Sunday, October 09, 2005

Wrongful convictions, jail overcrowding, Williamson County justice, and 'welcoming the stranger'

Here are a few Texas criminal justice items that caught my eye this week:
  • Mexican Consulate Claims Wrongful Texas Convictions: Were two immigrants wrongfully convicted of murder in Littlefield, TX in 1998? The Mexican consulate thinks so. The defendants have always denied the charges, and a law firm hired by the consulate found one prosecution witness wasn't actually there when she said, while another was falling down drunk. Read a fine Dallas News article ("Did migrants get fair trials," Oct. 7) detailing the story.
  • Nueces Jail Combats Overincarceration By Releasing Non-Violent Prisoners: Another Texas county jail -- in Nueces County, Corpus Christi is the county seat -- will begin releasing nonviolent offenders on personal bond to combat overcrowding. Reported the Caller Times ("County opts to release inmates," Oct. 6), "Some prisoners who judges have been asked to release on personal bonds haven't been formally charged but have been in jail for 30 to 90 days and are low flight risk prisoners." Hell, they oughtta let those people out of jail anyway just to lighten the load on the taxpayer. Who gains but the bail bondsmen from failing to give "low flight risk" defendants personal bond?
  • Tracking Williamson County Justice: After a mentally ill hurricane evacuee was released instead of transferred to a mental hospital last month, then raped just blocks from the jail, you'd think the new Williamson County Sheriff sheriff might be in for some criticism. But the Austin Statesman lauded Sheriff James Wilson today for tackling his predecessors' cronyism, deputies' off-duty drinking, and jail overcrowding: "Within two months of taking office, he reduced the number of inmates from more than 700 to about 575 by tackling paperwork to get inmates out on bail or shipped to prisons." ("Williamson sheriff leads by example," Oct. 9) Perhaps the good sheriff is cleaning house. Let's hope so. Still, the blog Eye on Williamson County thinks District Attorney John Bradley's plan to eliminate constables reeks of the same stench the sheriff hopes to extinguish.
  • Bible Lesson: Welcome Immigrants Like Your Own Blood: Grits commenter Mike posted this interesting item on a recent Sunday School lesson that related to Friday's Grits post on immigration. Here's a taste: "Melinda Lewis of El Centro visited St. Paul's Adult Sunday School to speak about 'welcoming the stranger.' She began with appropriate Biblical quotations showing the Christian tradition of hospitality to immigrants. For example: 'The immigrant that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were immigrants in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.' (Leviticus 19:34.) She then asked in effect, what does 'welcoming the stranger' look like in the 21st century United States?" See here for her answer. Whaddya think, folks? Does it look like this?
And don't forget to check out what's going on at the ACLU of Texas' Liberty Blog.

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