Serving life for homicide when there was no homicide
The Houston Press has a brief story about the case of Neal Robbins, who was convicted of homicide in the death of an infant, though the medical examiner has retracted that claim, saying the cause of death is undetermined. The habeas writ, in which the district judge recommended relief, is based on Texas' new statute allowing convictions based on junk science to be overturned. Indeed, Robbins' was the poster-child case at the Legislature spurring passage of the new law. Even so, Grits expects the CCA vote to be close.
Lehmberg on the dock
Austin Statesman reporters are tweeting away from the civil trial seeking to remove Travis County DA Rosemary Lehmberg from office, for those who care. I don't particularly think a DWI merits her ouster, but appreciate the case for its entertainment value.
Harris County DA Devon Anderson has prosecutors "teaching what we do to high school students" via mock trials held in downtown civil courtrooms, according to a recent press release. She thinks "this is an amazing opportunity for the students to meet prosecutors in the DA’s Office and get an inside look at what we do." If they wanted to really give students a glimpse at "what we do," they'd take students into court some morning to watch the disgraceful plea mill that passes for justice in the majority of Harris County criminal cases.
Time to bail on the bail bond system?
Houston attorney Paul Kennedy and the Maryland Court of Appeals think so.
Whitmire: Make cops at private universities subject to open records
State Sen. John Whitmire wants to make police departments at private universities like Rice subject to the open records act, reported the Houston Chronicle and a local TV station after video emerged of Rice rent-a-cops beating an alleged bicycle thief with batons. (Via Charles Kuffner.) Grits would add that the exemption to the open records act for police disciplinary files in civil service cities should also be eliminated.
No movement to reform immigration detention
Even though "Back in 2009, the Obama administration promised reform of the massive, mostly for-profit U.S. immigrant detention system," reported Melissa del Bosque at the Texas Observer, "The number of deportees hasn’t diminished and private detention facilities continue to expand."
The Fourth Amendment and cell tower dumps
Former federal magistrate judge turned Texas Tech law prof Brian Owsley has a new paper on the topic.
The FBI has technology that can secretly activate your computer's webcam without the indicator light coming on. “We have transitioned into a world where law enforcement is hacking into people’s computers, and we have never had public debate,” ACLU's Christopher Soghoian, told the Washington Post. “Judges are having to make up these powers as they go along.”
'The other side of the story'
There's a fascinating account at Texas Monthly from a recent UT graduate about a tryst with a 23-year old teacher when she was 14 that resulted in his prosecution, conviction, and placement on the sex-offender registry for life. The subhed reads: "When I was fourteen, I had a relationship with my eighth grade history teacher. People called me a victim. They called him a villain. But it's more complicated than that." Interesting read; thought provoking stuff.