Thursday, November 17, 2016

On the failures of Texas' eyewitness ID reform, when innocent people plead guilty, pondering immigration policy, and other stories

Here are a few odds and ends to clear Grits' browser tabs of brief items which merit readers' attention:

Report confronts sexual assault in Texas prisons
Grits will have more on this soon, but for now here's the link to a new report from the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault and the Prison Justice League on sexual assaults in Texas prisons - one of the first in-depth looks at the issue since Texas agreed to comply with the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act. MORE: See coverage from the Houston Press and the San Antonio Current.

TX eyewitness reform didn't stop suggestive IDs, photo arrays
In a recent dissent, Judge Elsa Alcala effectively showed why and how Texas' eyewitness identification reforms have failed to stop convictions based on biased lineups, in this case where the suspect was the "sole one in the photo array matching the physical description of the shooter." See the majority opinion, which mostly relied on outdated criteria from older cases that predated modern best practices in this area.

Concerns over cell-phone location data legitimate, non-partisan
In Texas, lots of folks were concerned about privacy of cell-phone location data long before the recent presidential election, including loads of conservatives. So I hate to see the push for federal cell-phone privacy legislation cast in terms of fear of Donald Trump. Grits wasn't any more happy when it was the Obama Administration pushing to maximize government surveillance powers.

When innocent people plead guilty
Reported AP, "Last year, 68 out of 157 exonerations [nationwide] were cases in which the defendant pleaded guilty, more than any previous year. That's 43.3 percent, for those keeping score at home.

'Detached from reality' Crime and public perception
Following up on their own poll, discussed here on Grits, the Pew Research Center explored why "Voters perceptions of crime continue to conflict with reality." Gallup over the years has continuously found that voters perception of high crime is "detached from reality." At Vox, German Lopez has explored this odd and persistent phenomenon. The Brennan Center has found that headline mentions of murders in newspapers did not decline along with the volume of murders themselves. In this election we saw that misperception brazenly exploited by the President-elect, who went around claiming violent crime was at a 45 year high when the opposite was true. By the time he trotted that one out, he had told so many flat-out fabrications that the media''s fact checking seemed tired and pro forma, as do hubristic pretensions that media will now solve misconceptions they've actively created.

Okie Governor leading by example on criminal-justice reform
Read Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin on the recent election and criminal justice reform. She's saying the sort of things while in office that Texas Gov. Rick Perry waited to embrace until after his departure. Voters in her state just overwhelmingly voted to reduce penalties for low-level drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor. The Lone Star State should follow suit, or Oklahoma may soon supersede the Texas GOP when it comes to Right on Crime bona fides.

Pondering immigration, walls, symbols, and public opinion
Here's the problem with the Trumpian plan to deport "criminal" immigrants: After years of the Obama Administration aggressively enforcing their "Secure Communities" program - a ham-handed operation which never worked well and of which Grits was never a great fan - there aren't nearly 2-3 million of those left to deport. (Immigrants commit crimes at much lower rates than citizens. Foreign nationals account for 16 percent of Texas' population, for example, but only eight percent of arrests.)

Will "I'll do what Obama did," plus spending $10-20 billion (or whatever figure) on an American Great Wall, be enough to satisfy voters spurred to the polls by anger over Latin American immigration? Perhaps rebranding the policy as Republican will allow pols to declare victory and stop fighting, the way Texas Rs seem ready to declare victory on border security and spend the money on something else. The campaign is over now and governing requires confronting reality. Grab some popcorn and stay tuned.

In Texas, that reality includes the fact that undocumented immigrants make up more than eight percent of our active labor force. When push came to shove, while some Texas Rs have indulged in nativist rhetoric during campaigns, most have always understood and respected core interests of the business community when governing. At first blush, that seems to be the approach the president-elect will take: Talk big, wait for public discord to die down, then declare victory without really having changed anything and move on. While essentially frivolous as a border security suggestion, perhaps a "Great Wall" will serve a more important purpose as a tangible, lasting symbol. Who knows? Maybe that's what's necessary to sell Obama's immigration policy as a Republican solution that the president-elect's still angry base will accept.


Anonymous said...

Innocent people plead guilty because their lawyer does not defend them. The lawyer takes the money then slowly goes AWOL. The defendant only choice is to take the plea deal.
Buck Files is a master of this scam.

Anonymous said...

I second Anon@11:07 response. Have had this happen with us twice, and several other friends. First, extortion, then AWOL. Panic in courtroom, plead out. Easy and fast money.

For the COURTS and the lawyers.

DLW said...

I wish Paul Harvey could be here to do "the rest of the story" on these 2 anonymous comments.

Anonymous said...

I wish Perry Mason was still a defense attorney!

thelawproject said...

Anonymous pointed out the modus operandi in the Court system that is nation wide. You must not get out much....