Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Debtors prisons, marijuana reform, and recipe for a shit sandwich

A few odds and ends while we all wait for this accursed election to end:

ACLUTX confronts debtors prisons
The ACLU of Texas has a new report out this week called "No Exit Texas: Modern Day Debtor's Prisons and the Poverty Trap," with the release timed to coincide with new litigation by the group against the city of Santa Fe (TX). See the complaint and coverage from AP.

Cop fired for shit-sandwich gag, seeks reinstatement
A San Antonio cop thought it was real funny to try to feed a homeless person a literal shit sandwich. He was fired, but the union is pushing for his reinstatement and predicts arbitration will overturn the chief's ruling. It wasn't his first offense. In June, the same guy "smeared tapioca pudding on a toilet in the women’s restroom of the downtown bike-patrol office — a gag that so disgusted a pregnant female officer she became ill." Clearly not the right personality type to be wearing a badge.

Austin DNA lab woes spur outsourcing
The closed Austin PD DNA lab will begin sending samples to a private contractor in Dallas. they'd been sending them to DPS but now say the state labs are taking too long, reported the Austin Statesman. Remarkably, "Even before the Austin lab closed, cases that required DNA analysis took, on average, about 500 days before they ended in conviction, acquittal, dismissal or a plea deal." MORE: From the Austin Monitor.

NYC authorizes online bail payments
As momentum grows to reform the money-bail system, New York City has implemented a change which would make the existing system function better: Allowing online bail payments by third parties. The reason for the change applies equally in Texas: "Since defendants do not have access to bank accounts or their wallets at arraignment, they must rely on a friend or family member to be in court and have cash on hand for bail." That fix by itself is insufficient, but it's an improvement. In recent years, New York City has simultaneously seen both major crime declines and a radical reduction in incarceration rates. One could find worse public safety models to follow.

Might pot legalization votes influence TX marijuana legislation?
Five more states appear set to legalize recreational use of marijuana in tomorrow's election, bringing the total to nine. In Texas, expect competing bills to be filed in the coming legislative session addressing this issue in competing ways. Some have suggested reducing penalty categories by one notch, shifting low-level pot possession to a Class C misdemeanor punishable only by a fine. Others want to create a new civil penalty and "decriminalize" pot possession entirely. The Texas Lyceum poll last year found almost half of TX voters support full-blown legalization like in Colorado, Washington, etc., and of those who opposed it, half supported "decriminalization." So IMO reducing pot penalties isn't particularly a political risk anymore. Voters clearly don't want their taxes wasted on pot prosecutions.


Anonymous said...

"The analysts are being retrained, and police officials expect them to resume operations by or before mid-2017."

Amazing. No negligence or misconduct identified by the FSC.

Is the accreditation agency paying for these tests since they provided accreditation for the APD lab for the last decade?

"Police Chief Art Acevedo responded with a promise that he would find the money to do so." How kind, since the Chief wasn't able to identify the lab's problems 6 years ago. By firing the Chief, his $206,000/yr salary should go towards paying for the DNA testing of the kits.

Forensics is silly.

Anonymous said...


Don't worry. In 2015, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office awarded the Austin Police Department $1,994,648 to test 3,070 rape kits;


So the money is being spent wisely.

DFisher said...

So after the Forensic Science Commission finds problems with the APD DNA Lab and it is shut down, the City of Austin enters into a 6 yr. contract with the Dallas CO DNA Lab to test APDs Rape Kits.

Here's the problem, Dr. Jeffrey Barnard is a Appointed member of the FSC, is the Appointed Chief Medical Examiner for Dallas CO, a Appointed professor of Pathology at the UT Southwestern Medical School and the Appointed Director of the Dallas CO Crime Lab including the DNA Lab. Does anyone other than me see a conflict of interest here, to say nothing about the constitutional violations?

