Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Exoneree's false conviction based on prosecutor misconduct, and other stories

As Grits slows down for the holiday, here are a number of items that aren't going to make it into their own, individual posts before the turkey carving but still merit Grits readers' attention.

Latest exoneree's false conviction based on prosecutor misconduct, mendacious jailhouse snitches
Kenneth Boyd, Jr., of Center, who was falsely convicted of two homicides in 1999, will be released today on a personal recognizance bond awaiting his formal exoneration by the Court of Criminal Appeals, reported the Longview News-Journal. The false conviction stemmed from a combination of alleged prosecutorial misconduct and unreliable jailhouse snitches: "In June, Shelby County 273rd District Court Judge Charles Mitchell found that former Shelby County District Attorney Karren Price had suppressed evidence." Congratulations to Mr. Boyd and his legal team on this hard-fought victory.

Doomsday deal on Waco jail coming home to roost
In Waco, McLennan County commissioners cite cost overruns at the jail "as a major cause of the 2-cent property tax increase in this year’s budget." Grits has long been critical of the "doomsday deal" that put Mclennan County in such a bind, this summer calling it a "slow motion train wreck."

John Bradley among medical parole decisionmakers
The Houston Chronicle has an article providing perspectives on whether and/or how medical parole might be expanded in Texas. Among the tidbits Grits learned that jumped out at me, "Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley, who serves on a panel that makes recommendations on medical releases to the parole board, would like to require inmates to waive their medical privacy rights 'to make the process more transparent.'" Grits had no idea JB was somehow involved in that decisionmaking process. Talk about a finger in every pie!

Long-time Tyler Sheriff looks back, says 'adios'
The Tyler Morning Telegraph has a retrospective on outgoing Smith County Sheriff J.B. Smith, who's nearing retirement, gathering his recollections on living in the courthouse next to the jail with his family at the beginning of his career in the '70s. Nothing in the story on the more controversial aspects of Smith's career, but an interesting retrospective from a retiring East Texas lawman.

County jail privatization: Healthcare edition
Hays County may privatize healthcare at the county jail, although contrary to trends elsewhere in the state, "The jail's medical expenses have decreased about 5 percent in recent years, from $875,200 in the 2010 fiscal year to $830,600 in 2011 and $828,500 in the 2012 budget year ending in September."

About that deer ...
In Tyler, "A former Texas Department of Public Safety trooper, who told his coworkers he wrecked his patrol car earlier this month while trying to avoid a deer, has been arrested for driving while intoxicated and resigned his position as a result of the investigation into the accident."

The Fourth Amendment and drug testing welfare moms
Following up on a subject Grits opined upon here, a column in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram examines the question of drug testing welfare recipients and the Fourth Amendment banning unreasonable searches and seizures. SCOTUS has banned requiring drug tests of politicians, but allowed it for students as a bar to participating in extra-curricular activities. In Michigan, SCOTUS threw out a law requiring drug testing of welfare recipients in 2003, and a federal court has prevented a similar Florida law passed in 2011 from taking effect until the issue can be litigated. Excellent background on what's shaping up to be one of the more contentions issues of the session.

Debating format of judicial elections
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram editorialized against state Sen. Dan Patrick's suggestion for eliminating straight ticket voting in judicial elections, an idea I tend to support. Their reasoning was that they'd prefer an appointment system with voting down the line for retention. In theory, I would too. But eliminating straight ticket voting is a step in the right direction. Making those races non-partisan IMHO would be even better.

DPS stands alone on helicopter sniper policy
It turns out, "Texas is the only border state that allows and trains its officers to fire on suspects from airborne helicopters." a policy that recently didn't turn out so well.

Poor conditions cited at TX immigration detention centers
The Texas Tribune reported on alleged inhumane conditions at two privately operated immigration detention facilities - one in Houston and Polk County.

Studies backing bail bond methods flawed
According to The Crime Report, "Six studies that are often cited in support of the for-profit bail bonding industry have methodological flaws that make them unreliable, according to a paper published by the non-profit Pretrial Justice Institute" See the analysis itself here (pdf).

'Aggregation and urban misdemeanors'
In her latest paper, legal academic Alexandra Natapoff, one of Grits' favorite legal thinkers, considers   the extent to which high-volume court systems create "pressure to aggregate" misdemeanor cases in ways that may weaken "and sometimes eliminates individuated scrutiny of defendants and the evidence in their cases; people are largely evaluated, convicted, and punished by category and based on institutional habit."

Graffiti here, there and yon
With the UT-A&M football rivalry off and the Aggies thriving in the SEC (albeit with the bitter taste of last year's sendoff in the UT game perhaps still smarting just a tad), I was almost pleased to see that at least some Aggie students care enough about the rivalry to come to Austin to tag the UT campus in lieu of an on-the-field confrontation. UTPD released a photo searching for suspects. Several other graff-related items recently caught Grits' eye: President Obama was greeted with graffiti in Myanmar. In Virginia, someone tagged a statue of Robert E. Lee with the phrase "beefcake." A woman in Florida who was angry at the judge in her divorce case went on a graffiti spree at the county courthouse. Finally, Boing Boing has a picture of this awesome Mickey Mouse/skull graffiti from San Francisco, with which we'll close out the post:

Via Boing Boing, art by Goser.


