Monday, June 15, 2015

And the new Innocence Project of Texas ED is ...

Your correspondent today begins a new gig as Executive Director of the Innocence Project of Texas (IPOT) following a significant bout of staff turnover in the last few months. Pam Colloff of Texas Monthly broke the news this morning.

The group's office will soon be moving to Austin from Lubbock and with any luck there'll be several additional, exciting announcements in the near future about new directions the group will be taking. As regular readers may imagine, I have lots of ideas.

I worked for IPOT as their policy director from 2008 until last year, when they were forced to scale back staffing due to a budget crunch. So this is a bit of a homecoming for me. I know the group well and have a pretty good sense of the job. And it presents an exciting opportunity at an historical moment when the state is about to (re)study the causes of false convictions and recommend solutions through a formal innocence commission.

I appreciate the board giving me the opportunity and also support from outgoing legal counsel Jeff Blackburn, my long-time friend, who has assured me there are no hard feelings. (He left unhappy, but his beef was never with me.) And thanks in advance to Nick Vilbas, who I'm replacing as executive director, for all the help I'm going to need in the next couple of weeks transitioning to the job.

This oughtta be fun.

MORE: From the Houston Chronicle.

33 comments:

Mike Howard said...

Congrats, Scott! That is exciting news. What does this mean for Grits?

Roger Nichols said...

I know that we can expect more good things from you.
Congratulations.

sunray's wench said...

Well done Scott :)

Skifool said...

Congratulations!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful, what is the contact info for the IPOT?

edsal said...

what is the contact info for the IPOT?

Wolf said...

Congratulations! Everyone I know supports legal assistance for the wrongfully convicted. Any chance that new directions will include help for the rightfully convicted/ wrongfully sentenced?

David E said...

This can only be good.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Grits. You are a great pick for this position and I hope you will be happy and thrive in it. A request: as cases are resolved, please do not just publicize the names of the bad cops, bad prosecutors and bad scientists involved in creating wrongful convictions. Please also give the names of the defense counsel involved at trial, and do not hesitate to air their shortcomings. The state of indigent defense in Texas remains dire, not withstanding efforts in the legislature and by the indigent defense commission: Counsel still pull punches out of a desire not to rock the local boat, or fail to perform through sheer laziness and incompetence. Judges ignore the appointment "wheel" to appoint their buddies, and have no interest in promoting better defense practices. Defense counsel's failure to actively litigate their cases will continue to allow the innocent to be convicted unless the spotlight falls on them, as well as on the other actors in the system. Thanks.

John Delaney said...

Congratulations to you, Scott. But what will become of this great Blog?

Charles Kuffner said...

Congratulations, Scott! Very well deserved.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Thanks for the kind words, folks. Grits will stick around in some form, at least for now. It's survived the vicissitudes of quite a varied career path over the last 11 years, I'm guessing the blog will still find a role to play going forward.

Anonymous said...

so glad to hear that

Anonymous said...

I tried to access the link to Pamela Coloff article, but I was informed that the site had been disabled.

tiapa said...

Congratulations Scott! Can't think of anyone better for the job.

OnTheWater said...

Congrats Scott! Appreciate all you do!

john said...

Congratadulations & a hat shake, Sir.
Don't forget We The Poor Peeps, out here. You'll still write the breakfast Grist, yes?
The involuntary SERFitude is building up, and we are unrepresented in gov!!

Thomas R. Griffith said...

Grits, another hardy 'Congratulations!' to you my friend.
The Project: Not Guilty of Texas & The Un-Exoneratables of Texas, wish you the best in your new endeavor. Should you ever find yourself in need, just ask.

Due to the IPOT being based on a Team Effort format, we wish the entire team nothing but the best, as well. Hopefully, with everyone being on board & on the same page in the land of the (CJRM) criminal justice reformation movement, Texas can finally begin to address & correct the historically & systematically ignored 'Real' causes of false convictions & remove the brick-walls/hurdles preventing one from obtaining post conviction assistance considerations.

*Btw, I applied for Jeff's position the very day you interviewed him over tea & crumpets. Denied of course, due to having a felony conviction & failing to exhaust all direct appeals, but told that if I obtain a Full Pardon - based on/for innocence, I'll be considered. As you know, I will never apply for that worthless piece of paper a third time, nor would I accept it without an accompanied formal ‘apology’ in writing, even if Gov. Abbott hand delivered it. So with that, I nominated Kerry Cook & Anthony Graves.

Thanks.

Natalie Roetzel said...

Congratulations Scott! Send me a message when you get settled in. Would love to catch up and learn more about IPTX's current projects.

Kerry Cook said...

Thank you.

Kerry Cook said...

Thank you.

Terri LeClercq said...

Fabulous news. Congratulations to you, Scott, and to the people who chose you. Let me know what I can do to help you and the Innocence Project.

John C. Key MD said...

Congratulations I have no doubt you will be a real asset in this position. Hope you can keep GFB going as you provide a very valuable service to all of us in the criminal justice advocacy area.

Prison Doc

Sally said...

