Here are several stories that caught my eye lately that I don't have time to write about in detail but which deserve Grits readers' attention:
Rare execution stay to examine innocence claim
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals issued a rare execution stay in the case of Larry Swearingen, who contends he is actually innocent, reports the Texas Tribune. The basis for the appeal is that the medical examiner who testified at trial changed her opinion after she "reviewed new evidence and submitted an affidavit in which she concluded the murder happened within two weeks of the day Trotter's body was discovered." That would put the murder at a time when Swearingen was incarcerated on traffic warrants and couldn't have committed the murder. Prosecutors say other, circumstantial evidence was strong enough to convict, while the victim's Mom says of the court decision: "None of them have the balls" to execute Swearingen. (Not a critique you hear too often of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals!) The recanting ME reminds me a bit of another recent capital case where the ME changed testimony, but the CCA majority decided they didn't care.
Craig Watkins stonewalling Dallas News
Dallas DA Craig Watkins' decision to ice out the Dallas Morning News, which covers the activities of his office on a daily basis, is one of the most childish and bone-headed moves I've seen from a politician in many a year. The irony: They've got to fill up the space around the advertising either way, and they're still going to cover crime and courts, so all the DA has done is ensure that only his critics ad opponents are quoted when critical stories are published. Mr. Watkins is under the false impression that everyone who says an unflattering word about him, his office, his policies, his bizarre hot-and-cold media flirtations, etc., is his enemy. Sometimes, the ones consistently telling you the truth turn out to be your only friends.
Not all exonerees end up millionaires
The Dallas Observer has the story of one Texas' exonerees, Nax Karage, who didn't track the storyline of "newly minted millionaires riding off into the sunset and living out their lives in material comfort, if not true peace." Filing for compensation back when the state paid a flat $25K per year incarcerated, his family scraped by until the Tim Cole Act afforded him a monthly annuity in 2009 - around $2,400 per month for the seven years he was incarcerated. He considers it unjust that others got more, and I can understand why. But from a political perspective, it was a godsend just to get the annuity for those who'd already applied under previous compensation schemes. What made the Lege go for that much was the story of Wiley Fountain, who's also mentioned in the article. He'd accepted compensation but a couple of years thereafter was pushing a shopping cart around South Dallas, homeless. The annuity aimed to prevent that recurrence, and though I wish Karage received all he wanted, I'm certainly glad he got that much.
Jail space and bail amounts
Ramping up for a jail-bond vote in November, Coryell County officials are complaining to the local media that jail overcrowding is causing judges to set lower bails, but no judges interviewed agreed, according to the Killeen Daily Herald.
Searching teacher's laptop
The search of a teacher's laptop by school administrators in Ector County raises Fourth Amendment questions.
Moving Day at Al Price
Employees at the old TYC Al Price facility in Beaumont are packing up to leave for good. Their employment ends this week.
'The factor of faith in crime reduction'
Via Doug Berman, this subhed "is the headline of this recent op-ed in the Houston Chronicle by Byron Johnson, a Professor at Baylor University who is the author a notable new book titled 'More God, Less Crime: Why Faith Matters and How it Could Matter More.' (2011)."
Traced guns lead back to 'Fast and Furious'
The whole mess surrounding the feds' blown "Fast and Furious" gun smuggling investigation just gets worse and worse. Now the guns sold to Mexican cartels are beginning to show up frequently at crime scenes.
Can spooks track your phone without a warrant?
They say "maybe."