Thursday, June 23, 2016

Lying cops, ticket quotas, junk science and Naloxone

Here are a few odds and ends which merit Grits readers attention even if I don't have time to blow each of them out into individual posts.

Naloxone available in Texas this week
The Texas Legislature last year approved widespread access to Naloxone, a drug which helps quell heroin/opiod overdoses, and it will be available to the public for the first time this week, reported the Texas Tribune. Readers may recall that Gov. Greg Abbott vetoed related "Good Samaritan" legislation that would protect overdose witnesses and victims who request emergency medical assistance. Naloxone will save lives, but even more addicts would survive overdoses if it weren't for Abbott's veto.

Breath test analyst fired for incompetence
A breath test analyst in League City performed such shoddy work that all of the DWI convictions she worked on for numerous agencies may be called into question, reported KTRK in Houston:
Documents from an Internal Affairs investigation obtained by Eyewitness News show [Nellie] Martinez's supervisors determined her work is so bad, it was called a "ticking time bomb." The documents said the quality of her work could jeopardize nine police agencies in four different counties and that it could "jeopardize the integrity of the entire program."

The reason the potential impact is so large is because several area police departments contract with League City for its breath alcohol work. They include Seabrook, Pearland, Webster, Texas City, South Houston, Galveston County Sheriff's Office, Friendswood, and of course, League City itself.

"The convictions that were gained, any type of trials that were had that had a breath test that involved one of her machines is now called into question," said [attorney Dan] Krieger.

The Galveston County District Attorney's Office confirmed to Eyewitness News that it has sent out Brady letters to attorneys in all pending DWI cases worked on by Martinez. The Harris County DA's office says it is aware of the issue and looking into it now.
More than one way to skin a county judge
One so seldom sees prosecutors go after open records violations that Smith County Judge Joel Baker's arrest barely passes the smell test. Really, he's being prosecuted because they can't force his resignation over an embarrassing sexting scandal, so his enemies are coming at him from another direction. A local Tea Party group, Grassroots America, is leading the push for his ouster.

Lies, damn lies, and ticket quotas in Arlington
Arlington police officers are either lying about the existence of traffic ticket quotas or the number of tickets they're writing, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported and opined. Either way, said the paper's editorial board, "here’s the problem: It sounds like these officers are saying they lied about the traffic stops because they felt they had to meet a quota. Isn’t that still a lie?" And once you have officers who will lie regarding criminal allegations against motorists, can the department really afford to keep them on the force?

'Texas' mandatory sentencing enhancements'
The Texas Public Policy Foundation has a new issue brief out on sentencing enhancements in Texas criminal law. Grits this morning interviewed author Derek Cohen about the report and soon will post our conversation online.

Junk science writ vs. 'shaken baby sydrome'
Texas' junk science writ, enacted in 2013 and improved in 2015, is being used to challenge "shaken baby syndrome" at the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

The Uniform
This essay contains some interesting and little-known history regarding police uniforms.

Read more here:"


SmithCounty Resident said...

RE: Smith County Judge Joel Baker

Grits, you don't have the whole story on Joel Baker. There's more to this than just a vendetta by Grassroots and some naughty messages on Facebook. Baker deliberately tried to conceal a corrupt deal with an outfit in Arizona that provides automated traffic enforcement systems. The FBI is apparently investigating the affair. The State Commission on Judicial Conduct is still likely investigating Baker for various incidences of misconduct that may very well go beyond just sexting some woman while sitting in meetings and the whole Open Meetings Act affair. I doubt the SCJC and attorney general would go to such lengths just for some "technical" violations of TOMA. I'd put down a substantial bet that there is more to come on Baker. Stay tuned, Grits.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I don't doubt there's more to it, I've just never seen the AG go after an open records violation like this. And it strikes me that their motives lie in all the other stuff, not because the AG passionately care's about Tylerites' right to know about a never-issued speed-camera contract.

It can both be true that Joel Baker is a terrible pol who should be drummed out of office AND that the open records violations are a fig leaf for his enemies' real motives. Politics is messy like that.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the uniform article, I believe that San Bernardino Sheriff's Office did a similar experiment in the late '60s with officers wearing green blazers. One ugly jacket.

Anonymous said...

Those babies shake themselves.

