Monday, December 23, 2013

Prosecutor misconduct, police deaths, prison heat, overcriminalization and more

Just to clear Grits' browser tabs before a Christmas break, here are a few items that caught my eye but haven't made it into individual blog posts:

Why the state bar went after Ken Anderson but not Charles Sebesta
If former Williamson County DA Ken Anderson was punished for prosecutorial misconduct for his withholding evidence in the Michael Morton case, why wasn't former Burleson County DA Charles Sebesta punished for even more egregious actions taken to secure a false conviction against Anthony Graves? Pam Colloff at Texas Monthly explored the issue and said the answer was the statute of limitations. Lisa Falkenberg at the Houston Chronicle followed up with a column and reached the same conclusion.

However, SB 825 by state Sen. John Whitmire changed the law this year so the four-year statute of limitations on Brady violations doesn't begin to toll in exoneration cases until after an innocent person is released. That should mean a new complaint against Sebesta wouldn't face the same statute of limitations bar. After the holiday, Grits will follow up with a post about new rules being promulgated by the Texas Supreme Court implementing SB 825 and concerns expressed by lawmakers and advocates. IANAL, but it's possible Sebesta could still face disciplinary action from the state bar if the complaint were re-filed.

Louisiana prison heat litigation could presage Texas ruling
The Texas Civil Rights Project, which is litigating over excessive heat in Texas prisons on behalf of inmates and correctional officers, has won similar federal litigation in Louisiana, where a judge ruled prisons must keep the "heat index" below 88 degrees Fahrenheit on death row. See coverage from the Austin Statesman and a copy of the judge's 102-page order. While it's clear Texas pols will never pay for cooling Texas' prisons of their own accord, in the end federal judges may leave them no choice. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, whose jurisdiction includes both Texas and Louisiana, already greenlighted Texas' essentially similar litigation.

You tell 'em, Paul
Writes Paul Kennedy at The Defense Rests, complaining that an acquitted defendant was sent back to jail before being released, "There are far too many judges sitting on the bench in Harris County who have the mistaken belief that they work in the district attorney's judicial division." In another recent post, Kennedy lamented that, "the prison population has grown by nearly 900% over the past 30 years while the population of Texas has only doubled. What's wrong with this picture?"

Texas law enforcement can't keep its hands out of people's pants
So says the Bayou Blog at the Beaumont Enterprise. Overstatement? Sure. But it does seem to have become a recurring theme.

On-duty law enforcement deaths lowest since WWII
As usual, most on-duty police deaths happen because of traffic accidents. In 42% of those, officers weren't wearing their seat belts. More evidence disputing the indisputable.

Federal prisons too costly, unsafe
According to a new DOJ inspector general's report, DOJ "is facing two interrelated crises in the federal prison system. The first is the continually increasing cost of incarceration, which, due to the current budget environment, is already having an impact on the Department’s other law enforcement priorities. The second is the safety and security of the federal prison system, which has been overcrowded for years and, absent significant action, will face even greater overcrowding in the years ahead." See a good summary of the report at Salon, which reported that “the number of inmates over the age of 65 has grown by almost a third, while the population under 30 fell by 12 percent. 'Elderly inmates are roughly two to three times more expensive to incarcerate than their younger counterparts,' according to the review.”

Federal overcriminalization
The same DOJ-OIG report questioned the rising tide of overcriminalization. "By one estimate, the number of federal criminal offenses grew by 30 percent between 1980 and 2004; indeed, there are now well over 4,000 offenses carrying criminal penalties in the United States Code.  In addition, an estimated 10,000 to 100,000 federal regulations can be enforced criminally." That's a pretty broad guesstimate, don't you think?

FCC should regulate video visitation rates
After the FCC implemented new regulations regarding phone rates for the incarcerated, some prisons and jails are switching to fee based video visitation schemes which are still un-regulated, says the Prison Policy Initiative, which just submitted comments suggesting upgrades to federal rules.


Gadfly said...

In the past, the Federal Bureau of Prisons (I've read a story or two) has had no problem "dumping" inmates after they turn 65, and letting the "entitlement system" pay the freight instead.

Of course, if said inmate went to prison at 25 or 30 on a life charge, any kids he had aren't likely to have maintained much contact with him. A spouse likely divorced him. Parents are dead. Siblings may be distant, both physically and psychologically.

All the "family" that guy has, in essence, is "inside."

Not an issue with easy answers, in some ways.

Anonymous said...

Once the statute of limitations expires it's over. You can't go back & resurrect it with a statute. The extension of time would only apply to cases that hadn't already expired.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Then how did they get to go after Ken Anderson, 11:46? His misconduct was in the 80s. SB 825 changed when the SOL begins to toll.

rodsmith said...

i agree with him grits! Yes the state can chance the SOL anytime they want. What they legally can't do it change it for crimes that happened BEFORE the change.

Not allowed to change the punishment for a prior act. that's constitutionally an expost violation.

of course like a lot of law recently. This one also started it's trial with sex crimes. then once the sheeple accepted it. it was expanded to other areas.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Perhaps, rod, though we're not talking about a "crime," of course, but a violation of state bar rules and disciplinary action by a professional association.

If it is impossible, one wonders why Ken Anderson gave up his bar license.

rodsmith said...

LOL only have to look at any newspaper or tv news or even an internet blog site to KNOW the govt is doing 100 illegal things before breakfast. DAILY.

as for criminal Ken. I notice while he gave up the license it did not give up the pension.