Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Odds and Ends

Here are a handful of odds and ends that merit Grits readers attention:

Third Court of Appeals reducing backlog
After lagging behind other courts in case backlogs for years, under its new chief justice Austin's 3rd Court of Appeals is making a dent in its older cases. The 8th Court of Appeals out of El Paso now has the longest delays.

Batson not just an issue in old cases
Racial discrimination in jury selection by Dallas prosecutors continued at least until 2002, according to a ruling by a federal appeals court. Judge Catarina Haynes ruled in a so-called Batson challenge that "the state's reasons for striking [black jurors] ... were implausible or invalid, and therefore were pretexts for discrimination." What's more, the story mentions "a 2005 investigation by The Dallas Morning News that found prosecutors excluded blacks from juries at twice the rate they excluded whites.

Pick 'em
Speaking of juries, The Jury Expert has republished Mark Bennett's 16 Simple Rule for Better Jury Selection, which includes an interesting set of responses from various jury consultants.

Steroid investigation ignores juiced cops to go after athletes
Reporters are still trying to link the late steroid dealer David Jacobs out of Plano to professional athletes - most recently Michael Vick - but everybody seems to have forgotten, and stopped investigating, Jacobs' allegations that he'd sold steroids to police officers at five Metroplex departments, only one of which later implemented steroid testing. It continues to amaze me that Texas mandates testing for high-school athletes but not for police officers, though there's a much greater demonstrated problem with the latter than the former.

The Junk Science Conundrum
Jordan Smith at the Austin Chronicle has coverage of the Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee hearing a couple of weeks back on the standards for introducing forensic evidence into court.

Jailed in Wichita County
The Wichita Falls Times Record News published a detailed story walking through the intake process at the Wichita County Jail.

Dallas prosecutor allegedly coached witness, concealed other suspect
The sole witness in a 1995 murder case now says he didn't see the defendant and picked him out "because that was what I was instructed to do by the prosecutor and not because I recognized him as being the shooter." The defendant "was freed after Dallas County prosecutors began to re-examine his case when a memo was found in a police file identifying someone else as a suspect. That memo was never turned over to his defense team as required by law."

Bexar jail suicides up
The year 2009 witnessed the highest number of suicides at the Bexar County Jail in a decade - six, which is the same number they'd seen over the previous five years.

Snitching: Criminal informants and the erosion of American justice
Alexandra Natapoff as a post at TPM Cafe Book Club promoting the themes in her new book, an also provides a link to the excerpted introduction.

Death penalty for corporations?
Now that the Supreme Court has ruled that corporations are people for First Amendment purposes, a satirist wonders if companies can receive the death penalty when they kill?


doran said...

In re: death penalty for corporations? Sure, why not? The penalty would be executed by placing the corp in receivership, liquidating all of the corporate assets, forfeiting share-holders' interests, paying off all [non-political] debts, and revoking the corporation's charter.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Well Doran, that's one option.

The satirist in question suggested that "At its trial in Houston, the entire company, from CEO to janitorial staff, was sentenced to die by lethal injection after its insanity plea was snickered at by a jury. It is now filing appeals and praying a lot while incarcerated in expanded death rows at two suddenly overcrowded Texas prisons."

That said, I think your suggestion would create a bigger deterrent.

doran said...

btw. Corporations have enjoyed "personhood" for a long time. The most recent and stupid decision of SCOTUS about this subject went to the logical conclusion that if corporations are persons, they cannot be deprived of freedom of speech. And SCOTUS has previously held that spending money on political campaigns is a form of speech.

Anonymous said...

Doran, Corporations are "associations" of people,
SCOTUS made the correct decision in that a group of people can colloborate to produce political ads whether they are collectively referred to as a corporation or not.
As far as I know, the cameramen, scriptwriters, and actors in the Movie "Hillary" were people not "corporations", what does a "corporation" look like in the flesh anyway.

The argument that "corporations" will "unduly" influence elections is bogus as ultimatly, it is the individual voter who makes the final decision. This position smacks of paternalism as it implies voters can be forced to vote the "wrong" way as determined by ??.
I also doubt corporations will rush out to spend big bucks on political campaigns as they have worry about PR.
Disclosure requirements still apply so an attack ad with the disclaimer "paid for by Dr. Evil Industries" will still be required.


