Sunday, August 25, 2013

Bad facts, tales of dead men, and NSA pick up lines

Here are a few odds and ends that didn't make it into their own Grits posts this week but deserve readers' attention:

David Dewhurst makes the call
Note to public officials: If your relative is arrested, don't call the cops to ask that they be released. Get them a lawyer. That's how it's done.

'Stuck in jail'
So much for the right to a speedy trial. Reported the Houston Chronicle, "Dozens of suspects have remained behind bars in the Harris County jail for years without going to trial, according to a Houston Chronicle investigation. Legal experts and judges called the situation outrageous and said it may be a violation of the suspects’ constitutional rights." See a slideshow on some of the cases involved.

Bad facts make bad law: Exoneree compensation edition
Michael Blair was falsely convicted of capital murder but, while incarcerated for the murder he didn't commit, confessed to four child molestation cases that earned him four life sentences. He will almost certainly die in prison. A divided Texas Supreme Court ruled that he is not eligible for compensation for the false conviction. See the Texas Tribune's coverage. Reading the opinion, a concurrence, and the dissent, the old adage "bad facts make for bad law" comes to mind. Blair's unique situation is unlikely to be repeated. Meanwhile, some exonerees have had prior convictions and part of the reason they were convicted was that police had a "round up the usual suspects" mentality. I understand the justices not wanting to see Blair compensated, but the contortions undertaken by Justice Nathan Hecht to reach his desired outcome flew in the face of what the Legislature intended, which was that future, post-exoneration convictions would make people ineligible for compensation, not past crimes. The main decision was only fully joined by a plurality (four judges), so it's possible these issues could come back to the court with different and less prejudicial facts surrounding them the next time the Comptroller denies a compensation claim under Justice Hecht's standard.

Cop regained job after excessive force incident
A man won an excessive force lawsuit against the Carrollton PD after an officer slammed his head against a wall while in custody. The cop was fired but (unsurprisingly) regained his job through the civil service appellate process.

New law lets police sell confiscated guns
The Texas Tribune has the story.

Houston PD finally testing old rape kits
Houston PD has eliminated its rape kit testing backlog by sending all the old kits to an outside lab for independent testing. No word yet on how many cases may be solved, but each one will be its own mini-scandal.

Tales of dead men
Dead men tell no tales, but an historian is seeking people who can tell tales about them, searching for answers to mysteries regarding old inmate graves before those who might know about them are all gone.

NSA Pickup Lines
The offerings at Twitter hashtag #NSApickuplines are hysterical. E.g., "You look way prettier in person than in your webcam." Let's hope it's true that Twitter memes are an accurate predictor of political behavior. The Twitterverse doesn't appear to think much of NSA phone snooping.


sunray's wench said...

Bad facts make bad laws ~

Why not pay him the money, and then immediately take it away again and divide it between his actual victims?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

SW I suppose the answer is because there's no legal authority to do so. Judges are supposed to interpret the law to reach outcomes, not decide the outcome they want then twist the law to reach their pre-ordained conclusions.

OTOH, if he got the money the victims could sue him. But the Texas Supreme Court couldn't have done that on their own.

sunray's wench said...

So isn't that a sensible law to look at during the next legislative session? Or perhaps the state could help the victims sue the inmate first - I assume they would win the case - and then make the payment to the inmate so that he would have to forfeit the money because he would already owe it?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

You wouldn't have to change the law to get there, SW, except for this recent opinion. If Blair had won compensation, the victims could sue. But because of the SCOTX ruling, he remains judgment proof.

Anonymous said...

(Wrongful / Falsely) anyway it's spun; it's still against the law to convict humans for crimes they didn't commit. Anyone happen to know if Blair confessed to the 4 cases and DNA tied him to them or if he just plea bargained to avoid 99 years or Death Row? Wonder if he was on probation at time of arrest? Something doesn’t and never did smell right about his dilemma.

We can only hope that there aren’t four monsters walking around thanks to his so-called confession.

Anonymous said...

If the Criminal Justice System (Courts, D.As'. & Police) all or in part fail to or simply refuse to utilize a Checks & Balances prior to the 1st Ready for Trial notice being filed to insure that the right person is arrested for and convicted for the right crime(s), then the burden of doing the right thing should fall directly to the feet of the Taxpayers'. And the IRS should include an annual Itemized Invoice so each Taxpayer knows what they are funding & participating in. Moral clause goes here.

*The few that don’t know what a Checks & Balances is – Investigations performed on the front end that vet everything: from the moment of arrest, warrants of any kind, alibis, live line-up procedures, displayment of photo arrays, confessions, request to change plea & whether or not on the advice of legal counsel, and being recorded, and become part of the State’s Case files of course.

Anonymous said...

Yes, at some point the Taxpayers' will be forced to look at the Invoice(s). Once the majority has decided that funding an account to pay off or make whole the Selected / Picked wronged would be best left to the individual(s) (D.A. & assigned ADA of Record and Arresting Agency & subsequent Detectives listed on any & all pages of Police Incident & Arrest Reports including supplemental information) the rates of false arrests' & wrongful convictions' will plummet.

So, what's the take away. $80K is a drop in the bucket & has no direct ties to the criminals responsible for knowingly & willingly falsely arresting & prosecuting the innocent. While it's currently the taxpayers' job to bail out these corrupt system players', it should be one million dollars per year (tax free) and not simply "Compensation" but more like what it really is -
Taxpayer Funded Criminal Justice System Accountability Award. (TFCJSAA). Compensation is too watered down and assumes that everything is cool from the moment that money appeared and made it all go away.

When we concentrate on the wrong person, we allow the actual criminal(s) to walk amongst us, which supports my idea of creating a Reward Account at the same time that pays for their capture and conviction.

Anonymous said...

Civic Lessons can only be learned and retained to prevent a vicious cycle of repeation, if and when the price of attending class (being a citizen) is paid directly by the student / citizen in an amount that forces one to pay special attention. The One million per year idea would force CNN to break in with Breaking News and reboot due to a crash and possibly send scouts to Texas in search of an Austin HQs.

Can anyone imagine Wolf on 6th street with a 30 foot measuring tape as he reports on old news in down times. If every Court had a CNN Reporter in the Gallery, they'd have to get their shit straight or risk being Breaking News.

Anonymous said...

Grits, regarding the jailed limbo problem.

Do you happen to know if Texas has a law that prevents this gitmo type bullshit? Seems like there is a speedy trial and something about 120 days on the books to prevent stacking inmates on top of each other for years without addressing them? Aprici8it.