Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Man bites dog: Williamson DA John Bradley says remove LWOP for juvie capital offenders

Who would have thought?

The first bill up in the Senate Criminal Justice Committee today would eliminate life without parole in capital cases for juveniles, substituting a 40-year minimum.

In a surreal moment, the first speaker was Williamson County DA John Bradley, an avowed death penalty proponent, who testified that he "really supported the bill," declaring that Sen. Juan Hinojosa's SB 839 was a "rational approach" for juveniles, giving them "incentive to behave" while in prison as well as opportunities for "rehabilitation." Someone from the ACLU followed up expressing an essentially similar sentiment.

Only the Harris County District Attorney's office was opposed, seemingly out of habit.

If the DAs are split and nobody else opposes the bill, this legislation could have a decent chance of passing this year.

UPDATE: This bill was passed out of committee on March 18 and recommended for the local and uncontested calendar.


123txpublicdefender123 said...

Excuse me while I pick my jaw up off the floor.

Rage Judicata said...

Who was it from Harris County? Moore?

Anonymous said...

TxBluesman in the thread on consent searches recognized and pointed out that case law in both Texas and the United States allows officers of the law to arrest an offender of even the smallest misdemeanor without a warrant if they have observed the crime under the 4th amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

If we wanted to make certain offenses in Texas non arrestable (should that be the only offense being committed), here are a few possibilities:

1) Modify Texas statutes so that the more minor Texas traffic violations are categorized as a "civil infraction/citation", which to my understanding, prevents an officer from making a discretionary arrest.

2) Modify the Texas Constitution to strengthen our state bill of rights protection by requiring a higher standard for warrantless arrests on those cases.

3) Rechallenge the warantless arrests under the Texas Constitution's protection against unreasonable search and seizure and hope for a different interpretation of Texas's Constitution that is greater than the U.S. Supreme Court's. This is an option but will surely fail as Texas will probably just hold up the U.S. Constitution's interpretation as they tend to not deviate much..

4) Something similar to what was proposed in 2003 that would require each department to write out their policy on fine-only misdemeanors which would result in some departments prohibiting the warantless arrest of traffic offenders. Another possibility is the law could be stricter and specifically direct each department to adopt a policy to not arrest for Class C's, but this would fail under the 4th amendment (Virginia v. Moore). Perhaps it could be challenged under the state constitution's protection?

Anyways tell me where I'm wrong and if I'm right in any respect here. I'm not a lawyer.

Any thoughts on this are appreciated.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Rage, it was Kevin Keating for the Harris Co. DA; he registered against but did not testify.

4:23, you're way off topic here, but since you've hit on an old, sore nerve, I'll mention that because the highest court in the land has spoken, the only real solution is a legislative override. But that's been tried and likely can't happen for now within the current political landscape.

In the wake of SCOTUS' Atwater v Lago Vista, Gov. Perry vetoed legislation two sessions running to reverse or mitigate that decision for Texas by statute. Your #4 mentioned the vetoed bill from 2003 that would have required departments to enact policies, but Perry vetoed an even stronger bill by Sen. Chris Harris and Rep. Senfronia Thompson in 2001.

I think that same legislation - either the 2001 or 2003 versions - could likely pass again under the current Lege, but nobody pushes it because they know Rick Perry would veto it again, something he certainly has not been shy about doing to criminal justice reform bills.

Anonymous said...

If you are 16 and get certified on a Capital Murder--you won't be eligible until around the age of 50or so. What will your life be like then, if you are still alive? Does it matter that you were good for 40 years? Why bother?

TxBluesMan said...

Anon 4:23,

Without looking up the exact cite, IIRC, the CCA has held that the Texas Constitution offers the exact same protection as the U.S. Constitution - no more, no less... I don't think #3 would fly if that's the case.

#4 would also fail - policy won't override law as far as suppressing evidence, all it will do is get the officer some disciplinary action.

And, as Grits noted, the lege override ain't goin' happen.

On the topic of the original thread, I don't see a problem with dropping LWOP for juvie transfers...

Anonymous said...