Anonymous said...

In regard to "The Fourth Amendment and drug testing welfare moms", I'm required to pass a drug test every two years before I can hold an active pilot's medical certification. Why can't we require welfare recipients to do the same? You can argue that with me, it's a safety issue flying an airplane. But, I can also argue that it's a safety issue with some welfare mom weaving down the road high on who knows what, with her kids in the car, and other walking down the street.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

9:21, the Fourth Amendment says searches by the government must be "reasonable," and the court has said to overcome the presumption against searching the government must show a "special need." Clearly they've found sufficient justification of "special need" to require drug testing of pilots, like it or not. But for politicians, for example, the court said there was no job-related special need, and in the Michigan case SCOTUS said the same thing vis a vis welfare moms. At a minimum, the state should wait to see what the federal courts do with the Florida case before plowing forward with another ill-conceived red-meat-for-the-primaries plan that will only get bench slapped by the federal courts (Voter ID, anyone?).

Gritsforbreakfast said...

BTW, given that any citizen would be a danger if they're "weaving down the road" on drugs, etc., why isn't your comment an argument for universal drug testing of everyone? Where does it end, if that's the standard?

slashlaroo said...

Schools drug test the kids probation drug test but they test for metabolites not the drug it self..so if i eat beans produce methane gas and eat something else and and do the same ..they are testing are bodies..by the way money gots cocaine not metabolites on it test that isnt that possession almost everyone got money oh ya a DJ told me any amount even trace amount is against texas law .highly unlikely

sunray's wench said...

John Bradley among medical parole decisionmakers

Talk about a conflict of interests! I knew he'd be involved with TDCJ somewhere though, he's the kind of person they like to promote. Give it a couple of years and he'll probably have Rissie's job.

Anonymous said...

RE: " false conviction based on prosecutor misconduct"

But ... but ... it can't be! Prosecutor misconduct is extremely rare! The Da's association said so! /sarcasm

Anonymous said...

slashlaroo, man, you better hope they don't start testing the general public. It looks to me like you'd bang out.


Anonymous said...

RE drug testing food stamp recipients.

FL had a drug testing program for any assistance program and after 6 months they abandoned it,,because the UA costs exceeded the amount of tax dollars saved in cut off funding by 1500%,,and with numerous false positives that resulted in food and services denied to innocent children until the parent could find legal assistance and paid for another UA to contest the state administered drug test.

If drug screening punished drug users only then it would still be questionable policy but it hurts more innocent children than drug users.

They introduce these bills as a means of "saving tax dollars" when if you follow the money the UA industry is the only one that makes money from it.

And just because someone smoked a joint 2 weeks ago does not signal drug abuse anymore than the pilot above was drunk 8 hours after he had one martini.

And it's even worse to put children through the "wheel of fortune" CPA,,unless you just like to terrify children.

Anonymous said...

PS: We are attempting to remove marijuana being a justification for persecution by these laws and these laws will disappear when we succeed,,because those "drug tests" only catch marijuana users two weeks after use,,opium,meth and most pharmaceutical drugs are cleared from the users system in 3 days,,and that is why the UA industry is one of the big lobbyist hitting our legislators with funding to keep marijuana illegal and that is why even with a majority of American citizens supporting legalization our legislators ignore it.

Anonymous said...

On 11/20/2012 10:02:00 AM Grits said:

"BTW, given that any citizen would be a danger if they're "weaving down the road" on drugs, etc., why isn't your comment an argument for universal drug testing of everyone? Where does it end, if that's the standard?"

I know this sounds invasive, but it might not be such a bad idea for the consumer. For instance, I fly over 12k miles per year. My pilot insurance carries a one million dollar liability policy, and a 500k personal injury per occupant in the airplane. It also insures the plane for 100k total loss. The good news is this insurance only costs me 655 dollars/year. Why so cheap? Because I have a physical exam, comprehensive vision test, and drug test every two years.

Anonymous said...

I do not think it matters who is on the parole board or incharge of it either. Who in the right mind would want that job? Let me see? Evil people or people who got picked on in school? Now they get their chance to get even with folks? They fail to obey the state codes that are written and by pass them playing second judge. The Bio's for many of them have colleges know one has ever heard from and to be blunt, they are just on step away from prison themselves. I never heard a kid in my life tell me, when I grow up I want to work in a prison or be a parole board member. That is a job of last resort in loserville, Texas. Because Texas is the only state in this country with no parole board decision recourse or appeal, none of their doings can be held accountable for by the Public Records Act, this system is ripe for corruption. And it is corrupt.

benbshaw said...

"But eliminating straight ticket voting is a step in the right direction. Making those races non-partisan IMHO would be even better."

Judges in places such as Harris County don't like it when they are elected primarily because of their party affiliation and they are defeated 4 years later "when the worm turns" because of their party affiliation.

