Thursday, October 17, 2013

Odds and ends: Guilt, innocence, bullying, forgiveness, and drug-war follies

Here are a few odds and ends that caught Grits' attention this week but didn't make it into independent blog posts:

Houston cop pleads guilty to on-duty rape after traffic accident
Ugliest police misconduct story I've read in a while. The cop received a ten-year sentence and will then spend 20 years on the sex-offender registry. His attorney "was hopeful his client will be paroled in two to three years. [former Ofc. Adan] Carranza could also be freed after six months if the judge agrees to 'shock probation,' which is sometimes used to scare first offenders straight without making them serve their entire sentence." That's certainly less than you or I'd have gotten, one imagines, had a civilian committed a rape caught on videotape.

More on whether anti-bullying programs are counterproductive
Grits had earlier cited initial news reports about research claiming anti-bullying programs may increase instead of decrease student victimization. Here's a link to the actual study.

Never too late?
Texas' longest-serving inmate - paroled after 64 years at age 85 - wants the courts to revisit his case, claiming the jury was "rigged.

Waco judges seek to stem costly jail overcrowding, clean up DA's mess
In Waco, District Attorney Abel Reyna has created a massive pileup in the county jail by insisting on such long sentences in routine cases that many defendants choose simply to take their cases to trial. The result: county jail cost overruns are causing property tax hikes with no end in sight. Now, local judges may address the issue by shifting civil judges to preside over trials in the criminal courts, reported the Waco Tribune Herald (Sept. 25). The county has also eliminated Friday "announcement dockets" which "were implemented so a defense attorney and a prosecutor could meet and plan the course of a case, whether setting a trial date or offering a plea deal." Going forward:
The lawyers now will meet throughout the week and turn in a form to the presiding judge indicating the offers that were made, Reyna said. ...

If defense attorneys fail to turn in the forms more than three times, they are taken off of the court-appointed attorney list, Reyna said.
Though the paper had Reyna announcing it, surely only judges could remove defense counsel from the appointment list. Reyna should thank his lucky stars the judges are trying to cover his rear since it's DA's office policies causing all of this. Frankly, I doubt it will be enough.

Ted Cruz 'favors very, very harsh penalties for stealing calculators'
Newsweek had a piece titled "Eight Things You Don't Know About Ted Cruz" which included this criminal-justice related tidbit about Texas' junior senator:
Cruz doesn't talk much about the case of Michael Haley, erroneously sentenced to 14 years in prison for stealing a calculator from Walmart when the maximum sentence was two years. Acknowledging the longer sentence was an error, Cruz nevertheless argued before the Supreme Court that Haley should serve the full 14 years, a position that prompted Justice John Paul Stevens to wonder whether the "state has forgotten its overriding 'obligation to serve the cause of justice.' " The court sent the case back to the lower court, which freed Haley.
Pardon my skepticism: Column pushes Willingham clemency application
Barry Scheck of the national Innocence Project and Texas exoneree Michael Morton had a column in the Houston Chronicle yesterday arguing for the governor to posthumously pardon Todd Willingham based on new evidence of alleged prosecutorial misconduct as well as the debunked arson testimony in his case.  Though I personally believe Willingham did not intentionally kill his children, at this point I think they'd have a better shot convincing Rick Perry to endorse Wendy Davis than to pardon a man he's publicly derided as a "monster." In the meantime, nobody ever seems to want to talk about the scores of other worthy, still-living pardon applicants who're routinely rejected - even after favorable recommendations from the Board of Pardons and Paroles - and almost never garner media attention.

Journalist seeks first-hand jail experience
A San Antonio Express News reporter spent the night in the Bexar county jail to give readers an idea of the experience. My favorite line: "Ventilation doesn’t seem to be a major concern here, and holding cells can smell like caged animals reeking of desperation, anger and vomit." Texas Monthly's Dan Solomon questions whether her experience was typical, her depiction accurate, or her recommendations useful. Answer in each case: Sort of.

Drug war a failure, says paper, but only lame solutions offered
The McAllen Monitor editorial board opined that the US drug war is an abject failure. The article concludes:
A team of U.S. and Canadian researchers, using government data, found that from 1990 to 2007, the average price of marijuana, cocaine and heroin decreased by at least 80 percent, when adjusted for inflation.

