Friday, February 03, 2017

Government doesn't know how many people it shoots, and other stories

Grits has a busy day today so let's round up a few items which might have made it into individual blog posts if I had more time.

Come Correct
Right on Crime published this blog post on the Texas House Corrections Committee's new interim report. See Grits coverage of that document here, here, and here.

Forfeiture target of property-rights push 
Efforts are ramping up on the right to require criminal convictions for asset forfeiture in Texas. See coverage from the Texas Observer,  Hot Air, the Dallas Observer, and Legal Insurrection. Go here to ask your Texas legislators to support these efforts.

Not all costs of failing to 'raise the age' come in budget
After Grits made the link on Monday, advocates and media in Houston and at the capitol invoked 17-year old Emmanuel Akueir's suicide in the Fort Bend County Jail as an argument for raising the age of adult criminal responsibility to 18. The Houston Chronicle coverage included an interview with his family. "'Emmanuel was a minor who was put with adults who've lived the criminal life and are well aware of right and wrong,' said sister Iman Akueir. 'He was a child and treated like an adult. There's no excuse about what happened. Children are children.'" Added an attorney at the capitol event: "'If we had passed this last session, that 17-year-old would not have been in that facility. So we're talking lives here. ...  If you want to talk about costs, ask his parents about costs."

Government doesn't know how many people it shoots
Grits contributing writer Eva Ruth Moravec reported that the Texas' new reporting of police shootings omitted 16 cases last year, calling into question the lack of enforcement mechanism in the law to compel agencies' participation. This tells us the omissions identified by academics in the state's death-in-custody reporting persist in these new police shooting reports. Indeed, the state has struggled to get a handle on how often police officers shoot or kill Texans. Readers may recall that another Grits contributing writer, Amanda Woog, last year determined that the Attorney General had miscounted the number of police shootings, overstating the number or reports they'd received by 20 percent. So the new reporting system is missing quite a few reports, and the AG has bungled analysis of the ones they do get. The bill from last session creating these reports was an important first step, but the law needs to be tweaked to plug these gaps and give it some teeth when agencies don't report.

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin continues to push criminal-justice reforms. Wish she could convince fellow Republican Greg Abbott to do the same.

Punishing prosecutors
From the abstract of a new academic paper: "This article describes the distressing, decades-long absence of discipline imposed on prosecutors whose knowing misconduct has resulted in terrible injustices being visited upon defendants throughout the country. Many honorable lawyers have failed to speak out about errant prosecutors, thus enabling their ethical breaches. The silent accessories include practicing lawyers and judges of trial and reviewing courts who, having observed prosecutorial misconduct, failed to take corrective action. Fault also lies with members of attorney disciplinary bodies who have not investigated widely publicized prosecutorial misconduct. "

How capitalist competition boosted drug cartel efficiency
This interview by Vox with Sanho Tree is worth a read. IMO his central thesis is hard to argue. The drug war has focused for generations nearly exclusively on low hanging fruit, allowing its proponents to mistake activity for achievement without ever seriously threatening the biggest players. Meanwhile, cartel leaders have perfected their craft and devised structures that all but completely insulate them from accountability and ensure that big fish get off, while little fish get eaten. Thought provoking stuff.


Anonymous said...

Welp, if the liberal Texas Observer is supporting Asset Forfeiture reform, that's enough to convince me the law needs to remain as is! Where's the link to encourage our legislators to oppose Burton's bill, Grits?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Try the Texas Public Policy Foundation, the Koch Institute, and the Institute for Justice, 1:31, if you want conservative backers for the idea. The TO story was a pretty good one, though, and included the new information that John Whitmire is open to Burton's bill and wants to work on it. Maybe try some of your snark with him.

Anonymous said...

Thankfully, Jeff Sessions is of a different mind about this than any of the advocates you cite. Burton's bill might as well be titled "The Promoting Federal Asset Seizure and Forfeiture Bill."

Anonymous said...

re: Punishing Prosecutors

"The silent accessories include practicing lawyers and judges of trial and reviewing courts who, having observed prosecutorial misconduct, failed to take corrective action."

Perhaps if more sitting Judges (who witness the often recurring misconduct) were required to participate in State Bar grievance procedures, then they would be more likely to report the misconduct of attorneys, or at least lean more heavily towards disciplinary actions and stopping it in the courtroom as it occurs.

As a group, Judges know who the repeat offenders are. As a group, they can ameliorate courtroom behavior.

Anonymous said...


Right on! If Judges can be "gatekeepers" for the forensic science charlatans, they certainly can be "gatekeepers" for the rogue unethical prosecutors. And the State Bar proceedings should be transparent as well. Audio and video recorded and posted online for posterity. Let the public see which government actors are acting negligently and unethically.

Anonymous said...

@11:54- we can start with Smith county DA Bingham, Sikes and Putmam... a lineage train of corruption. Grits runs from this subject knowing full well that Smith county injustice system is a model for corruption.