Sunday, December 04, 2011

Choosing gifts for the amnesiac, and other tall but true tales

A few Sunday morning odds and ends:

Debating the legality of D.I.V.E.R.T.
The 14th Court of Appeals said a Harris County judge was within his realm of discretion to refuse to use DA Pat Lykos' much-heralded D.I.V.E.R.T. program on DWI cases because it amounts to deferred adjudication, which is illegal for DWI under current Texas law. Does that mean the program itself will be overturned as illegal in and of itself on appeal? Not necessarily. Mark Bennett thinks Murray Newman overstates the legal import of the case and that David Jennings' take is too politicized, but between their various posts you can get a good sense of the issue. This is a strange one. As far as this non-lawyer can tell, D.I.V.E.R.T. may be technically illegal, but if the prosecutor offers it and it benefits the defendant, nobody is in a position to challenge its legality on appeal. Hundreds or even thousands of DWI defendants have been processed through the program. What happens to those contracts, wonders Bennett, if a DA is elected who thinks they were illegal? ¿Quien sabe?

Decked Out: Austin PD halls decked with expensive, distracting in-car computer system
When purchasing a new in-car video system, did City of Austin "officials fall for a system too expensive to buy and too impractical to use"? A former garage employee alleges in the Austin Chronicle that Austin PD essentially rigged a bid to favor a preferred vendor for expensive, in-car police equipment when a cheaper in-house solution was available. The purported whistleblower says APD created detailed specifications they knew only a single, preferred vendor could meet, but really they just needed extra battery power for vehicle video systems which could be done in-house, he says, on a much cheaper basis. Jordan Smith, as usual, provides an excellent, detailed account. Incidentally, having recently mentioned the issue of distracted driving at Austin PD as a large source of civil liability for the city, I was interested to see Jana Birchum's photo (at left) of the inside of an APD cruiser decked out with the new rig. Who wouldn't be distracted with all that gadgetry in their face? Moreover, what's good for the goose is good for the gander. If cops get to do this, how can you then criminalize texting while driving? There's a friggin laptop pointing at the driver with a QWERTYUIOP keyboard, no less!

Pressing prostitute for patronage procures prosecution for San Antonio police
In San Antonio, "A police officer accused of accosting an 18-year-old woman for sex after she was targeted for a drug arrest four years ago pleaded no contest Wednesday to one count of official oppression and will lose his Texas peace officer's license." The sentence of one-year deferred adjudication probation, though, means the conviction may eventually be expunged from his record - a courtesy unlikely to be extended to the 18-year old he coerced for her various offenses. Reading the account from the SA Express-News, it sounds like the underlying facts amount to using a drug-warrant as a pretext and coercion tool to solicit the the services of a prostitute on behalf of a fellow officer, who fondled the woman but was then rebuffed when he could not pay. The two cops then stood lookout on behalf of a third, unidentified "friend" who paid for oral sex. Another former SA police officer - the one who would've liked a freebie but couldn't afford it - is awaiting charges related to the same incident. You can only lean on folks so hard, I suppose, even prostitutes with outstanding drug warrants. I've often wondered how common this is. The incident reminds Grits of a study out of Chicago, discussed here, which found that 3% of all tricks performed by sex-workers operating independently (without a pimp) were freebies given to police for protection. Via Injustice Everywhere.

Abuse alleged at South Texas detention center
Bob Libal at Texas Prison Bidness lets us know about a recent media report I hadn't seen:
Last month, PBS's Frontline aired a damning exposé of the immigration detention system that focused on MTC's Willacy County Processing Center.

The show, which you can watch online in its entirity, reported a pattern of sexual and physical abuse by guards at the MTC facility.  Frontline correspondent, Maria Hinojosa, highlights stories of terrifying and repetitive abuse and harassment of immigrant detainees at the facility.
See a transcript of the show. Relatedly, from Slate/Alternet: "How private prisons game the system."

Newspaper sides with Harris DA on crack-residue policy
The Houston Chronicle editorial board sides with District Attorney Pat Lykos in the debate with police unions and their proxies over prosecuting felonies based on residue-level drug amounts when officers arrest someone with a crack pipe. See Grits' earlier discussion.

Please keep pretending the naked emperor is clothed
Border Patrol officers are fired if they voice critical opinions about the drug war.

Holiday gifts for the amnesiac
If anybody out there is looking for Christmas gifts for Judge Ken Anderson or former Williamson County Sheriff's Sgt. Don Wood, after their amnesiac performances in recent depositions, I'd humbly suggest books on mnemonics. A mind, they say, is a terrible thing to waste. Please suggest other possible memory-related gifts or mnemonic tips for the Michael Morton prosecution team in the comments.


Anonymous said...

DIVERT is legal - read the case law on pretrial intervention programs, which is what DIVERT is (starting with Quintana from El Paso). The 1st COA will likely soon declare so in the McNutt Case. The fourteenth implicitly did by stating in dicta that DIVERT is pre-trial intervention, which isn't punishment, ergo not Deferred adjudication and not illegal.

Most of these DIVERT blog discussions are long on opinion and short on law. Worse yet, many bloggers judgment is clouded by their vitriolic anti- all things Lykos attitude.

I am a defense attorney, and always have been. The only thing that DIVERT hurts is my bottom line.

Clients don't have to agree to it. But most want it. And so they're less willing to pay fees for representation they, in their optimism, don't think they'll need to properly investigate, prepare for trial, etc.

Austin Seofirm said...

Great posts -- interesting that the mass media didn't pick up any of these stories. Keep up the good work!

Kiele Linroth Pace said...

Expunction isn't an option for deferred adjudication with a jailable offense (class B Misdemeanor or above). Non-disclosure probably will be but it's not nearly as desirable. With non-disclosure, the case stays on his record but is sealed for ordinary civil background checks. It remains available to law enforcement, many governmental licensing agencies, and some private employers. My web site has more info. about expunction and non-disclosure.