Monday, January 09, 2012

Good blogging by others

Several posts from other Texas blogs related to topics sometimes discussed on Grits deserve readers' attention:

Some Harris County grand juries runaway, some never leave the station
I haven't written much about the "runaway" grand jury in Harris County evaluating potential misconduct by the District Attorney, nor the apparent failure to timely empanel grand juries in the new year, mainly because the process is secret and at this distance I can't make hide nor hair of what's happening amidst all the campaign-driven allegations and counter-allegations. Some folks closer to the action, though, are attempting to divine the true circumstances, most notably Mark Bennett, who analyzes the imbroglio here, and Murray Newman, who sees the delay in empaneling grand juries as nigh-on the end of the world.  Paul Kennedy, by contrast, can't understand what all the fuss is about. Much more serious, clearly, is the grand jury's subpoena of DA Pat Lykos, which seems like a late Christmas present to Newman. Bennett considers it "unprecedented for a Texas grand jury to subpoena a sitting District Attorney. Getting subpoenaed is bad. Taking the Fifth would be political suicide. Others might take the Fifth as an obstruction or delay tactic, but if Pat Lykos takes the Fifth, it’s because she really means it." Good stuff all around. The Houston legal blogosphere is working through these issues more quickly and deftly than the MSM.

Kuff: Still "too many" inmates after Harris jail pop reduction
Charles Kuffner reacts to good news that murders are down nearly as much as the local jail population, a development discussed in this Grits post. Kuff suggests that "We have patched this problem, for which the county’s multiple-year hiring freeze is an exacerbating factor, by squeezing a lot of overtime out of the guards, a solution that is both unfair to them and expensive to us. Now that we’re not paying Louisiana to house some of our prisoners, maybe we can take some of the money we’d been spending on that and use it to hire a few more guards. The Sheriff will make that request at the Tuesday Commissioners Court meeting. I can’t wait to hear what their excuse to turn him down will be this time."

Cart before horse: Implications of possible innocence in Lake Waco murders
The Texas Moratorium Network has a pair of posts discussing the possible implications if DNA testing in the 30 year old Lake Waco murders comes back exonerating the men convicted of the crime, which could prove for the first time that the state has actually executed an innocent man:
While I'm interested in this case, regular readers know Grits doesn't believe "proving" an innocent person was executed will be the silver bullet many death-penalty abolitionists hope. Moreover, I've learned from harsh experience that one never knows what the results of DNA testing will be until it comes back from the lab. If the two men convicted are actually innocent, for the sake of the remaining fellow I hope the DNA can prove it; if they were guilty, I hope that's proven, too. The worst outcome where a past execution is involved would be if the tests came back inconclusive (as happens, I'm told, about a third of the time) or if DA Abel Reyna were to succeed (as seems unlikely) in his effort to suppress DNA testing. You don't want more cases hanging out there like Todd Willingham's where unresolved doubts linger forever, undermining public confidence almost more than if the execution of an innocent had been definitively proven.

Bias, the judiciary and the death penalty
Another post from the Texas Moratorium Network chides the Texas judiciary for only being intolerant of bias in one direction: If Teresa Hawthorne Must Recuse Herself From Death Penalty Case, Then Sharon Keller Must Recuse Herself From All Cases. The post opens, "In Texas it is apparently ok for a Republican judge to say that they are “pro prosecution”, as Judge Sharon Keller has done, and not have to recuse herself from any cases, but if a Democratic judge expresses any doubts about the constitutionality of the death penalty, then she must recuse herself. If Teresa Hawthorne must recuse herself from the current death penalty case because of “bias”, then Judge Sharon Keller should recuse herself from all cases before her court." Mike Hashimoto at the Dallas News was less kind to Judge Hawthorne, calling her opinion "goofy." See more from the Dallas Observer blog.


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