Tuesday, November 26, 2013

'I've been to Athens' ... and Paris ... and Muleshoe

Before this blog takes some time off for the holiday, let's round up a few items that merit Grits readers' attention:

'12,000 days later, Texas still won't release Jerry Hartfield from custody'
This is just pathetic. Conviction overturned, a new trial ordered, then 33 years in prison without any additional movement on his case.

Audits coming for county court costs
The Office of Court Administration will begin auditing counties' court collection reporting for data integrity as a result of recommendations from the state auditor. See here for more recommendations and the full report.

Good news: Gubernatorial candidate calls for red-light camera ban
The bad news: It wasn't Greg Abbott.

Scheck: 'I've been to Athens'
Barry Scheck of the national Innocence Project praised the Texas Legislature at a recent event in Houston for its willingness to pass innocence reforms, the Houston Press reported. While this comment bordered on hyperbole - "I went back to New York and told them, 'You won't believe this! I have been to Athens. They have a real democracy in Texas. You can actually get things done'"- it's true that, to my knowledge, Texas has passed more innocence-related legislation than any other state. Of course, we started with one of the most slanted, unfair systems in the country so we had (and have) a long way to go to catch up. (Ask Jerry Hartfield.)

Brennan Center Byrne grant recommendations behind the curve
The Brennan Center issued a new report suggesting improved performance measures for the federal Byrne grant program and establishing program goals aimed at reining in drug task forces whose focus on low-level drug busts contribute to over-incarceration. See the press release and the full report. Strangely, the report doesn't mention Texas' experience. In 2005, legislation by state Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa put drug task forces under DPS management and the agency implemented performance measures of just the sort the report advocates. When the task forces couldn't (or really, wouldn't) meet them, Gov. Rick Perry pulled the plug on their funding, shifting resources to specialty courts, diversion programs and border security. Back when I worked for ACLU of Texas, your correspondent authored a pair of public policy reports in 2002 and 2004 (see here and here) advocating for the establishment of better performance measures and the abolition of Texas' drug task forces, though none of that work was acknowledged in the Brennan Center report, which all in all struck me as about a decade behind the curve compared to debates over these issues in Texas.

Hope for probation reform
Check out this PBS News presentation on a strong probation initiative out of Hawaii called the "Hope program" which embodies most of the reforms Grits would like to see in Texas' probation system: Closer supervision of probationers for shorter time periods, with swift and certain consequences for probation violators short of actually revoking them to prison. As a criminologist in the story described the program, "What they have done with the HOPE model has been to ratchet down the level of penalty so that it's something you can actually afford to do and then ratchet up the likelihood that if you engage in misconduct, you will actually experience that penalty."


Brian said...

According to the online TDCJ offender lookup, Mr. Hartfield's unit of assignment is listed as "TEMP RELEASE." What does that mean?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Not sure, Brian. The linked article said "there will be a hearing in the case held by the trial judge." My guess: He's been sent to the county jail for the hearing.

Gadfly said...

Abbott's hometown, Duncanville, is one of the worst red-light camera cities in the state, or it was when I was editor of a set of southside Metroplex newspapers.

In 2008, it had a higher $$ return on red-light cams than Plano. Dallas itself was the only city on the Dallas side of the Metroplex to collect more.

Anonymous said...

Who were the prosecutors in Hartfield's case? Ken Anderson and John Bradley? Someone is obviously trying to cover for the prosecutors in his case...

Anonymous said...

Mentioning Barry Scheck doesn't help our cause. The less said about him the better.

Thomas R. Griffith said...

Hey Grits, have a good one. You earned it.

Thanks for the round-up.

Someone said this - Mentioning Barry Scheck doesn't help our cause. The less said about him the better.

Honestly, I used to think very little about him but, that was due to knowing that he assisted a 100% Guilty Killer in getting off scot-free. Since then, he has embarked on a mission to redeem himself via assisting the Not Guilty. Yes, sadly, that crow diner of an endeavor hasn't spilled over to include 'All' claims.

Of course we all know that it's about following the money cases' (DNA, Death Row and the currently incarcerated) but, as time passes and more D.As'. declare they've tested just about everything; Mr. Scheck & Co. will be forced to consider the historically & systematically ignored claims. Any & all Pro-bono hours donated in efforts to address ‘All’ claims would be both; tax deductable work products & learning experiences for lawyers, professors, students & activists alike.

It's my hope & dreams that it's done so without any of the current loopholes or hurdles. With that said and without knowing exactly what the commenter's cause 'is', we can't simply ignore him. Instead, we can and should acknowledge him and his Team's victories' in the fight to right a minority of wrongs and, continue to ask them to consider vetting them ‘All’ and letting the: ignored, hidden & faked ‘evidence’ speak for itself.

*NOTE: Regarding the criminal justice system reform movement - I predict that in 2014, we will learn that the Innocence Network will announce the end of an era dominated by Cherry Picking for Justice & Evidence based Discrimination. 'All' wrongs will be considered as worthy of vetting vs. just those that show them the money and / or were lucky enough to have exhausted appeals. Until then, give ‘em hell and often but please don’t hate ‘em for ignoring. Thanks.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

There's nothing wrong with Barry Scheck. OJ gets to hire lawyers like everybody else. Since when are criminal defense lawyers supposed to judge their own clients and throw them under the bus if they're found wanting?

If you think Barry Scheck "doesn't help our cause," then I'm not sure we support the same "cause."