with the Hernandez case, plus one last year in which a jury found that Charles Chacon was subjected to unnecessary force by Austin police officers, “I believe the tide is finally turning.”If he's right, that would signal a major shift.
“In the post-Ferguson (Missouri) environment,” Loewy said, “I think jurors are much more open to the idea that police brutalize people.”
For some years now, many advocates including your correspondent have considered civil courts a non-viable avenue for police reform in Texas because of qualified immunity, a culture of tort-reform among state judges, and the prosecutor-friendly 5th Circuit waiting to reduce or overturn any verdict that might be achieved at trial. It's one of the reasons Grits focuses so much on the Legislature; there's been more possibility for significant change at the capitol than via litigation on most of the issues I care about. In my experience, the Legislature can occasionally help matters; the most Grits tends to hope for from the courts is that they do not make things worse.
But these things run in cycles. And the vicissitudes of history appear to be altering the context of conversations about police abuse, both among jurors and officialdom. So far, with the exception of new reporting on police shootings, we haven't seen much legislative action on these topics. But if jury verdicts and settlements start to pile up, and the 5th Circuit makes cities actually pay them, that will heighten the incentive for legislators and locals alike to embrace reforms.