Sunday, April 05, 2015

On 'Cops in Lab Coats,' the pitfalls of basing police practices on Jonah Hill, Wallace Jefferson for SCOTUS(?) and other stories

Before the day's family festivities begin, here are a few items which deserve Grits readers' attention but haven't made it into independent posts:

The case for raising the age of criminal culpability based on Pearland ISD cops mimicking Jonah Hill movies
Dan Solomon at Texas Monthly described an 8-month undercover sting at Pearland ISD and the episode's idiotic if inescapable similarities to the 21 Jump Street franchise, comparisons to which consumed national media coverage about the event. Playing the killjoy, Solomon framed the issue in terms of Texas' "raise the age" debate, declaring: "It’s frightening that a high school junior who hasn’t committed a violent crime (none of the charges in the sting are for violent crimes), might find himself or herself facing time in an adult facility designed to imprison violent criminals. And that prospect is only thrown into relief when we’re all laughing about Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill."

No room at the inn for civil commitment offenders
As the state struggles to find housing for civilly committed sex offenders, the Texas Senate Criminal Justice Committee prepares to hear legislation on Tuesday, elaborated in detail by guest blogger Nancy Bunin in this Grits post, to revamp the program. Jefferson County Commissioners blocked using a facility in Beaumont. Even the private prison companies don't want them. The Geo Group "

Casey: Wallace Jefferson for SCOTUS
Long-time columnist Rick Casey poked his head up out of retirement to suggest a potential dark horse nominee for US Supreme Court, should there be another opening: Former Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson, who Casey rightly speculated is somebody who could actually be confirmed by the Republican-controlled US Senate. Rick Perry has already named Jefferson twice to Texas' high civil court, first as a Texas Supreme Court Justice, then as its Chief Justice. So it's intriguing to imagine that Barack Obama might consider a high-profile Rick Perry appointee for SCOTUS. Indeed, while a longshot, it's not entirely outside the realm of possibility that Jefferson could ascend to the court with either man as president. Where do I get my "Wallace Jefferson for SCOTUS" bumper sticker?

Justice Kennedy: Corrections system misunderstood, broken
Speaking of SCOTUS, when asked this week about prison overcrowding while testifying before a congressional budget subcommittee, Justice Anthony Kennedy took the opportunity to expound on prison policy, declaring, “The corrections system is one of the most overlooked, misunderstood institutions we have in our entire government.” “In many respects, I think it’s broken,” lamented the 78-year old Reagan appointee.

'Cops in Lab Coats'
According to this press release, "University of Houston Law Center (UHLC) Professor Sandra Guerra Thompson argues in her released new book. 'Cops in Lab Coats, Curbing Wrongful Convictions through Independent Forensic Laboratories' is published by Carolina Academic Press."

Of glitter bombs and bathroom blues
The Texas Tribune provides balanced coverage of an unbalanced issue: Legislation to criminalize using the wrong restroom, honing in on Rep. Debbie Riddle's legislation highlighted by Grits back in February. The story doesn't mention it, but there's little doubt these bills were the proximate cause of the representatives' district office receiving a "glitter bomb" last month. Her bills have been referred to the State Affairs Committee which is chaired by Byron Cook, a notably open minded Republican when it comes to civil rights for gay people. Grits continues to believe that, if Riddle's bill criminalizing business owners who let someone use the "wrong" restroom were to pass, it would foster the unintended but entirely predictable consequence of rapidly promoting unisex bathrooms to avoid civil or criminal liability. This one's a "be careful what you ask for" moment. I'm not sure everybody has thought this through.

More arrests over faked police training
Arrests warrants for the Hill County Sheriff and three of his employees were issued recently alleging they falsified training records based on an investigation by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, adding to a growing list. Grits' belief is that these cases argue for the sort of independent prosecution of police misconduct (by the AG or a special prosecutor) discussed in Reps. Dutton's and Reynold's bills recently at the Lege. Local prosecutors have strong disincentives not to prosecute cases where faked training may endanger the credentials of large numbers of officers in a department - the same folks who are witnesses in all their cases and who they work with every day. In cases like these, it makes more sense to separate that function from local politics.


DEWEY said...

" Corrections system misunderstood, broken"

We have been saying that for years on THE PRISON SHOW, Friday nights 9-11 PM.

Thomas R. Griffith said...

Dewey, you, others and now Justice Anthony Kennedy have applied the incorrect adjective. I've been telling / explaining this correctable descriptive error for years. It's called - 'Fixed' here in the great-state-of-confusion and the land-of-the-loopholes aka: Texas.

When you say broken, it implies that it was working correctly at one point but somehow became broken and stopped working.

When you allow suspects, turned defendants to plead Not Guilty and allow them to be legally advised to stop a jury trial in progress and waive their rights to a jury trial to verdict in order to change their initial plea to No Contest (aka: Guilty in Latin) you get over crowded jails and prisons, where the Guilty and Not Guilty are punished the same.

When the legal advice is based on the defendant being on probation at time of arrest on a new unrelated charge and told - "Despite a Guilty verdict or Not, you are going to prison simply for being on it, stop the trial and take the plea to avoid 99 years", you get over crowded jails and prisons along with a hoodwinked public and crime victims.