Celebrate the CCA by sunsetting it
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals turns 125 this year, according to a perfunctory salute and abbreviated history from the state bar. Grits believes we should celebrate by eliminating it and merging Texas' two high courts.
Focus on recurrent deaths, medical care at Harris jail
According to an article in the Huffington Post, which prominently quoted Harris County Public Defender Alex Bunin, "Texas largest jail hasn't learned much from Sandra Bland's death." According to the story, "Inmates die [in the Harris County Jail] at a higher rate per capita than most other jails in the nation, according to a Huffington Post analysis of death data from July 13, 2015, to July 13, 2016." Moreover, "Most of the deaths were related to medical issues, as opposed to the results of assault or suicide."
DAs: Keep junk science if it supports our convictions
A presidential advisory commission announced it will issue a draft report critical of several different brands of junk science and the national district attorneys association went batshit crazy, issuing this Chicken-Littlish screed most notable for its breathless tone and sweeping overstatements about what seems to be a fairly modest document. This commission isn't saying anything different than the National Academy of Sciences did in 2009; it's not that controversial at this point to say that bite-mark, tire print, or tool-mark evidence has no scientific basis, and the subjective nature of DNA mixture interpretation is becoming increasingly well known (particularly here in Texas). NDAA's tantrum reads like they're shaking their fists at the sky and decrying that it's blue.
By contrast, the highest incarceration rate was Kenedy County in South Texas, with 225 residents per 10,000 incarcerated. In some cases, counties side by side had radically different rates, posing provocative and awkward questions about whether Texas is providing equal justice across jurisdictions. E.g., Randall County's incarceration rate per 10,000 was 31.7; next door in Potter County it was 76.5 (Amarillo straddles the county line). Similarly, suburban Collin County had an incarceration rate of 11 per 10,000, while its poorer, more rural northern neighbor, Grayson County, had a 58.4 per 10,000 rate.
SA police union bullying tactics partially succeeded
I thought this was a pretty clear-eyed assessment of the recently inked labor deal between the city of San Antonio and the local police union. A notable tidbit: "City Councilmen Rey Saldaña and Ron Nirenberg cast lone votes against the new contract last week, and while their opposition did not attract allies, it did serve to highlight what local members of the #BlackLivesMatter movement have been saying all along: the contract inhibits police leaders from imposing disciplinary actions on officers and making the punishment stick."
Just in time for Labor Day
Continuing a theme Grits began on Saturday, the NY Times yesterday offered up an editorial titled, "When police unions impede justice." Give it a read.
Risk assessment resources
Heard of the Laura and John Arnold Foundation's risk assessment model but haven't dug into the details? Here's a page describing it with a link to related resources and video from a number of prominent Houston pols.
Koch Institute on Kaepernick
The Charles Koch Institute published a column defending San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick's decision not to stand for the national anthem because of racial injustice and police brutality issues, comparing Kaepernick's position to Frederick Douglass and citing Antonin Scalia in support of his free speech rights. Grits mentioned the other day that the Charles Koch Foundation recently funded a major journalism project on police shootings of unarmed people in Texas, so it's not just a one-off. Coupled with Rick Perry's and Glenn Beck's recent embrasure of the #BlackLivesMatter cause, sympathy among Koch outlets contributes to the impression that the movement for black lives may find conservative allies for significant chunks of its criminal-justice agenda. There have definitely been overtures.