For those who don't know the TX Constitution here are the problems. (1)Art. XVI Sec. 1 requires the Chief ME to execute the Oath of Office and Anti-Bribery Statement before entering the office. (2)Art. XVI sec. 40 forbids the holding of two paid appointments at the same time unless the offices are exempted. (These 2 are not exempted) (3)Art. XVI, Sec 33 forbids the State or any of its subdivisions from paying a salary to anyone holding 2 appointments in violation of Art. XVI, Sec. 40.

In 2002 AG Cornyn issued Opinion JC-0577, holding Professors at State Universities are not exempted under Art. XVI, Sec 40, so may not hold two paid appointments.

In 1989 Dr. Barnard was appointed a professor at the UT Southwestern Medical School. In 1991 Dr. Barnard was appointed Chief ME for Dallas CO. After being appointed medical examiner, Barnard did not execute his oath documents, so voided both appointments. In July 2011 I forced Barnard to execute his ME Oath documents, which voided Barnard's position at the UT Southwestern Medical School.

Barnard's failure to execute his ME Oath documents in 1991 created an unconstitutional ME's Office in Dallas and voided all autopsies and death certificates signed by anyone associated with that ME’s office. By holding 2 appointments at the same time, all medical degrees signed off on by Barnard and his deputy ME's at the UT Southwestern Medical School are likewise void.

When Barnard executed his Oath documents for the Dallas CO ME's Office on July 14, 2011, he became for the first time the legal Chief ME for Dallas CO, but his appointment as a professor with the UT Southwestern Medical School was voided as are all graduate medical degrees he's been signing off on. An additional problem this Oath signing caused brings us back to the original problem of Barnard's position on the Forensic Science Commission.

Under the TX Code of Criminal Procedure, Art. 38.03(a)4 "one member(of the commission) who must be a faculty member or staff member of The University of Texas who specializes in clinical laboratory medicine that the governor selects from a list of five names submitted by the chancellor of The University of Texas System."

Since Dr. Barnard holds his appointment on the FSC under this section, his position on the Forensic Science Commission was voided when he executed his ME Oath in July 2011. But this does not end the problem since in 2008 the Dallas CO District Attorney Watkins argued in a Brief filed with the 1st Court of Appeals in Houston, that Dr. Barnard as Chief ME is a Judge under the ME Statute (CCP Art. 49.25, sec. 6(a)) when conducting "Inquest" and "Autopsies".

Under the TX Constitution no Judge can hold 2 paid appointments or appointments the conflict at common Law. A judge cannot be a Director of a Crime Lab, which a DNA Lab is.

(Footnote. Todd Willingham's conviction and execution was foundationed on the unconstitutional Dallas CO Autopsy under Dr. Barnard.)

I now pose this question to all learned people who read this blog, "Is there no attorney in TX who can read the TX Constitution and Statutes, and understand it?"

Anonymous said...

Just to add my 2 cents to DFisher's thesis,

If a Commissioner of the TFSC recommends that the ADP DNA lab shut down, wouldn't that Commissioner be prohibited from accepting work/money from the APD lab that was shut down? That also would be a conflict of interest, no?

For a scientific perspective, Dr. Barnard is also the same genius running the DNA testing lab responsible for this ditty...


The Word-Of-The-Day: "Egregious"

I fear for the Austin-ites.

Anonymous said...

More of dfisher's work,

Do you have a business email?


Anonymous said...

"Is there no attorney in TX who can read the TX Constitution and Statutes, and understand it?"

If only the Forensic Science Commission had a general council that could educate its members and follow the written law, instead of blissfully disregarding it for their own gain.

If only there were oversight and accountability.

Sarcasm (I hope)? Does this award go back to the MDAO?

Anonymous said...

Re: Matthew Luckhurst

Miracle of miracles, the police union does not appear to be pushing for Luckhurst's reinstatement as they denied him a union paid attorney.


It appears that Luckhurst can still use the generous arbitration system achieved through the union's collective bargaining.