Saturday, April 13, 2013

Odds and Ends: Innocence, grand juries, union politics, and prison YIMBYs

Here are a few odds and ends that caught Grits' interest this week but did not make it into independent posts:

House should pass Senate reform measures
The Austin Statesman has an editorial about three commendable reform bills passed by the Texas Senate - discovery reform, habeas reform, and making sustained state bar complaints over Brady violations public - that deserve passage in the House, preferably quickly before some unforeseen meltdown occurs. Relatedly, a Texas filmmaker is working on a documentary about Dallas-area exonerees working to reform the justice system.

Say 'no' to secret tribunals
Big Jolly has a followup post to this Grits missive on a bad bill to keep grand jurors names permanently secret.

School cops lead to criminalizing nonviolent student behavior
The National Rifle Association has responded to school shootings in Newtown, CT and elsewhere by arguing for more armed police officers in schools. Using Texas as an example, this New York Times story contends that the biggest effect of stationing police officers in schools "has been a surge in arrests or misdemeanor charges for essentially nonviolent behavior — including scuffles, truancy and cursing at teachers — that sends children into the criminal courts." Further, “There is no evidence that placing officers in the schools improves safety,” said Denise C. Gottfredson, a criminologist at the University of Maryland who is an expert in school violence. “And it increases the number of minor behavior problems that are referred to the police, pushing kids into the criminal system.” See more from Unfair Park.

Deputy union reps fired, retaliation alleged
Allegedly the Nueces County Sheriff demoted then fired two union reps in retaliation for their endorsing his opponent. The Corpus Christi Caller Times story has links to original complaints from lawsuits the two men filed in response. Sounds like quite a mess.

Innocence and arson forensics
See a story from Popular Science about evolving arson science and actual innocence cases, focusing on the story of an Arizona man who was released 42 years after a wrongful conviction based on a fundamentally flawed, erroneous arson investigation.

You get what you pay for: Prison data edition
Rep. Four Price wants to amend the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Sunset bill to require data sharing architecture between TDCJ, the parole board, the Windham School District and correctional managed healthcare, contending that "The right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing." Ana Correa of the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition says this won't be free, as the Fiscal Note maintains, and that TDCJ does not have the capacity to do this in house.

The Romeo and Romeo defense
Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire's bill passed out of committee this week extending the "Romeo and Juliet" defense to the crime of "indecency with a child" to same sex partners. The Austin Statesman called it "gay rights" legislation and quoted an audience member who didn't testify but "fumed" outside the hearing about the "gay liberal agenda." That said, Grits wouldn't characterize this as a "gay rights" issue in the same way one might espouse the right to gay marriage, for example - a seemingly pointless parallel drawn in the article. There are no new "rights" being bestowed here, just an acknowledgement of reality. The only reason to oppose this bill is as a back-door means of criminalizing youthful gay relations, since after Lawrence v. Texas the state can't criminalize homosexuality in general.

Prison oversight bill in trouble
Star-Telegram columnist Bob Ray Sanders says prison oversight legislation (HB 877) is probably dead.

Prison YIMBYs
See a story out of Mineral Wells about local officials fighting to keep a private prison unit there open. The Texas Senate passed a budget which would close the facility while the House budget would keep it open.

Don't blame me, I voted for Charlie Baird
Travis County DA Rosemary Lehmberg was arrested for DWI last night.  Following the infamous Nestande case, with all the current demagoguery in and around Austin vis a vis DWI, this will get particularly ugly, I suspect. Good luck, Rose, you'll need it.

'How wireless carriers are monetizing your movements'
Reported the MIT Technology Review, "a growing number of mobile carriers are now carefully mining, packaging, and repurposing their subscriber data to create powerful statistics about how people are moving about in the real world." This illustrates how historical location data from cell phones is only getting more precise.


Anonymous said...

it's odd how government officials, etc can continue to keep their jobs and their careers aren't ruined...yet probation officers with same offense found guilty(even a deferred sentence) are not allowed to keep their employment or certification as an officer.

disqualifying criminal offenses:$ext.TacPage?sl=R&app=9&p_dir=&p_rloc=&p_tloc=&p_ploc=&pg=1&p_tac=&ti=37&pt=11&ch=344&rl=400

Anonymous said...

only in east Texas....

Anonymous said...

For those needing their weekly graffiti fix, consider this:

Graffiti force closure of Joshua Tree park sites

JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. (AP) — Acts of graffiti have become so pervasive at Joshua Tree National Park's most popular hiking spots that officials have had to close them to the public, and they blame the big bump in vandalism on social media.

Anonymous said...

How can a DA be arrested for breaking a fairly high profile law and still believe they should be allowed to continue their position as a Prosecutor? That alone makes my grey matter gooey.

Anonymous said...

Why would the TDCJ oversight bill not make it out of committee? What are they afraid of? Evidently there is a connection somewhere. Some body does not want the general public to find out what is happening behind those closed doors. An independent commission would expose this and our elected officials must be hiding something too. I wonder myself how can both a state law maker and a DA from Travis County be arrested for DWI’s and still keep their jobs? That is corruption in today’s politics. How many citizens lose their jobs because of DWI’s or goes to prison. Both those women should be sentence to the Crain Unit so they can see the horrors they both helped to create and sent so many other women to endure. Is our legislation hiding something and afraid of an independent oversight commission? Sure looks like it. An old man told me once and he was 86 years old, that in his life time he had never seen a politician who got elected to an office leave that office and not be a crook. The only difference with our elected officials and the people incarcerated is the fact that they have not been caught yet.