Sunday, November 27, 2011

Roundup: Lightning strikes, news flashes, and principle ducks for cover

A few odds and ends for your holiday reading pleasure:

When lightning strikes
Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley told the Dallas News that the Michael Morton DNA test results hit him like a "lightning bolt." Though they didn't invoke the road to Damascus, they did say the Williamson County DA now "testifies to a conversion." Declaring, “We need to leave the window open a little bit more,” Bradley says he hopes speaking up will influence how other prosecutors approach post-conviction DNA cases: “I finally decided that it was more important that I overcome my concerns about people’s opinions about my shifting of my personal opinions, because I saw that it has public value in helping other prosecutors, I hope, adjust their point of view.” Abel Reyna, are you listening?

Police, distracted driving and civil liability
Austin PD accounts for the largest proportion of payouts in civil suits of any city-owned department in the capital, including the electric utility and the airport. Chief Art Acevedo blamed distracted driving on a significant number of settlements related to automobile accidents involving police officers: “They're in the patrol car environment where there is a lot of things going on. You've got the computer going on, you've got the radio going on. They're looking where they're at. They're looking for violations, they're looking for risks.”

Spillover violence documented in Valley
Law enforcement reports the first, documented example of "spillover" cartel violence in the Rio Grande Valley, if you don't count gang members from the Texas side spilling over to commit violence in Mexico. This event is an important marker, but still a far cry from the absurdist, politicized claims made recently on behalf of Texas DPS and the Ag Department.

Drug violence in Puerto Rico
Lots of interesting detail in this story about which I wasn't aware; you never hear PR violence discussed in any of the "spillover" discussions.

News flash: Prison-industrial complex exists
Conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg offers a "small apology" to his ideological foes, admitting to the existence of "a prison-industrial complex" he'd "long thought" didn't exist. He sees it as dominated by public-employees unions rather than private-prison companies and other such corporate-welfare recipients. For my part, I consider both special interests to be partially culpable for the situation, and many other elements besides. These are not mutually exclusive factors.

MSM scorns principle in criminal-justice debates
A frequent theme on this blog is that, despite how they're framed in the mainstream media, criminal-justice issues seldom fall along partisan nor strictly ideological lines. Nowhere can that be seen more clearly than in the LA Times headline, "Criminal defendants find an unlikely friend in Justice Scalia." The story by David Savage is fairly typical of modern MSM criminal-justice coverage, demonstrating many of its shortcomings all in one place. Notice how, for example, a judgment in favor of the defense (e.g., on Confrontation Clause issues) makes US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia a "friend" to criminals. All nuance is lost: You're either for criminals or against them, though bizarrely the headline complains of Scalia, "For him, there are no shades of gray." That's the pot calling the kettle black, indeed. The newspaper quotes a law professor explaining, "This is not a left-right split. This is principle versus pragmatism" (though Grits would argue that some of Scalia's most controversial assertions on criminal justice have been profoundly pragmatic). But the issue is presented as though judges basing decisions on principle - as opposed to the convenience of government bureaucrats or the structural biases of the press - is somehow a bad thing. Perhaps, in light of the string of modern DNA exonerations and the lessons learned by John Bradley mentioned above in the top item, 21st-century journalists shouldn't be so quick to dismiss every effort to instill fairness or adhere to principle in the justice system as somehow coddling criminals? Just a thought.


gravyrug said...

I wonder how many other TX cities have a similar percentage of their payouts caused by the police? If any do better, can we figure out why? With that kind of money involved, it would be worth looking into.

Anonymous said...

What about the recent attack in Houston where an undercover officer was shot by narco hitmen with admitted ties to the Zetas? Not spillover violence? Or the many other incidents that are consciously disregarded by the media. What you see happening in Mexico today is the future of the U.S., including the influence over journalism.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:17,

The deputy was shot by an HPD officer. As for the Zetas connection, EVERYONE is connected to the Zetas when it comes to law enforcement (and the media when it simply parrots press releases) explaining narcotrafficking violence.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

There have also been a handful of bona fide instances up the river, 11:17. The Sheriff in the story was speaking specifically of the Rio Grande Valley.

Ironically, one reason we haven't seen more cartel violence on the US side may be that cartel leaders don't like to shit where they sleep. Said the same Sheriff, "Now, there are more cartel members living in Texas, in the Valley, in the United States. I'll guarantee you there's a ton of them."

If you believe the media are engaged in some big coverup on this, go look at the Austin Statesman's recent report debunking over-hyped claims of US-side border crime and tell us: Where else should the media be getting information than from the official sources cited? They lay out their methodology, which admittedly is pretty standard, so if they're not picking up all the cases you think they should, where else should they look?

Otherwise, how can they report on a phantom that exists mostly in the minds of third-tier presidential candidates and anonymous blog commenters? And as a related question: Do anonymous blog commenters count as a source?

Anonymous said...

About the "spillover" cartel violence in Texas.

MSNBC is now showing a program of slaves in Houston. These victims are from Mexico and Central America. From what I've seen, progressive show little concern for the practice of slavery--not sure why. The cartel members keep these girls in line by threatening to kills their families back home.

Slavery. I suppose this is no big deal to your readers. This is in Houston and other Texas cities.

Anonymous said...

I'd call this the result of escalating spillover violence:

Anonymous said...

Let's try this again. Join the lines together:

Gritsforbreakfast said...

12:41/43, I'd agree, if it were true, but look at the sourcing. That story is based on the report issued by DPS and the Texas Ag department that's been thoroughly debunked as promoting false, overhyped statistics.

Too bad MSNBC apparently doesn't fact check their stories anymore than some anonymous blog commenters.

RSO wife said...

IMO the mainstream media tends to take a lot of things out of context if it will make headlines. Lots of them find a single thread and weave their own sweater from it. It doesn't matter if it's the whole truth, just so there's a grain of it in there somewhere. They also tend to try and convict a person, or group of people, before anyone has ever been accused of anything.

However, if a person has been arrested, the concept of "innocent until proven guilty" goes out the window and the "let's put the scumbag away" mentality takes over. Most of the time you don't even hear the word "alleged" used when there has been an arrest.

There really are just as many good journalists out there as there are sensationalists, but their voices seem to get drown out by the frenzy stirred up by the loudmouths looking for headlines.

cheenna said...

Perhaps the idea of accurate reporting of drug cartel activity on the border is indeed political. As to it being in some particular newspaper, I would have to question it's politics. Whether agreed or not, the media is biased and it would not be in one party's favor for there to be too much concern for the massive influx of illegals into this country nor the fact that many of them are bringing drugs into this country. I think everyone can agree that one particular party courts the Hispanic vote. In my opinion that would be a case of"shitting in one's nest"!
Believe it or not, the residents and ranchers standing in the way of illegals and/or their drugs are under siege and living in fear!