Good Samaritan bill up in House committee
Rep. Ryan Guillen's Good Samaritan legislation (HB 73) is up on Monday in the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, but the biggest threat to its passage remains uncertainty about Gov. Abbott, who vetoed the bill last year and is now moving the goal posts regarding his concerns. This is a major public health concern. Overdose deaths are now twice as common in Texas as murders. Go here if you'd like to send a message to Gov. Abbott asking him to support Texas' Good Samaritan legislation.
The Court of Criminal Appeals halted Paul Storey's execution last week in a move which implicates a couple of pieces of pending legislation. Prosecutors told the jury in the death-penalty phase of Storey's case that the victim's family wanted the death penalty, which turned out not to be true. Jurors were given faulty jury instructions which HB 3054 by Herrero/Smithee aims to fix. That bill was heard last week in the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee and may get a vote as early as Monday. Meanwhile, the remaining issues in Storey's case reportedly regard whether Storey's appeals attorney could have reasonably discovered the true feelings of the victim's family about the death penalty. In other words, once again the quality of direct capital appeals are being called into question, which brings us to Corrections Committee Chairman James White's HB 1676 creating a new capital public defender for direct appeals (it'll need a catchier name than that). Maybe it'll turn out Storey's attorney couldn't have known the family's views, or maybe he just didn't ask them. But minimalist investigation and slipshod work product on direct appeal, along with cost effectiveness, are exactly the recurring problems that prompted the East Texas Republican to propose this new office. The appellate process should have vetted these subjects long before now. Storey's case could be a poster child for why these bills are needed.
When innocent SWAT raid victims defend themselves
A Corpus Christi man has sued the police department after a wrong-house SWAT raid in which he shot three officers. He was jailed for two years before being acquitted by a jury. Noted the Caller Times' Krista Torralva, "Police use of no-knock raids have recently come under public scrutiny and Rosas’ case has been included in national conversations. The Washington Post and New York Times wrote about Rosas’ case after his acquittal."
The End of Local Laws
Governing magazine says Gov. Greg Abbott wants to end local laws.
Richard Dreyfuss on Kerry Cook
Actor Richard Dreyfuss discusses Kerry Max Cook with Texas Monthly's Michael Hall. Grits couldn't agree more with Dreyfuss' answer to Mike's final question.
You gotta start somewhere
The Texas Tribune has published a couple of good primers on testifying at the capitol and making your voice heard by lawmakers. Nicely done.
Progress, slow but broad
While some folks understandably express impatience at the slow pace of criminal justice reform, it's easy to underestimate how difficult it was just to stop the upward trajectory of mass incarceration and begin to turn the curve downward. Pew's Adam Gelb describes the baby-step progress made on that front at the state level.