- Eyewitness wrong, life sentence overturned: LaDondrell Montgomery was convicted of robbery in Harris County and given a life sentence based on eyewitness testimony and video footage of the incident, but his lawyer figured out after his conviction that he was in jail at the time the offense was committed, reported the Houston Chronicle this week. The conviction was overturned. Mark Bennett points out how the defense lawyer's lack of preparation and poor advice contributed to the problem, noting that the judge called both defense counsel and the yet-to-be-named prosecutor "spectacularly incompetent."
- Petition for 3 meals at TDCJ: Reports the Laredo Sun, "4,000 people across the country have joined a young woman’s popular campaign on Change.org calling on the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to stop serving state prisoners only two meals per day on the weekends, and provide them with the three meals recommended by the American Correctional Association." The petition author, whose father is incarcerated in a TDCJ facility, "has launched a second campaign on the popular social action platform calling on the American Correctional Association to uphold its standards and remove ACA accreditation from any prison that does not serve three daily meals to its prisoners."
- Charging paraphernalia cases in Houston: Check out a coupla new items on the Pat Lykos crack-pipe policy controversy (see Grits' discussions here and here) from Patti Hart and Paul Kennedy. Kennedy also has some questions for Lykos' opponent, Judge Mike Anderson, on the topic, and some criticisms of his view of the judiciary as an arm of law enforcement.
- Convenient Amnesia: Jordan Smith at the Austin Chronicle writes about Williamson County District Judge Ken Anderson and the benefits of memory lapse.
- Botched from the beginning: Michael Hall at Texas Monthly looks back on the twenty-year anniversary of Austin's unsolved Yogurt Shop murders, the allegedly coerced confessions contradicted by more recently tested DNA evidence, and how a "torturous, bizarre, incompetent, and heavy handed" investigation by Austin police botched the case.
- Bexar jailer, juvie detention officer convicted of sex crimes: A Bexar County juvenile detention officer was convicted on Friday of continuous sexual abuse of a child, though the boy in question was someone he did not know through his job, say news reports. This comes on the heels of recent allegations of sexual assault by a jailer in Bexar's adult jail.
- Safer on the border, at least on the northern side: "For the second year in a row, El Paso has the lowest crime rate among American cities with populations over 500,000," reports the Texas Tribune. In related news, illegal immigration has plummeted since the economy collapsed.
- Murder decline harms Juarez funeral industry: I'd have thought everyone would be pleased with the (relative) decline in murders this year in Juarez, the southern sister-city to El Paso which has been the site of the Mexican drug war's most frequent and grisly killing. But the El Paso Times has an odd and somewhat ghoulish feature on how the drop in murders is harming the funeral industry, which for obvious if macabre reasons had been thriving during the worst of the carnage. Talk about a glass-half-empty spin on a story about the number of murders declining! I'm sure the body-bag industry also complains when wars end, but is it news?
- Demonstrators push reform to school discipline: In Dallas, reports the Morning News (behind paywall), "A group of demonstrators formed a human chain Thursday at the Henry Wade Juvenile Justice Center to push for less severe methods in disciplining students. The newly formed Coalition for Education Not Incarceration is concerned that Dallas ISD students, especially minorities, are too quickly given harsh punishments, such as suspension and tickets that can land them in a courtroom. Coalition members say children put into the criminal justice system at young ages are more susceptible to “the school-to-prison pipeline.” They said some students have been removed from the regular classroom for such minor infractions as dress code violations, cursing and class disruptions. The coalition of 12 local organizations wants DISD trustees to create a task force to review and recommend revisions for the district’s disciplinary system."
- The perils of community service: For more than a decade, Dallas has used probationers' community service hours to shred confidential documents, "including psychiatric exams of juveniles, copies of Social Security cards, birth certificates, court records, drug tests, and even medical records." No information or security breaches were ever documented, but the probation department ended the practice after it was criticized in the press. Relatedly, see a story out of Abilene about savings to county departments from jail and probationer work crews, despite a recent escape.
- Scary but legitimate question of the day: Are Mexico's drug lords "too big to fail"?
- Lighter side: Check out pics of several vintage Texas courthouses decked out for the holidays.
Sunday, December 11, 2011
The perils of community service, the decline of the Juarez funeral industry, and other stories
Here are a few disparate items for Grits readers' Sunday morning reading pleasure:
Posted by Gritsforbreakfast at 10:29 AM