Sunday, October 15, 2017

Bashing civilian review, crappy counsel in death penalty appeals, and other stories

Here are a few odds and ends that merit Grits readers' attention:

Civilian review in Austin brings no reform
See a report that the missus prepared for the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition detailing recommendations by Austin's civilian review board which were never implemented by the local police department. Michael Barajas at the Texas Observer covered the story of Austin activists seeking to overturn the local police labor agreement in order to abolish this toothless entity. RELATED: Check out Campaign Zero cofounder Sam Sinyangwe's presentation to the Austin Justice Coalition on why Austin PD's contract is one of the worst, accountability-wise, in the nation.

'When cash bail violates the Constitution'
This op ed included a notable quote from Judge Lee Rosenthal's opinion, “For misdemeanor defendants unable to pay secured money bail, Harris County maintains a ‘sentence first, conviction after’ system that pressures misdemeanor defendants to plead guilty … because that is the only way to secure timely release from detention.”

Crappy counsel in death penalty appeals
Ever since the 2016 Texas Defender Service report (see an interview with the author) on the poor quality of direct appeals in capital cases, the issue of ineffective assistance keeps cropping up in ways that make me shocked the state tries to execute people whose defense was as shoddy as is often the case. Check out this ruling from a federal District Judge this spring finding that attorney Ken McLean was ineffective in representing capital defendant Travis Green. Indeed, the judge suggested McLean misled the court about whether he'd investigated his client's mental health history:
Troublingly, Mr. McLean states in his Statement of Counsel that he had "reviewed Mr. Green's most recent mental health examination dated May 17, 2007, at the Jester IV Unit. There is no indication in those records that Mr. Green is mentally ill or incompetent." (Id.) Yet a review of the mental health examination cited by Mr. McLean immediately reveals the falsity of this statement. On the first page of a "Mental Health Inpatient Psychosocial Evaluation," taken on May 17, 2007, in Jester IV, Mr. Green is diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. (Doc. No. 30-3 at 2.) Also on the first page, the report indicates that, when Mr. Green was asked to summarize his clinical complaint, he stated that he needed "someone to take this locator out of my head. The FBI put it in my brain sometime [sic] ago. Now I have headaches all the time." (Id.) The next page reports that Mr. Green received mental health treatment in the "free world" before he was sent to death row, and had received mental health treatment while incarcerated. (Id.) It also states: "[Mr. Green] has a history of suicide attempts and self-mutilation" and "has been diagnosed with Delusional Disorder, Schizophrenia, Paranoid Type, Polysubstance Dependence, and Antisocial Personality Disorder." (Id.) At the time of the report, Mr. Green was taking Haldol, an antipsychotic drug. (Id.) The report cited by Mr. McLean was replete with evidence of current, longstanding mental illness. This directly contradicts the assertion made by Mr. McLean and raises questions as to the veracity of his contention of having reviewed the record.  H/T: HAT.
Debtors prison reform news
Debtors prison policies in South Carolina: "Defendants in such cases are typically offered a choice between a $250 fine, which Mr. Marsh cannot afford, or 30 days in jail. Jailing Mr. Marsh costs the city $1,650 a month." In a landmark suit in Tennessee, a federal judge recently ordered reinstatement of two people's driver's licenses, resulting from a class action lawsuit challenging the state's practice of suspending licenses for unpaid traffic fines.

Why community corrections fail
Here's a good analysis of why community corrections fail. Part of the problem is that they want to keep "good" probationers under supervision because they pay fees, much like the Louisiana Sheriff who wants to keep incarcerating the "good" prisoners because they do all the work in the jail.


john said...

As with pro se litigants, they don't want non-union non-Bar honest decent citizens controlling them, else how would they stay rich AND filthy?
Again, Constitution said lawyers can't vote when conflicts of interest. The State Bar was put in, when the TX Senate was mostly lawyers.

There are no conspiracies. Everything is rosy.
Also, the ancient "State of TX is a Liar," (Dan Schinzing) if you can possibly find it.

Anonymous said...

RE: Crappy counsel in death penalty appeals

Let's not forget "lawyers" James Volberding and Seth Kretzer who all but dumped Raphael Holiday at the door steps of the death chamber. And then, they interfered with, and threatened, appellate attorney Sween once she offered to help Holiday pro bono.

So much for "zealous representation."