Harris County to provide counsel to indigent at bail hearings
Big news: Harris County will soon launch a pilot program to place public defenders at bail hearings to represent indigent defendants, reported the Houston Chronicle. According to Jim Bethke of the Texas Indigent Defense Commission, currently only "Bexar County has a similar program - and that is tailored to offenders with mental-health conditions." Grits predicts the cost will be significantly offset by reduced incarceration costs at the jail. Besides, it's likely civil rights litigation would soon force the county to do this, anyway. Better to get in front of the curve on at least this one point.
Profiles in prosecutorial mercy
Sixteen Arlington cops gave up their police licenses to avoid criminal prosecution for faking traffic stops and falsifying paperwork to cover their loafing, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The allegedly falsified stops were "discovered when supervisors could not find accompanying dashcam video of the stops." For faking paperwork on traffic stops which never occurred, some were for a while accused by Tarrant County prosecutors of "tampering with a government record with intent to defraud." However, the officers were allowed to quit their jobs and permanently give up their peace officers' licenses in exchange for non-prosecution. That's a lenient but not inappropriate outcome. Grits' problem in such instances isn't so much that I believe punishment for lying, evidence-tampering cops should be harsher. It's that only police officers seem eligible for this sort of creative prosecution outcome aimed at protecting their reputations and avoiding a criminal record. Lots of other folks could use that sort of consideration from the system who never receive it.
Sheriff mum on jail suicides
A series of jail suicides in Orange County, including one over the weekend, has the county judge asking questions and the Sheriff refusing to answer. One hopes the Commission on Jail Standards will get to the bottom of it. If they don't watch it, the jail could become a poster child for reform legislation. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick instructed the Senate Criminal Justice Committee to examine ways to prevent jail suicides as part of their preparation for the 85th session.
Alternative Facts, Tarrant DA edition