John said...

Sure, why not?

How about Wal-Mart for President? Hmm, not sure Wal-Mart meets the Constitutional requirement of age.

OK, how about GE for President?

In America anybody can be president.

doran said...

Duane, a corporation is an entity wholly apart from the people who own the corp's stock. That is pretty basic stuff, you know.

Hook Em Horns said...

Grits...if you think we have a problem staffing prisons, just go after juiced-cops, we wont have ANY!

Anonymous said...

PEOPLE can now corroborate or "conspire" to make political "speech" whether they are organized as a corporation or not.
The Constitution does not exclude "corporations". I suppose a talking horse would also have freedom of speech.
Even illegal aliens can speak freely in this country.
SCOTUS got it right. If you don't like want "corporations" have to say then don't listen to them.
Jeez, I can't believe how controversal this decision was.

doran said...

Duane, I just looked through the copy of the US Constitution that I keep close at hand. There is nothing in there as far as I could find, about corporations having freedom of speech. Or about horses, or jackasses, having freedom of speech. There is a lot of language about people and persons, some of whom are unfortunately jackasses, having freedom of speech. If you think that the Founding Brothers were concerned about the freedoms and liberties of corporations, or horses, rather than of people, then explain to us why there are no references to such. And also give us a clue as to where you studied American Constitutional History.

The US Supreme Court, years and years ago, in a fit of judicial activism, held that corporations are "persons" protected by the US Constitution from governmental interference with those rights guaranteed to persons by the Constitution. Later, SCOTUS determined that spending money to support a candidate or a proposition is a form of speech. These decision pre-saged the most recent SCOTUS decisions about campaign expenditures by corporations and make that opinion perfectly consistent with the prior opinions.

I hope you can appreciate the sophomoric linguistic contortions which this Nation's highest Court went through: A legal entity with no brain, no blood coursing through veins which don't exist, no skin and no digestive system is nontheless a "person." This line of reasoning makes your suggestion, that horses are also persons under the protection of the Constitution, more likely to come to fruition. PETA must be in ecstasy by now.

I look forward to the day when someone will get a court to agree, based upon these SCOTUS opinions, that trees are persons and that trees indeed do have standing to sue the corporate persons who prey upon them.

The decision by SCOTUS that spending money on elections is a form of Constitutionally protected speech, makes a lot of sense when applied to real people. It allows us a concrete way to express our support for candidates and propositions. The application of this decision to corporate entities which [or would it be 'who'] spend money on elections was a perfectly logical - even if sophistic - extension of the theory that corporations are persons.

What I find curious is the surprise on the part of a lot of people about the recent decision. Some of us saw it coming years ago; we all should have expected it.

What I find even more surprising is the opinion, such as yours, that the concern that ' "corporations" will "unduly" influence elections is bogus.' Your opinion suggests a great big blind spot in your understanding of the role money plays in elections. Why do you think politicians raise and spend millions of dollars to get elected? If money did not play such a huge role, we would not even be having this conversation because no one, including corporations, would ever have litigated the matter.

Of course unlimited corporate donations will affect elections. That is what political propaganda is all about, and the more propaganda a candidate or a candidate's supporters can buy, the more likely they are to win.

And how can you possibly deny the possibility of seriously perverse influence on American elections of money in vast amounts from corporations which may not be owned AT ALL by Americans? Under the SCOTUS ruling, corporations under the control of foreign governments, foreign persons, foreign corporations, and foreign enemies, will have a grand opportunity to elect the people to Congress whom they want in Congress. Al Queda, for instance, could form a corporation in Somalia, and fund the elections to Congress of enough dumb-asses to cripple this Nation's military security. Does this give you a good feeling, Duane?

RAS said...

8:26 I believe the corps. have to be incorporated in the U.S., for what ever restriction that imposes. As far as opposing corporate influence;Time-Warner is a corporation as is Fox and NBC. Maybe this just balances out the influence of elitist journalists who are more propagandists than fact reporters.