Sunday, September 01, 2013

Assessing Texas' legislative session on criminal-justice reform

A Dallas Morning News editorial in yesterday's paper titled "Transforming Texas' criminal justice landscape," opened with this promising assessment:
Texas’ law-and-order reputation is well-deserved, deriving from the nation’s busiest death chamber and an incarceration rate that towers over nearly every other nation on the planet.

Yet the state is slowly earning recognition on another level — the smart-on-crime level — where both ends of the political spectrum question the wisdom of warehousing low-level offenders and where individual rights are not smothered by the power of the state.

This year’s Legislature enacted dozens of new laws, most of which take effect Sunday, that help move Texas from an outlier on criminal justice and further into a position of leadership in some areas.

The reasons are many. An emotional driver is Texas’ embarrassment of having freed more innocent prisoners on DNA evidence than any other state. Then there is the emerging liberal-conservative alliance that has made headway in demanding more effective and affordable ways to address crime than keeping jails and prisons stuffed.
Grits mentioned earlier that Texas has now accomplished five of six main recommendations from the Timothy Cole Advisory Panel, with recording police interrogations for serious offenses the last, extant item. And Texas rapid de-incarceration among juvenile offenders, highlighted in this DMN graphic, has been something to behold, all accomplished during a period when juvenile crime declined. The paper also praised a new statute limiting Class C tickets written by ISD cops for violating school rules.

On the adult side, Texas  receives credit nationally from people as diverse as Grover Norquist and Eric Holder for its 2007 probation reforms. But Texas has failed to double-down on that much-ballyhooed strategy. While Texas' 2007 reforms merit praise, there have been three legislative sessions since then in which nothing more has been done on that front. Texas has not reduced adult incarceration levels nearly as boldly as we have on the juvenile side. In the meantime, California has been forced to de-incarcerate under a federal court order, leaving Texas with significantly more people locked up than the Golden State, despite their larger population.

The News highlighted a budget item that hasn't received a great deal of attention: "Lawmakers also freed up court fees that had previously been collected for an indigent defense account but were held hostage to balance the state budget. The infusion allowed the Texas Indigent Defense Commission to boost its annual formula allocation to counties for public defenders by $15 million, reaching $35 million this year. Well-known as a tough conservative, Sharon Keller, presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, lobbied hard for those dollars." The editorial concluded:
That doesn’t mean the 2013 Legislature couldn’t have done more to reform criminal justice. It left important items on the table, such as bills to decriminalize possession of trace amounts of illegal drugs and to reclassify possession of small amounts of marijuana as a fine-only misdemeanor. Another would have created a panel to study court-confirmed exonerations to find more ways of improving the justice system. The time may come for those proposals, and this newspaper is hopeful.

Texas prisons still hold more people than the populations of Richardson, Colleyville and Addison combined — with 67,000 more in county jails. It’s a relief, at least, that lawmakers seem to realize that enough is indeed enough.
That's a pretty good assessment of where we are. The Texas Legislature has largely reached a consensus that incarceration shouldn't be further expanded. The open question is whether they can muster the political will, as they did in the juvenile arena, to roll it back.

MORE: I can't recall if I've supplied Grits readers with a link to the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition's 20-page summation of what the 83rd Texas Legislature did on criminal justice, but here is is (pdf) if you're interested.


Anonymous said...

If Texas "towers over nearly every other nation on the planet", Harris County towers
over every other county in TX. The cases with no physical edidence, frequently
meaning factual innocence add to high incarceration, easy bucks for those handling cases plus frequently
undeserved status to predators of "justice".

Case B. Kelly Siegler. Sieg – win, German, former prosecutor of Harris County,
courtroom theatrics junkie. For years and years Siegler’s strategy was to sling
every kind of dirt she could possibly imagine about most monstrous people on this
planet at this particular accused and watch what sticks. She is a documented
liar as was reported to the bar. Siegler must have been disbarred ages ago. Her
strategy of character assassinations disconnected from facts and based of creative
lying was cheerfully followed to the new extremes by scores of baby prosecutors
she mentored in Harris County though years in office because Siegler’s example
relieved them of meaningful responsibility. Then and now her disciples are handling
largely plea bargaining (>97% of all cases) where meaningful justice is mostly not
possible at all due to high caseloads and various synergies of greed, lust for
power, job security stimuli resulting in good profits for “The Bank” (Harris
County’s wink-and-nod lifelong circle of judges, prosecutors, sheriffs, bail
bondsmen, “defense” attorneys etc) and low quality of consideration. All that
contributed to the holocaust of moral values and ultimately to routine conviction
of innocents on scale with no precedent. No evidence linking accused to crime? No
physical evidence that crime took place, except bold lies of sheriffs? The
railroading routine in Harris County is to apply pressure and torture, use leverage
of charges out of nothing, make threats including to family members, use bold,
creative lying and creative approach when handling with cases with no evidence.

One thing about this practice is about ones who factually committed crimes,
completely another about factually innocent people.

Siegler lead “the team of winners” in 2007 leading to conviction of innocent man
David Temple in the case of murder of his pregnant wife Belinda Temple in 1999. "The
team of winners" that brought to the courtroom notebooks featuring “The Terminator”
scenes as ScreenSavers had no physical evidence, no DNA, no murder weapon, no
confession, no physical evidence, no witnesses, no nothing. In hindsight, he was
convicted to life for affair with a high school teacher. The major “evidence” that
lead to initial indictment, the gunshot residue, was withdrawn by the lab, expert
was decertified, new tests were negative. In the fair play scenario, the indictment
must have been canceled, but it is common place that lies can lead to indictments,
and convictions of innocents in Harris County.