Anonymous said...

RE: Breath test analyst fired for incompetence

"...Martinez's supervisors determined her work is so bad, it was called a "ticking time bomb"..."

But her Supervisor's - who knew of the shoddy work - continued to let her work for several years. Was she re-trained, did she get help? Where are the annual audits and performance reviews? Accreditation?

Sounds like junk scientists, plural.

Sooooo, who are the Supervisors and why weren't they fired too?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

No, 5:13, the scientists misinterpreted falls for shaking. Not every tragedy is a criminal act.

Good question, 9:12.

Anonymous said...

9:12 -

Breath alcohol is different from other forensic science disciplines in Texas:

1) Although the program is performed by local agencies (e.g., the League City PD), it is run by DPS, specifically by the Scientific Director of the Breath Alcohol Laboratory. It is the Scientific Director who is responsible for certifying the Technical Supervisors, not the local police department.

2) Breath alcohol testing is one of the testing areas that are excluded by statute from the state accreditation requirements. So the state did not accredit the League City PD in breath alcohol testing, and the League City PD is not accredited by the state for anything else. Other breath testing programs that are run out of more full-service crime labs may be accredited by a national accrediting body, but they will not be accredited by the state.

So this is likely another example where the department managers were police officers, not scientists, and they did not have the expertise to evaluate the technical performance of this person.

Anonymous said...


Has anyone ever asked "why" is breath alcohol different from other forensic disciplines? Why has this discipline been legally gerrymandered from the other disciplines?

The point I was making - by asking the questions - was there a root cause analysis for this "ticking time bomb"? Was she hired as an incompetent, or did she slowly become incompetent over time? She had been working there several years already. IMO an analyst just doesn't suddenly decide to perform incompetently. Was the technician ultimately asked "why" or "how"? Maybe she disagrees with the assessment?

Wouldn't it be their job as Managers (regardless of their non-scientist status) to understand the technical performance of this person, to provide performance reviews? Or do the Managers get a free pass on ignorance because they aren't scientists and cant be expected to understand math and stuff?

Or, was it the responsibility of the BAL Scientific Director at DPS (who I am assuming a scientist) to make sure that the Department Managers/Technical Supervisors were up to snuff for monitoring the technician, who was believed to be a "ticking time bomb"?

There is a hierarchy for the creation of incompetence. How high do we have to go to remove the cancer?

Let's just blame Scientific Director J. Mack Cowan. He's the nitwit who will compensate the state taxpayer via monthly garnishing of his paychecks. Right?

But alas, there are reputations and careers to protect, and convictions to maintain, so the questions become rhetorical, without solution or accountability.

And "accreditation" for crime labs, as we all know, is garbage. Not worth the paper its printed on. There are far too many examples where negligence and misconduct were identified within so-called accredited crime labs. The word "accreditation" should be banned from crime labs and court rooms.

Anonymous said...

4:22- the FBI will investigate Baker for his illegal actions because the local Pharisees wants him out but they turn a blind eye to Bingham, Skeen, Clark. Dobbs, Files and Tittle criminal acts! Sick SOB's.
DNA has cleared Kerry Max Cook beyond a reasonable doubt but Bingham won't charge Mayfield..the murderer of Ms Edwards. Bingham is covering up for his Pharisee brothers.

SmithCounty Resident said...

RE: Judge Joel Baker

How 'bout this for political motivation for going after Baker: 1. He embarrassed his colleagues on the SCJC by sitting during their meetings sending naughty messages to some woman while he was supposed to be working. So now they are punishing him. 2. He is an embarrassment to the Republican establishment and his reputation has reached Austin. Therefore the AG feels compelled to act so as not to look like he is turning a blind eye to what is going on in Smith County. Wonder which Smith County politician will be next!

Anonymous said...

Grits, what has Bingham, Skeen, Clark, Dobbs and Files concealed in Kerry Max Cooks travesty, deliberately? Where is the AG? Texas Rangers? FBI? Grassroots? At church!!!!

Anonymous said...

How the credibility of modern day peace officers remains inviolable in all courts of law in the United States is so bizarre.

Anonymous said...

"...the scientists misinterpreted falls for shaking." Oh, really? A fall causes that much damage to a brain?? You want to believe the perp's lies because you don't care.