Scott,
Congratulations on the new job, you will be awesome! I would like to agree with Wolf about helping those who were rightfully convicted but wrongfully sentenced. This has happened to our son. The many lawyers we have talked to said his sentence was way out of line. He was just 18 and was as mature as maybe a 16yr old socially. He was unable to make a rational decision while his life and that of his whole family was being threatened with death. They even gave him his parents address! These cases of those who are 17 and 18 should be looked at individually. Most of these outrageous sentences are from over zealous prosecutors who offer bad deals and scare these kids, or so called adults, into accepting poor deals. They are impressionable and easily scared. My son was a first time offender. Please lets help these kids who are doing out of line sentences!!!! Thank you for taking this under serious consideration.

Gayle said...

This is the best news I've heard in a while. I'm so happy to hear it! Congrats, Scott, keep up the good work!

Wesley Shackelford said...

Congratulations Scott. We look forward to working with you in your new role.

Thomas R. Griffith said...

Grits, with the IPOT turned IPTX having only 5 'Rules' published on the org's site clarifying exactly what type(s) of case(s) they will consider, I would like to know if you know 'why' it was deemed appropriate to disqualify & discourage the majority of claimant(s) with Rule #5? As Director, would you consider eliminating Rule #5 making the IPTX ‘all’inclusive? As you know, they ignored this Rule when they chose to assist the Galveston fake drug scandal victims, appearing to be ambulance chasers to the masses, while heroes to a few.

The same goes for the Texas Board of Pardons & Paroles (Clemency Section), as their version of a roadblock / hurdle placed in the path of the wronged comes in the form of an impossible, yet, similar disqualifying & discouraging (Go-Away) Rule. One that requires the Applicant seeking a Full Pardon – for/based on innocence to seek and obtain Letters of Recommendations with unanimous decisions from the original three trial officials (Sheriff, DA & Judge). Three individuals - with absolutely no incentives whatsoever to reply, much-less, agree that they and/or their predecessor(s) participated in a conspiracy to falsely arrest and convict the innocent.

Of course we need Rules & Polices but when Rules & Policies are bent and ignored by their creator, it creates questions. When they blatantly discriminate & discourage, it creates: legitimacy and reasoning problems that affect the criminal justice reformation movement as a hole. The very reason why we will be calling on the Governor to dismantle or revamp the TBP&P, for their time has come to an end, all due to their discriminatory & discouraging Rules & Policies.

Thanks.

Gilbert G. Garcia said...

Congrats, but please keep the blog alive, love it.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Thomas, we may do some policy work on broader innocence topics but because of limited resources we're likely to keep litigation limited to post-conviction.

The Salvador cases were post-conviction too, fwiw, they just mostly weren't actual innocence cases. And in truth, though IPOT offered help to the FSC, they never actually provided much. It was too big and too far outside the group's bailiwick. I agree it was probably a mistake to suggest they'd work on those cases, but that was the ancien regime. At that time I worked exclusively on the policy side and had no involvement in the legal cases.

Thomas R. Griffith said...

Thanks for taking time to clarify.

Maybe, instead of seeking claims for litigation purposes only, the "new era" (Jeff's words) will include allowing the IPTX to consider spreading its wings and simply write Letters of Recommendation for Full Pardons - for/based on innocence on behalf of those deemed via: through and proper classroom vetting, to have been: not guilty, improperly denied a jury trial to verdict, sentenced utilizing the plea bargain and waivers, preventing appeals that prevents the IPTX from considering.


The Un-Exoneratables of Texas doesn't need lawyers and professors to represent them, if that was the case, they would be seeking us out. We need the folks in Austin to know that the historically and systematically ignored claims were finally (properly) vetted and deserve the justice denied. 100 plus Letters of Recommendation per claim from 4 campuses (students and faculty) would send a message to the 7 board members, the commissioners, the governor and the state as a hole. With the death and cremation of Rule #5, The Texas TapOut would die overnight and folks would donate enough money to the IPTX to justify its existence as an 'all' inclusive, cohesive entity, worthy of praise and annual donations & gifts. As it is currently formatted, I personally can't / won't donate any amount or time all due to the policy that lead to a rule that discriminates and discourages the majority from seeking and obtaining post conviction justice. Resource deficits could be dealt with by recruiting (the state's retired population) lawyers, DAs, ADAs, judges, private investigators, evidence & property room clerks, paralegals, etc...

Thanks again.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I understand your frustration, Thomas, but you misapprehend how much of an expansion of mission that would be and the vast additional resources that would entail. If you're reading Jeff, you've seen his critique of IPNY big-league fundraising. But we'd have to raise MUCH more than they do to do what you ask, and it's not the case that changing the policy would open the money spigot; it's just not presently realistic.

Otherwise, maybe you can let me get my feet under me on the job before you decide the group's worthless and not worth supporting. IPOT's not to blame for your problems; reserve your anger for those who caused them.

Hazmat Is Fun said...

You clearly deserve this gig. I've never met you but I have learned so much from this blog about criminal justice. Good luck in your assignment. You deservie it.

Cathy Marston said...

Congrats! Please apply that same critical lens of Grits to the IPOT post. Both are on a roll. And, please, Free Battered TX Women!

Cathy Marston, PhD
Director, Free Battered TX Women