Wednesday, February 24, 2016

DA oppo, snitch scenarios, improving visitation, and a welcome homecoming

Here are a few odds and ends which merit Grits readers attention:

Accusing Gary Cobb
Former Court of Criminal Appeals Judge and current Austin defense attorney Charlie Baird really doesn't want Gary Cobb to be the next Travis County District Attorney, a spot which will be effectively decided in the March 1st Democratic primary. Baird is treasurer of a PAC called Citizens for an Ethical Travis County which has put up this attack site dumping opposition research on the Democratic candidate and accusing him of "misconduct." Strong accusations, and Baird is a credible messenger, particularly among Travis County Democrats. But it's pretty late in the game to be releasing such allegations without a paid attack vehicle. A lot of folks consider Cobb the front runner in the four-way race.

Vanita's Homecoming
Vanita Gupta is not a Texan but after her involvement in the Tulia drug sting cases, as far as Grits is concerned, she remains a beloved adoptee and a personal favorite. I'm looking forward to seeing my long-time friend, who is now director of the USDOJ Civil Rights Division, when she speaks at UT-Austin's Barbara Jordan forum today. See the Statesman's preview of the event. I miss Vanita, we haven't spoken since she became a big shot.

Compensating Alfred Brown
I'll be interested to see if the Comptroller gives compensation to Alfred Dwayne Brown. Based on how they've decided cases in the past where exoneration did not result in an actual-innocence finding, it'll be a judgment call. They've given some similarly situated exonerees compensation and denied others. If they say "no," I'd expect Brown to file a civil rights lawsuit.

Waco drug cop(s) may have lied about informants
A 26-year veteran Waco drug enforcement detective has been suspended after it was revealed he allegedly "lied about his use of confidential informants to obtain arrest and search warrants," and soon thereafter his commander, a 36-year veteran and the department's first female assistant chief, was also suspended.

Reality TV footage gets alleged 'snitch' shot
Speaking of informants, a Dallas man has sued the production company of the TV show, The First 48, after they aired footage of him talking to police detectives that wound up getting him shot as an alleged "snitch." This isn't the first time the show has caused problems in Dallas.

Toward pro-family visitation policies
Check out an absolutely excellent column on problems with prison and jail visitation policies from our pal Doug Smith, who called for "frequent and meaningful contact with their loved ones in environments that allow children to be children, yet only one state has a child-friendly visitation area. Less than ten states have overnight policies, and few of these policies are geared toward overnight stays with children. Few state prison systems include family contact when developing rehabilitative programs.  How do we expect incarcerated men and women to become fully productive members of communities within the very families that will support them upon release?"

Prosecuting fish-related crime in Palau
As many Grits readers are familiar with the Attorney General of Palau (who is now back on the job after a brief, unanticipated hiatus), I should point out this fascinating piece from the New York Times Magazine which references him, though not by name, in the context of the island nation's battle to combat illegal overfishing in waters designated for conservation.


Anonymous said...

I was all ready to write a snotty response about visitation--until I read the linked article. Very powerful. Another reason that the focus of reform has to be a move toward restoration and away from retribution, especially for nonviolent offenders.

Prison DOc

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 2:30PM - We need to move away from a punishing mentality. Read:

These are interesting comments which make not very hopeful:

"Derrick Jensen's fourth premise: Civilization is based on a clearly defined and widely accepted yet often unarticulated hierarchy. Violence done by those higher on the hierarchy to those lower is nearly always invisible, that is, unnoticed. When it is noticed, it is fully rationalized. Violence done by those lower on the hierarchy to those higher is unthinkable, and when it does occur is regarded with shock, horror, and fetishization of the victims.
Derrick Jensen's fifth premise: The property of those higher on the hierarchy is more valuable than the lives of those below. It s acceptable for those above to increase the amount of property they control-in everyday language, to make money-by destroying or taking the lives of those below. This is called 'production'. If those below damage the property of those above, those above may kill or otherwise destroy the lives of those below. This is called 'justice'."

Anonymous said...

Another aspect of prison visitation that is problematic - if less immediately heart-wrenching than the obstacles placed in the way of family visits - is the failure of TDCJ to facilitate legal visits. Visitation is barely confidential - if the lawyer throws a hissy fit it may be possible to get a separate room, but otherwise you get phone visitation which creates a risk of being overheard because the attorneys are seated in a row with no sound barrier between them and the next attorney (the clients are in tiny cubicles which have grilles at the back, creating the risk of eavesdropping by guards). The Polunsky Unit forbids Wednesday afternoon visits because that is "press day" - the day the media can talk to inmates. That impedes access - sometimes an attorney (or an expert witness who needs to see the inmate) will have great difficulty in timing a visit because of scheduling problems. And then there's the fact that death row at Polunsky is 2.5 hours from Houston and 4+ hours from Austin. Consequently, those lawyers with more than one death row client may schedule several visits on one day. But the Polunsky Unit will not allow attorneys to buy food or drink for their clients, and the attorney is left with the question of whether to forego all food and drink during what may be a 6-7 hour day of visits, or to waste valuable time eating the overpriced snacks out of the vending machines between client visits. Or chowing down in front of a client who has no food or drink on his side, and thereby alienate the client. Not to mention that any security argument for the "no food and drink during legal visits" rule has no security argument to support it, since family members are allowed to buy inmates food and drink during family visits. An overhaul of TDCJ policy and practice would seem to be in order.

Judge Ron Chapman said...

Please give my best regards to Vanita. I was honored to be given as a reference for her wonderful new position. The FBI interview was interesting and of course I gave her a flying review.

DEWEY said...

"Waco drug cop(s) may have lied about informants" --- Police officers lie ???? I'm SHOCKED !!!! I say SHOCKED !!!! (Sarcasm.)

Unknown said...

I don't mind slagging other folks--it is one of my favorite pastimes, and I have been told I have a knack for it--but Jesus, put your name on it. Own it. Be a man, not a baby. Don't hide like some pusillanimous Chicken Little.

That having been said, what a wonderful world we would live in, if Charlie Baird was as smart as he thinks he is.

Anonymous said...

Incompetent Government Employees/Agents vs. The people - those that live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

Anonymous said...

Funny, but there was a scheme not too long ago inside DPS where the investigators were using each other as anonymous "informants" and collecting the payoffs for informant activity. Haven't seen that as mainstream anywhere. But only the best for Texas. Seriously, these people are puritans.

Anonymous said...

Doug Smith is right on. I am glad he got to be with his daughter again. I haven't. My fault. It sucks.