Basic economics tells us lower prices mean the supply has gone up or the demand has gone down.
And it isn’t the latter. One former Mexican intelligence official said that the number of marijuana users in the United States has increased from 14.5 million in 2007 to nearly 19 million last year.

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration seizures increased by 465 percent for marijuana from 1990 to 2010 and by 29 percent for heroin, according to a recent report by BMJ Open, an online publication of the British Medical Journal. It also found that drugs have gotten stronger during later years.

Many global leaders say it’s time to accept defeat and stop the interdiction efforts that have cost us billions in lost dollars and millions of lives lost. Some want decriminalization of drugs.

We’re not advocating for that, but a shift in funds toward more treatment would be a humane strategy that might help reduce demand and incarceration rates.

The evidence shows U.S. officials are losing the current drug war.
Kind of a wimpy prescription after such a bold prognosis. More treatment resources would be a good thing but it won't mean much without addressing overcriminalization of drug possession.

"The 'invisible' crisis of correctional health care"
Good piece on the topic from The Crime Report. While care inside is often sub-par, one expert also lamented that, “There are significant health-related barriers to people returning home from prison ... Often there is no discharge planning and short or no amounts of necessary medications upon release.”

Anthony Graves gives back
Kudos to Texas exoneree Anthony Graves for establishing a legal scholarship in the name of the attorney who sprung him. See Texas Monthly's report. And the people cheered:


Anonymous said...

Re: the study of the effectiveness of anti-bullying programs.

The critical statement in the paper is in the last paragraph:

"[T]he cross-sectional nature of the study limits one from making a causal inference about the relationship between individual- and school-level factors and likelihood of peer victimization."

What this means is that the study couldn't determine if the higher likelihood of victimization in schools with anti-bullying programs was because a) the schools had high levels of bullying independent of the programs; or b) the programs brought about the high levels of bullying.

It kinda seems like you would expect these programs to show up more often in schools with bigger problems, and less frequently in schools with smaller problems.

On a related note, this article is found in a journal that is published by a for-profit publication company (Hindawi) of the sort that has been referred to in the business as a predatory publication. They make their money not by subscriptions/advertisements, but by charging publication fees to the authors. I work in academics, and I get mass-mailed requests all the time to serve on the editorial staff for these sorts of online journals. They are definitely not top-tier publications in general. This particular journal (Journal of Criminology) doesn't show up on the lists I've seen that track journal impact based upon citation numbers. So the studies it publishes aren't particularly valued in the field, apparently.


RSO wife said...

How is it that a cop who commits rape only has to be on the registry for 20 years and a person who looks at pornography online at his workplace has to be on the registry for life? How does that work?

Anonymous said...

As an RSO myself, I am wondering the same thing. I have to register for life and also have deferred adjudication for eight years during which I can be sentenced to ten years in jail. There is no mention in the article if when he is released he will have to take sex offender treatment classes. Lots of police officers have gotten away with murder. This one is getting away with rape.

Anonymous said...

One thing the anti-bullying paper author did not take into consideration is the high likelihood that the increase in student victimization could possibly be directly correlated to an increase in incident reporting by students as a result of the anti-bullying program instruction. Quick! Somebody contact a grad student and have him/her work on this!

Anonymous said...

7:27 and 10:49, I can tell you both that very, very few police officers are ever required to register on the SOR. The judge may in fact state the officer will during sentencing, but in practice, very few do. Now I have seen a few who did indeed register but were granted relief through the courts after a couple of years.

And 10:49, I'm going to tell you right now that you best rid yourself of your computer. What we see a lot is officers showing up at an RSO's home and conducting a search of their computer, phone, etc., etc. And if you have any porn or anything that can be construed as porn, they will arrest and prosecute you for possession of child porn. Doesn't matter if it's actual child porn or not. And unless you can prove the ages of every single person portrayed in a visual context on your computer, you will have your probation revoked and be sent to prison. We see this a lot so it's no joke. I hate to scare you but there are some counties (Montgomery is one) where there hasn't been a sex offender successfully complete a full 10-years on probation.

rodsmith said...

LOL you said a mouth full there 10:39!

Hell here in florida the Probation department has been know to violate if your caught with a newspaper ad or an esquire mag.