Sunday, April 25, 2010

Here and there: Briefs

Here are several items that would probably deserve full blog posts each if I had time:

Do we need constables in the 21st century?
The Amarillo Globe News renews a debate we've had here on Grits: Do we need constables in the modern era? Personally I think that in larger cities, especially, these obscure offices have seen mission creep and expansion of duties that is both risky and redundant for these smallish, typically less professional agencies.

Trusties and contraband
Mike Ward at the Statesman has a story on contraband smuggling via loosely guarded TDCJ "trusty camps," following up on an incident where a Sugarland inmate went to Walmart on a shopping excursion.

7-year sentence for prison guard who murdered co-worker
Two remarkable recent crime stories involving prison guards merit note: In Hale County a former prison guard was convicted and sentenced to seven years for murdering a former prison co-worker in what was described as an act of "sudden passion." (Compare that murder sentence to some recent Texas drug sentences handed down.) Interestingly, former Tulia prosecutor Terry McEachern defended the killer prison guard. Meanwhile, a Beaumont prison guard's wife who earlier had claimed arsonists burned down their home because of prejudice against law enforcement has now confessed to the crime.

The quandary presented by high-speed chases
Neither of these stories might merit a blog post in and of themselves, but together they're a timely reminder that police pursuits are a major source of on-the-job injury for officers, bystanders and suspects and need to be reined in. USA Today had a story this week titled "Deaths lead police to question high speed chases," while cops in Amarillo shot a teenager who rabbited and led them on a high speed chase after being pulled over for an alleged traffic violation. Police have said "there were other reasons officers wanted to speak with the driver of the van," which makes me wonder why they chose to approach him at a traffic stop when "on at least two other occasions have attempted to pull over the van only to have the driver flee"? If you know who the fellow is, why not approach him at his home or wait till he gets where he's going and exits the vehicle?

The days may soon be coming to an end when law enforcement feels justified tearing up the roadways after traffic violators like characters from Smokey and the Bandit or The Dukes of Hazard. There are too many things that can go wrong, and in many cases other ways to apprehend the suspects. The USA Today story found that, "Innocent bystanders account for one-third of those who are killed in high-speed police chases."

Should crimnal defense lawyers carry malpractice insurance?
Rick Casey at the Houston Chronicle focused recently on whether criminal defense lawyers should carry malpractice insurance. Mark Bennett explains why most in the criminal defense bar don't do so, but thinks maybe they should. One of Mark's commenters shrewdly pointed out that "It could be argued that one of the best defenses against malpractice suits is NOT having liability insurance: it makes it much harder to collect, and fewer lawyers would be willing to 'roll the dice.'”

Theft from who? Irrelevant, says appellate court
When attempting to convict a defendant of theft, must the state prove the alleged victim actually owned the property in question? Via Liberty and Justice for Y'all, we learn that the Fourth Court of Appeals out of San Antonio answered that question in the negative. Before now, according to the dissent, "In no recorded case has a court ever held a defendant guilty of theft absent proof of ownership as alleged and charged."


Anonymous said...

Titus County has about 426 square miles. There are currently two constables and jp's respectively.

On the other hand, I reside in Morris County, which borders Titus County, and believe my county is the 5th smallest county in Texas. We have four constables and jp's respectively and 259 square miles.

In 2009, Titus had 4,367 jp case filings with revenues of $1,005,865Morris had 1520 case filings with revenues of $236,204.

See where I'm coming from? How do you get rid of the offices other than them be vacant for a prescribed period of time?

With respect to pursuit policies, it would be interesting to learn how many le agencies in Texas do not have a written pursuit procedure.

I like the idea of not pursuing unless the suspect has committted a violent felony offense or the officer has articulable facts giving him probable cause to believe that a violent felony offense has occurred.

And before my fellow officers chime in here and say there would be more people running if their agency were to institute this procedure, let me point to the Dallas PD pursuit policy adopted in June 2006. It just ain't so.

All auto manufacturers should be encouraged to use the ONSTAR technology used by GM. ONSTAR can stop a vehicle for the police before it gets out of hand.

Hook Em Horns said...

Only in this ass-backward state would the penalty for murder be less than dope dealing.

Jennie said...

You might want to look at the following websites.

Of course my question would be - if you get rid of them then who would be serving all the divorce papers? (tongue in cheek).

Seriously would the counties then allocate that money to hire more police officers? Or would some counties lose a necessary force?

Anonymous said...

Criminal Defense is mal-practice.

Just a thought ;)