I thought they passed the LWOP bill last session, in part, to keep a juvenile 17 and under off death row? If I'm not mistaken, that was a Supreme Court ruling and a lot of 17 year olds on Texas Death row had their sentences reduced to life.

Did someone finally have a conscious regarding this issue, and if so, what prompted that? I know there were other reasons for the LWOP bill for capital offenders... not just juveniles.

However, I wonder how many 17 year olds in the last 18 months received LWOP in Texas? Was that brought up? Did the Valley lead the way in these LWOP convictions for juveniles? If not, who did?

Anonymous said...

Just have to hope the Gov doesn't veto it.

TxBluesMan said...


Actually, the LWOP option was marketed by the libs as a way to get away from the death penalty, without actually repealing it. Grits may be able to add more, but I'm not aware of it being tied to the SCOTUS ruling.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

No Bluesy, Whitsfoe remembers correctly. Some in the pro-DP crowd were horrified they wouldn't be able to execute juveniles anymore after Roper v. Simmons, and the Harris DA, among others, bargained for LWOP in the alternative. LWOP had been proposed by death penalty opponents for years, but Roper was why it finally passed.

Anonymous said...

Grits, I apologize for bringing it up again. I wanted clarification on the issue and what could be done about it. I know it's a sore one, but I just wasn't fully educated on what had happened previously since I'm fairly young and wasn't following Texas politics as closely then.

TxBluesMan said...

My mistake.

Thanks Grits

Rage Judicata said...

It's not just "your mistake" TxBluesMan, it's your constant, recurring, uneducated mistake. Your constant and ignorant push to blame any reform on "the libs" exposes your ignorance time and time again.

Informed Citizen said...

LOL - public defender, my reaction was the same. Some have had a change of heart and others have wised up. Bradley is apparantly one of them.
In his case, based on his testimony in previous sessions, it is NOT due to a change of heart. It's probably as black as ever. But he realized the political winds have shifted. The voters have lost their affinity for the "hang em all and let God sort it out" type of public Official / public servant.

Anonymous said...

It's not just "your mistake" TxBluesMan, it's your constant, recurring, uneducated mistake. Your constant and ignorant push to blame any reform on "the libs" exposes your ignorance time and time again.

Rage, acting like a hysterical girl doesn't make you any less ignorant. Why don't you try to add to the dialogue once in a while?

TxBluesMan said...


When have you ever admitted one of your mistakes?

If I make one, I admit it. As Grits noted, the LWOP option had been proposed numerous times in previous years by death penalty opponents, and I was unaware of the impact that the SCOTUS decision had on passage of the legislation.


Just as a bit of trivia, since you are such a good Christian and all, I'm sure that you'll be happy to learn where the "kill them all" comment originates from.

In 1209, in an effort to crush dissent by another group of Christians, the Pope ordered a Crusade against the Cathars (the first time a Crusade was called against fellow Christians). At the town of Beziers, the Catholic residents refused to turn over their Cathar neighbors to be executed and many of the town gathered in a Church to pray. The religious head of the Pope's forces, Arnaud Amaury, told his forces, "Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius." ("Kill them all. God will know His own.")

Were I a Christian, that would make me proud... yeah, right.

Anon 11:53,

Probably because all he sees is hatred reflected back from the mirror every morning...

Anonymous said...

LWOP was created in Texas specifically so they wouldn't be forced to commute the existing 17 year old killers down to the previous max which allowed parole in 40 years.

So they were basically saying to the SCOTUS, you can keep us from executing 'em but that don’t mean we gotta turn'em loose!

As for Bradley, he want LWOP removed so he can keep his conviction rate up when he "seeks the max." Even in a slam-dunk case, a jury can have a hard time sending a kid to prison for LWOP. More expensive experts are required and the trial lasts longer and costs the county more money. It is much easier to "just" send the kid away for 40 years. Put it this way, if the max was something like "slowly tortured to death" then the conviction RATE on max would be much lower and the cost of trial would be much higher.

So lets rate Bradley's motivation in order:
1. Conviction Rate
2. Budget Expenses
3. Long trials ruined my vacation plans
4. Compassion

Anonymous said...

with a picture like that you can have an excuse to do just about anything.