistant District Attorney Lucy Cavazos. A death sentence is assessed only if jurors find that a defendant would pose a continuing threat to society and that there is no mitigating evidence that might lessen the defendant's culpability. Yet Cavazos' argument evades the fact that without the law-of-parties, defendants like Wood wouldn't be eligible for death in the first place. The courts have sided with the state.

Wood's case is similar to that of Kenneth Foster, who was sentenced to death for the 1996 murder of Michael LaHood by a companion, based on the Bexar Co. district attorney's use of the conspiracy statute. Foster was scheduled to die last year but was spared when Gov. Rick Perry accepted the recommendation of the Board of Pardons and Paroles and commuted his sentence to life in prison. "I believe the right and just decision is to commute Foster's sentence," he said. Perry did not directly implicate the law of parties in explaining his decision but did raise the issue of culpability, saying he was "concerned" that state law allowed Foster to be tried jointly with triggerman Maurecio Brown.

SCIT said...

Off topic from current thread: The Tyler Paper discusses the Troup PD, Then (corrupt) and Now (post-corruption).
http://www.tylerpaper.com/article/20080804/NEWS01/808030361
Interesting read for those following police corruption allegations.
-Stir Crazy in Texas

Texas Moratorium Network said...

Here is the clemency letter from Jeff Wood's lawyers to the BPP and the Governor.

http://www.texasdefender.org/woodptnclemency_filed20080804.pdf

Anonymous said...

My pet peeve about Bexar County paying attorneys substantially less for dismissals than for pleas. I've posted here before on the topic.
See details there.

Anonymous said...

Compromising the integrity of the Texas prison system by failing to truly invest in the organization. We are unable to screen and test new recruits for suitability as a result of the low salary. Over time this has created additional concerns with corruption, insurance costs, admnistrative challenges, abuse of leave, attrition / staff shortages and quality of life concerns within our institutions. This has been an issue for over a decade since the massive expansion. It is time to invest for the long term.

BB

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with the change of venue. There has to be something done...if a case is reversed and remanded or where there are issues or suspicions from the defendant towards the judge or DA (you know they have been known to pillow talk and lie together) then the change should happen to allow a "clean eye" and to preserve the integrity of the "innocense until proven guilty" crap the US claims

Anonymous said...

I wish someone, our Legislators? would look into why so many Writs of Habeas Corpus are thrown out by the CCA 1 and why they are not heard even when the Judge signs with the State. The Judge in question does not read any Writ, just signs with the State and sends it the CCA1 and they automatically deny the Writ.

This is the most corrupt system in the State of Texas, how about that Harris County?