Sunday, February 07, 2010

Odds and Ends

Here are a few recent tidbits that deserve Grits readers' attention:

Dallas constables' ongoing fiasco
At the Dallas News, Ed Timms and Kevin Krause have the story of a deputy constable with a checkered past accused of committing several felony crimes, including "unauthorized use of two motor vehicles, tampering with government records and coercing two women into performing sexual acts instead of arresting them on outstanding warrants." (UPDATE 2/8: See a followup story.) Meanwhile his blustering boss Jaime Cortes told his troops that he doesn't fear being indicted or eating jail food, just in case that might be an issue. Another deputy constable is back on the force after $70K in drug money was found in her bedroom. And Dallas DA Craig Watkins was criticized last week by the Dallas News for using secret grand jury testimony in a civil action aimed at thwarting investigation of constables. I've not closely followed the fiascoes surrounding Dallas constables, but these stories provide a taste.

False alarm costs too high
In Frisco, according to the Dallas News Crime Blog, "
In 2009, the Frisco Police Department responded to 9,841 alarms and 99.6% of those were false alarms, city records show." The town will begin enforcing a new ordinance aiming at reducing false alarms on March 1. A better solution IMO would be requiring "verified response" by alarm companies before dispatching officers.

Public safety advice for Houston mayor
A real estate broker and a mechanical engineer recently offered up an interesting op ed suggesting how new Houston Mayor Annise Parker should reform the justice system.

Criminalizing auto accidents subjective
John Lomax at the Houston Press has an interesting article on the subjective nature of criminalizing auto accidents, to which Mark Bennett at Defending People reacted with a good discussion of the case at the center of the story and the cost-benefit analysis in which victims engage depending on who is footing the bill. Bennett also has some A+ quotes in the text of the story.

Business leaders for "right-sizing" prisons
The Pew Center on the States last month published a document called "Right-sizing prisons: Business leaders make the case for corrections reform."

Why is crime declining?
The Crime Report this week had a pair of stories analyzing causes of "The Great American Crime Drop." See parts one and two.

Since when are Americans afraid of trials?
Houston attorney Patrick McCann wonders "since when are Americans afraid of trials?" He argues: "
We did not hold trials at the end of World War II for the Nazi leadership in order to punish the guilty; no punishment in the power of man would have been adequate for that. We held them so that there would be a record for all to see and for all to know, that these things actually happened, and so that the world would not forget. We do that now for Bosnia, and for Sierra Leone, and for East Timor, and we must do it for the crimes that those who support al-Qaida have committed. We must do that so no one will forget and so that the world will see what these men are."

DNA database expansion diverts focus from crimesolving
Julia Davis at the LA Homeland Security Examiner says the focus on expanding DNA databases - including for infants and petty criminal offenses - has diminished the tool's effectiveness at solving crimes and resulted in massive backlogs that delay and thwart justice.

The LA Times suggests that shoes hung by their laces on utility wires are the "new graffiti"(though there's nothing really new about it). I tend to agree with the commenter who reacted: "
Really? The shoes are the eyesore? What about the ugly canvas of wires they are hanging on? The shoes are the focus because, suddenly, people can no longer ignore the tangle of wires and optical cables that we allow to save the utilities the cost of burying them which they are required to do in more exclusive communities. It is the wires, not the shoes."


Anonymous said...

I just read the article about the criminalization of auto accidents. I applaud the Houston DA's office for attempting to bring some sanity and common sense to the issue. But, there is a much bigger issue that concerns me. That being disparate treatment under the criminal justice system. If the lady in that case had been a wealthy, influential member of the community I think it would have been very unlikely that she would have ever been charged. Or, if she had been a law enforcement officer, public office, judge, etc. the idea of criminal charges wouldn't have been given much thought. This idea applies to more than just traffic accidents. Police and prosecutors have a lot of discretion in many situations and often the decision to prosecute someone is determined by the socioeconomic status, standing in the community or other factors. I'm thinking of one really good example. I recall several years ago a daycare worker in the Dallas area was prosecuted because she left a very young child in a van and the child died. In Smith County a reserve police officer did the same thing but was not even indicted. I'm not suggesting that a case such as that should be handled one way or the other, just that if someone does the same thing that someone else does they should be treated the same. Either both cases should have been prosecuted or both cases should not have been prosecuted. Unfortunately, the idea of equal treatment under the law is nothing more than a fantasy.

Faith_No_More said...

Many victims, not all, have a thirst for vengeance and feel slighted if the authorities don't give it to them. The courts shouldn't be used as part of the grieving process. The Courts are supposed to be about The Rule of Law. "It's not about what you know, it's about what you can prove."