Thursday, April 23, 2009

Roundup: Judges, Journalists and Jails

While I'm focused elsewhere today, let me point readers to several items that might deserve individual blog posts if I had more time:

No good answers for picking judges
I'm virtually certain nothing will change this session, but there's been a lot of debate this year over whether to shift from elected to appointed judges. Personally I don't have a big problem with electing judges because the appointed ones can be just as biased and political.

Protecting journalists before they're extinct
By contrast, it looks like the Lege may finally pass a journalists' shield law, possibly just before the last ones leave the building and turn out the lights at the state's daily newspapers.

Collective bargaining for private jails?
Texas Prison Bidness lets us know about a bill by Rep. Mando Martinez that would probably do more to improve conditions in private jails than any regulatory reform: It would void private jail contracts unless the county enters into the contract in a collective bargaining agreement between the county and sheriff's department employees. Texas police unions have been pushing for collective bargaining for years, but before now I've seldom heard anyone supporting the concept for jail or prison guards.

Scholarships backed for TDCJ-bound students
Rep. Lois Kolkhorst is pushing legislation to create a "pilot program to be based at Sam Houston State University that create[s] a loan repayment program for students who agree to a career path at Texas Department of Criminal Justice" Relatedly, the SHSU student newspaper has a story about historic ties between Sam Houston State and TDCJ.

Jail guard violated civil rights
A Bexar County jail guard pled guilty in federal court to violating an inmate's civil rights after punching him and throwing him to the ground in a detention cell.

Capital murder for killing a snitch
The Beaumont Enterprise has a story about a capital murder case in which a police informant was murdered in a federal prison.

Obama vs. right to counsel
Anyone in the criminal defense bar who considers President Barack Obama some sort of savior will find sobering the Administration's call to overturn Michigan v. Jackson, which forbids police from questioning a defendant after they've requested counsel.

Protecting judges from threats or scrutiny?
I think it's a terrible idea to conceal personal information about judges and other officials from the public - particularly information like birthdates and addresses which help identify individuals in corruption inquiries and other public interest investigations.

Call for more Senate transparency
A Dallas News editorial this week made the excellent point that the Texas Senate needs to catch up with the House regarding how much information about votes and floor amendments it puts on line and how promptly the information is posted. Particularly in an age when the MSM provides much less coverage than in the past, it's more important than ever that the public have direct, instant access to what's going on in the legislative process.


Anonymous said...

As a defendant has the right to counsel. I believe that it should also be the defendant's right to waive that right.

Hey, Obama is right.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

What do you think about the argument that "the purpose of such a rule is to 'prevent police from badgering a defendant into waiving' their previously asserted rights"?

Anonymous said...

I think that we already have a system for that. Under Texas law a confession has to be "free and voluntary."

I first year criminal defense attorney could get a confession where the police "badgered" them thrown out. You can't badger a suspect after he has asserted his right to a lawyer. You simply give him your card and let him know that if he is willing to talk, that you are willing to listen. It's over unless the defendant says otherwise.

I think recorded custodial interrogations could help with accountability on this issue.

I still believe that a defendant has the right to discard legal counsel without the police being punished by the exclusion of the defendant's statements.

I have been a cop since 2003 and I have a very high confession rate. I have never "badgered" a defendant into confessing nor has that been needed. I treat them like a person, I offer them a cigarette (if we are in a place where they can smoke, for some reason a lot of bad guys smoke) and we talk about things until eventually we get to the issue at hand. It is actually very civilized.

This is simply an unnecessary rule that can be detrimental to a criminal investigation. Especially if the police officer does not know that the defendant had previously asserted his rights (this is particularly troublesome in "cold cases."

Anonymous said...

Oh posting 1 and 3 were written by Common Sense Cop...

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"You can't badger a suspect after he has asserted his right to a lawyer. "

What you mean to say, CSC, is that you can't unless the Obama Administration's legal position prevails. Then a "first year criminal defense attorney" couldn't get them off if the D waived their rights.

I agree the issue would be clearer if recorded interrogations were required.

Anonymous said...

In Hays County there will be the joy of watching one ADA revealing that another ADA told a cop to lie. The hearing is next Tuesday in a case called Shipman, The usually timid San Marcos Almost Daily Record has already written about it and the motions and subpoenas are a hoot. There will be a legal guns a blazing in a shootout at the Hays County Court House as the DA fights for her political life as she vainly try’s to cover up the plethora of ethical violations in her office that one brave ADA has now revealed. We have all always known that cops lie and DAs lead the way. I just wished that it had happened in my neck of the woods.

SandSurfer said...

Hey Grits I thought of you when I read these two:

Omaha CSI Director Planted Evidence in Murder Investigation?Completed in 2007, Empty 460 Bed Jail Hopes to House Gitmo Detainees

123txpublicdefender123 said...

Under current law, a defendant can waive his right to counsel, but he or she must initiate it. That's the way it should be.

Once someone has invoked his rights, the cops shouldn't be able to repeatedly come back to that person with questioning to get him to change his mind.

Michigan v. Jackson is a perfectly workable bright-line rule.

Anonymous said...

I have heard good things about the system that they use in Iowa for getting judges. The Governor appoints judges from a list provided by a committee and then rather than run against other people in elections they are either retained or not retained in elections.

Anonymous said...

What's all this about waiving one's rights? During an "interview" (interrogation) a detained person doesn't have any rights. This is when confessions are gotten. If a suspect asks for an attorney, the cop says: "you don't need an attorney. You're not under arrest." The cop tells him they have all kinds of evidence against him and witnesses who have implicated him. That's how they got false confessions from Chris Ochoa and Michael Scott and who knows how many others. It is not against the law for cops to lie to get confessions.

Anonymous said...

You know, I find the consistent presence of bragging cops on blogs concerned with law and the civil rights to indicate a certain pathological type within law enfocement.

I'd love to see someone do a study of this phenomenon. I find it very ugly.

I believe in free speech, it just gives me the creeps that there are so many cops out there using the internet, especially the civil rights/justice community, to brag about their power over civlians.

Anonymous said...

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