Exculpatory evidence was suppressed. It included (1) the son of David & Belinda,
about four-year-old child, close to the scene did not witness anything unusual
including gunshot, his behavior was normal, (2) the three (!) back fence neighbors
from Roberts family, children from 6 to 9 years, heard a gunshot at about 4:30 PM
when David was videotaped in the remote store with his son, (3) no substance from the
very bloody scene where Belinda’s cranium was practically emptied by the gunshot from
a shotgun, and left big facial cavity, was found on David’s dress, body etc. There are
also independents who think that the most important exculpatory evidence was that
David Temple could not commit such horrendous act due to his character, albeit in
some instances improper or bad or very bad, and background.

End of the part VI of indictments.

Anonymous said...

The case was railroaded to make the victim a suspect, with focus on one suspect by
Special Squad from Harris County sheriff’s department that included (1) Leithner,
German, honcho of the gang, (2) Holtke, grinning, smirking German, resident of Katy,
whose ex-wife knew David Temple at Katy high school, who apparently did not like David
even before the incident, and came to the scene an hour before the other investigators,
(3) flattop Schmidt, German, with experience dealing with narcotics possession victimless
artificial “crimes”, the case was his first homicide case, he apparently had no experience
with staged burglaries, (4) the squad included a female taxeater, also novice in
homicides who previously majored in sheriff’s department as undercover prostitute yet
was more attracted by higher than $70K salary in homicides division, (5) Thomas Thomas,
German, then sheriff of Harris County who avoided criminal prosecution for the destruction
of emails in sheriff’s department in connection with disgraceful downfall of former DA
of Harris County Rosental, and used slave labor for maintenance of his multiple ranches
and haciendas, including one in Katy. He influenced David’s wrongful indictment and
charge with murder, even attended court sessions. Charging and prosecution of innocents
had steadily increased during his “reign” over his cozy little Germany, also known as
Harrisburg County.

Investigator Holtke, as Katy resident, came to the scene an hour before the other
investigators and had the opportunity to stage the scene acting alone. Harris County’s
sheriffs are notorious for making bold lies, staging, framing, mutual cover-ups, and
wink-and-nod interactions with DA office and career judges. The motivations are promotions,
diversification of lifelong taxeating experiences plus possible title of “my favorite
mascot” from the sheriff of Harris County.

David Temple had a next door neighbor, sixteen-year-old teenager, who had issues with
Belinda (1) it’s documented when Belinda wanted to talk to him she wanted a witness,
though met him in school every day, (2) Belinda reported to his parents that he missed
more than 100 classes in school, and teenager was denied driving a truck, caged in
home (3) he littered Belinda’s backyard with stuff including bottles, (4) put down
with friends Christmas decorations that were in front of Belinda & David’s house weaks
before, (5) his testimony at trial nine years later was logically inconsistent because
he said at one point he was not angry with Belinda, but then he said she angered him,
(6) he is remarkably cold-blooded, reportedly had an experience burglarizing homes, and
was reportedly on juvie probation. Some of his mugshots:

The fence between his backyard and Belinda’s backyard was an easy exercise. What was
special is that the window from his one-story house faced DIRECTLY Belinda’s backyard,
half above the fence. All above does not make the teenager the killer beyond all doubt,
but he apparently had a motive and opportunity, could watch who is coming into and out
of Belinda’s house all the time.

He might have known, as everybody in the high school, that David had an affair. Watching
crime scene investigations on TV frequently, he could calculate that David will be the
prime suspect, almost certainly if the scene is evidently staged as burglary. When the
killer planned the crime, he apparently could plan to frame somebody else, make the
scene as faked burglary. He could easily inspect the lock on Temple’s house days before.
The neighbor could see that Shaka, Temples’ dog, is locked in the garage, or he could
sedate him. If the dog were in the backyard, he would enter the house through open
broken door leaving blood footprints.

End of the part VII of indictments.

Anonymous said...

What Sanders told is contradictory, he admitted lies, failed all three polygraph tests,
including the question “Do you know who killed Belinda?”, he was at home when Belinda
came home about 4PM, and when David left shortly after. He could monitor their backyard,
door, and their comings through his window facing their backyard. Between 4.30PM and 6PM
Sanders is at home (about 4.30PM is the time when three Roberts neighbors heard the
gunshot) and Sanders reportedly changed clothes during the same interval. According to
Sanders between 4.30PM and 6PM he slept. Apparently no one investigated the fence
between Temples and Sanders, no one made a search of Sanders’ house shortly after.

It is not clear who staged the scene. Though Holtke and Sanders both had the opportunity,
it's somewhat more likely that the killer did it because he came to the house with a
shotgun ready to use it likely planning to blame someone else.

There are reports that conviction of an innocent person is a sign of distinction for a
prosecutor in Harris County DA office, "the transcendental experience" as they call it.
Prosecutor Sieglier in her theatrics mode made all kind of lies about innocent man David
Temple. She made up a toxic salad from the similar case in CA, played the theme of Templars
calling the family of victim "Templars" invoking a case exactly 700 years ago made familiar
by the popular movie at the time of trial yet completely unrelated & immaterial to the
case, and further practiced with her favorite character assassination lies with help
of her staff behind notebooks with "The Terminator" themes. Remarkably, her consciousness
sees a big problem with Sanders’ failures on polygraph as her facial expressions show
regardless of what she says. Her reckless desire to win regarless of the facts, plain &
simple conceit, disrespect to human life, aggravated criminal negligence played a major
role in the outcome. Siegler and the lifelong taxeating gang are guilty of sending the
the innocent man to prison for life, one of the most heinous types of crimes. They belong
in prison, they are slaves of their crimes and sins.

End of the part VIII of indictments.

Anonymous said...

Not sure if the Post is about her but does anyone one happen to know who trained Siegler?