Sadly, I have seen no studies that point to differences between the decisions of Democratic versus Republican judges. Their behavior is governed by who they receive campaign contributions from and by the peer pressure from the bar from others on the bench rather their their party affiliation.

The "promotion" process of who runs for the position of a judge usually follows the path from J.P., County Judge, or D.A., which are partisan positions. So unless you make those offices non-partisan, you would not get rid of the role of political parties in the selection of state judges.

The Governor fills vacancies, so partisan influence would still come into play though the Governor's appointment power.

Every since 60 minutes did its bogus expose of the Texas Supreme Court in the 1980s, the control of the Supreme Court went from the trial lawyers to the corporate bar.

See: http://www.judicialselection.com/judicial_selection/campaigns_and_elections/campaign_financing.cfm?state=TX

Today, every Texas Supreme Court Judge is a Republican. The result of this change has been a free ride for corporations and a hostile reception for consumers, employees, environmental groups, and small businesses and farmers.

There are different sympathies, leanings, and ways of looking at legal issues that express themselves in how judges make decisions.

Doing away with partisan elections would not improve Justice in Texas but would reenforce the existing power structure in Texas. As long as the partisan elections exist, there is an outside chance that a new people's movement might arise to elect judges who aren't beholden to big corporations and who seek to ensure that the voices of the "little guy" are given more respect and consideration when judges decide a case than is now the case.

As a new political party in Texas, the Justice Party of Texas is working for Justice in our legal system and in the area of jobs, the environment, and for a world living in Peace.

Check us out on Facebook at:


Thomas R. Griffith said...

Hey Grits, thanks for the dumpola. I predict 'this' GFB commment section will surpass 50 to 100 in less than a week, due to the choices.

*(Did you hear about PETA's anti turkey pardon message to {President Obama?)

Hmmm. JPoT, while I won't be Facebooking anyone, I'll definately be checking you out. Until then, I'm hoping that I don't end up learning that you are Cherry Picking for Justice / Innocence, and / or nothing but Rs or Ds in sheep's clothing. We've had enough of that and that's that. Thanks.

Thomas R. Griffith said...

Regarding Judges. Despite having a couple as close friends, I have one in mind that is worthy of mentioning in relation to the *electing or *appointing dilemma.
The HPD Detective that is shown railroading me (step-by-step) in the 10 pg. HPD Incident Report, was allowed to go to Law School (while Un-Detecting). He retired and became a Divorce attorney / lawyer in business with his spouse. The dumb-ass Harris County voters' elected him to serve on a bench shortly afterwards. I know, WTF? I could be wrong, but had he been considered for *appointment, I believe his past would have been revealed in the associated vetting process performed by the opposition.

His campaign website listed an anonymous woman that he claims to have helped while a Detective and it turned her life around. If it were mandatory that 'all' voters were required to vet prior to voting vs. simply going with what their parents voted on, or boss suggested, this MoFo wouldn't be a friggin Judge. *Three reporters at the rag - 'Chronicle' had the Report prior to the Debates but chose to ignore it due to the year of his crime(s) & their editorial board’s support of his party.

Texas aka: "the great state of confusion" - where inexperienced Divorce attorneys / lawyers are allowed to 'Dabble' in Criminal Law and this rogue Detective turned attorney / lawyer to ascend to a bench without a clue as to how to be a Judge. And goofballs vote just to be voting. The joke is on Texas as a whole while the Tab is always on the taxpayers. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I received this in an email. Thought I'd share it with you all.


From The Desk of Governor Rick Perry

Greetings Dearest Supporter,

As you are surely aware, we recently suffered an epic loss in the presidential election. And a large portion of the electorate was poor, and now we intend to exact revenge by making life here in Texas so difficult that many will choose to simply leave our great state before their votes take its toll on our beloved Texas Republican Party.

Indeed, we are on the threshold of a new era here in Texas. One where we'll no longer hide our contempt for the poor and those despicable minorities. Our hatred of these groups can now be publicly displayed just as it has been all along against gays and women. Gone are the days when we disguised our Klan background while thumping a Bible. Today we embark on a new and welcome journey to the Darkest Side. Today, we begin starving the poor.

Through intense research we have learned that uneducated and ill-informed Texans will support our new tactics of further limiting the resources for the poor. And uneducated voters along with those who believe in fairy tales (Christians) are our base. As you know, during the Civil Rights Revolution we opposed equal rights for Negroes, and only changed our position and admitted we were wrong once we realized that the majority in this country weren't racist like us. But, this is Texas, and we have the Redneck Factor working for us here.

Soon those who need public assistance will be required to submit urine and blood specimens which will then be analyzed to check for the presence of drugs. Then, we'll have all the women submit to sonogram testing to insure their continued intimidation and harassment.

And here's the best part, we'll create a brand new government agency which will employ thousands of workers to administer the drug testing thus further increasing the size of our great government with a budget of some 50-million dollars annually. And I'll get to place my cronies in cherry, money-controlling positions who will of course siphon a few million to donate to my reelection campaigns. See what us Texas republicans can do when we put our heads together!

Yours In God Almighty$,

Governor Rick Perry