Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Powerful people more likely to support #cjreform post-indictment, and other stories

Here are a few odd and ends which merit readers' attention while I work on a separate writing project:

Bail required of most Harris Co. misdemeanor defendants
Only 8.5 percent of misdemeanor defendants in Harris County are released on personal bonds, not 20 percent as the county earlier told a federal court, reported Lise Olsen at the Houston Chronicle. In reality, "in 2015 only 8.5 percent of the 50,947 people arrested for misdemeanors were released on so-called personal bonds, which do not require cash or a bail bondsman." That's 4,307 people in 2015.

Pro tip: Don't destroy evidence from pending drug prosecutions
The Harris County DA must dismiss dozens of cases because a since-fired constable's deputy mistakenly destroyed evidence in hundreds of cases. Reportedly, there are "25,000 pieces of evidence since 2007" which were possibly affected. No telling yet precisely how deep this rabbit hole goes. So far, the Houston Chronicle reported, "prosecutors have yet to issue any so-called Brady notices of possibly exculpatory evidence, either to defendants with pending cases or to those who already had been convicted to inform them of the problems with the evidence."

Soros push to elect reformer DAs should target Nueces
Grits hopes that whomever is guiding George Soros' effort to elect reformer DAs has picked up on the Nueces County race Grits discussed Sunday. A significant investment there could put Mr. Gonzales over the top.

Powerful people more likely to support #cjreform post-indictment
Speaking of Nueces County, renowned liberal trial lawyer Mikal Watts and his family have found a new appreciation for criminal justice reform after he was acquitted at trial of 66 criminal allegations relating to his handling of litigation following the BP oil spill. "I fear our federal prisons are full of people who, threatened with a life sentence like I was, plead to a crime to which they are not guilty," he told Krista Torralva at the Caller Times. This seems to be a pattern which crosses party lines. One noticed that Rick Perry's appreciation for the problem of prosecutorial overreach similarly deepened following his own expensively defended indictment. Indeed, one of the earliest conservative proponents of criminal justice reform was Chuck Colson, a Richard Nixon crony imprisoned after Watergate who saw the light on criminal justice reform when he came out and founded the influential Prison Fellowship. It'd be as fun as it is unlikely to see Watts and Perry team up to champion criminal justice reform; that'd tickle Grits to no end.

Pepper spray violation draws suspension, violent traffic encounter results in lawsuit
An Austin cop received a 45 day suspension for gratuitously pepper spraying a restrained suspect in a police paddy wagon. What do you think would have been his punishment if local copwatchers hadn't caught his actions on video? In related news, Breaion King, who dashcam video showed being violently flung to the ground by an officer twice her size, filed suit against him and the city this week. It may be that APD and the city have no real incentive to effect change unless they're held financially liable.

Training and police reform
Grits is more confident than in the past that improved training might reduce police violence because of the proliferation of training based in de-escalation tactics. (See this discussion.) The Atlantic has an article out confronting this question titled, "How much can better training do to improve policing?" No one reform will be a panacea. But shifting away from a use-of-force continuum which assumes escalation and instead requiring training to emphasize the sanctity of human life as a primary value, as the Police Executive Research Forum has suggested, to Grits must be an important component.

Moonlighting cops and police shootings
Having mentioned the Texas Tribune's item on Texas police shootings that occurred while officers are off duty, I should point out this new academic article analyzing "Moonlighting: The Private Employment of Police Officers," which has joined Grits' backlogged reading list.


Anonymous said...

"It may be that APD and the city have no real incentive to effect change unless they're held financially liable".

Just curious, has the Dallas Police effected positive change since Micah Johnson's visit, or are they murdering folks at will as usual?

Anonymous said...

It is so true that the DA's threaten accused people with life sentences or similar threats to obtain a plea because the Trial Court Jury is uninformed of their rights.

It is a shame upon the County of Montague, Tx.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@6:53, this is the biggest thing Dallas did so far. And of course, now Chief Brown is leaving, so that might put the kibosh on more reform in Dallas for a while.

Anonymous said...

I find it very disturbing that someone would want a socialist/communist to be funding candidates here in the US. But of course, if we are only interested in electing those of a socialist mindset, then I guess it is to be expected.

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