Friday, October 27, 2017

Of strawmen, bodycams, underdeveloped brains, and Twin Peaks DA buffoonery

Here's a quick roundup of items of likely interest to Grits readers that will also allow me to clear my browser tabs.

Reyna recuses self from Twin Peaks cases
As the Twin Peaks biker shooting cases begin to head to trial, McLennan Co. DA Abel Reyna has begun to recuse himself from the cases. Although he's denied before now that his office is under investigation by the feds, that investigation is the reason he's asking for a recusal. And the truth may be about to come out, anyway. On Monday, according to to a defense court filing, "Testimony from six witnesses will be introduced as evidence in an effort to show FBI agents have been investigating Reyna." What a zoo! Grits would place the Over-Under at how many felony convictions they might obtain in the end - out of 177 initial arrests - at about 1.5. (Post your guesses in the comments.) And I wouldn't be surprised if it turned out to be zero. By all accounts from those who've gone through the evidence, the actual shooters are all dead. And most of the people arrested at the scene, apparently on DA Abel Reyna's orders, committed no crime.

New approaches for 17-25 year olds among TX legislative foci for interim
More on this later, but here are the Texas House and Senate interim charges, which include a number of criminal-justice-related topics. Grits was particularly pleased to see the House Corrections Committee receive an interim charge on the appropriate criminal-justice approach to 17-25 year olds whose brains have not yet finished developing, a topic which was the subject of this Reasonably Suspicious podcast segment from August.

Transparency would make bodycams more useful
IMO, the reason body cameras have had little impact on police behavior is that most of the footage is secret or very difficult to acquire. So it's become a source of secret information to which for the most part only police have access instead of a means to hold police accountable. Texas' body cam law is far too opaque. That footage should be subject to the same open records rules as we've had for dashcams for nearly 20 years, with little ill effect.

DOJ eliminates nearly 70% of UCR data tables
The first Trumpian Uniform Crime Reports from the FBI deleted nearly 70 percent of  the data tables, reported. This makes me alternatively want to cry and physically attack the person responsible. It's as though DOJ has figured out that, in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king, and so has decided to blind the public by eliminating the information experts rely upon to evaluate criminal-justice trends. Embarrassing and pointless. The feds need that data as much as anyone. This is government shooting itself in the foot.

Pfaff review corroborates Grits on 'strawman' claim
A review of John Pfaff's book Locked In in the Boston Review (combined with a review of James Forman Jr.'s Locking Up Our Own) reiterated Grits' assertion that the "Standard Story" Pfaff purported to debunk amounted to a "strawman." See related Grits commentary. Bottom line: Pfaff's big contribution to debates over mass incarceration was to highlight how prosecutors increased the rates at which they sought convictions, even as crime and the number of arrests declined. But many of his other claims were overstated. And his prescriptions for which priorities the movement should embrace hinged on false assumptions, were mired in error, and recommended strategies which would have significantly set back the progress being made. One will learn a lot from reading Prof. Pfaff's book, as long as one doesn't fall into the trap of following its advice.


Anonymous said...

Hot damn, we can't even "raise the age" to 18 before the bleeding heart liberals begin advocating raising it all the way to 25! LOL! Is there no level of criminal responsibility the do gooders aren't willing to excuse?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

No one's excusing anything, 4:26. And Republicans control the Texas Legislature, so I don't know what liberals you're talking about. Anyway, acknowledging modern brain science is not liberal nor conservative, despite the present political climate. One ignores reality at one's peril.

gravyrugl said...

I'm pretty sure deleting 70% of the tables was not so much shooting themselves in the foot as deliberately setting the stage for more authoritarian government. If we don't have information, we can't act on it, and that's all to the good for the administration.

Anonymous said...

Waco is about 30-40 years behind the rest of the nation. One can compare their criminal justice infrastructure to be on par with 1980’s Mexico.

TriggerMortis said...

I've said from the beginning that Reyna will be responsible for bankrupting McLennan County. These defendants aren't going to be satisfied with their cases being thrown out, they're mad, and they'll want what their entitled to after being put through the system. John Segrest tried to warn voters about Reyna, soon they will see he was right.

Anonymous said...

I'd happily take Renya over the bozo DA we have in Bell Couny.

Anonymous said...

I like John Segrest. He has more integrity than any prosecutor I have ever known. He would closely review every single arrest within 48 hours and drop charges immediately if he spotted a trumped-up charge. He was even known to send an assistant down to the jail to interview a suspect to get their side of the story. Sometimes I would go to call back a client who had called us from jail only to find out that charges were dropped and the potential client had been released. His policies to serve justice and not just prosecute cases made him a lot of enemies.

Segrest prosecuted police just as vigorously as he did everyone else. Reyna was a defense attorney, too, and he represented many of those police officers who had been charged with crimes and prosecuted by Segrest. Reyna made a deal with police unions and they all backed him in the election against Segrest. Waco was once a bastion of upstanding law enforcement, but that ended with Reyna's election.