Saturday, November 11, 2017

Did TDCJ lie about Harvey flooding? Plus, Jordan Edwards' killer's white supremacist past, and other stories

Here are a few odds and ends which merit Grits readers' attention while mine is focused on family matters:

Jordan Edwards' killer's alleged white-supremacist past
Roy Oliver, the Balch Springs cop who shot 15-year old Jordan Edwards, reportedly flipped off the car containing Edwards' body after the incident.. The Dallas News account included the tidbit that, in middle school, the officer was a member of a group called "Caucasians in Effect." During that period, reported the paper, he "posted swastikas in public places and hated anyone who was not caucasian." A trial date for Oliver, who has been charged with murder, has been set for January 22.

Hurricane Harvey and flooding at TDCJ
Did the Texas Department of Criminal Justice mislead the public about flooding at Beaumont-area state-run prisons? That's the allegation arising from offender accounts reported in Mother Jones. TDCJ initially did a good job of evacuating prison units in the hurricane's initial path, but when it went back out to sea and came aground again near Beaumont-Port Arthur, they weren't nearly as prepared and apparently just hunkered down. Jason Clark's denials here are so specific and strenuous that either 1) the offender accounts may be overblown or 2) something truly significant is being covered up. The flat-out contradictions of such specific inmate commentary seems unusual, even for a prison flak.

Texas deserves credit for Michael Morton Act reforms
The Marshall Project and the Fair Punishment Project both have good stories up about Brady violations by prosecutors. But it's worth mentioning that Texas' enacted one of the strongest disclosure statutes in the country when it passed the Michael Morton Act. The MP story notes this in passing, declaring that, "Now, the politics show signs of shifting, and a renewed effort is underway to push the legislature to overhaul state discovery rules, following the example of traditionally more conservative states such as North Carolina and Texas." But the Fair Punishment story does not, and referenced a couple of Texas cases from before the passage of the Michael Morton Act. Texas' statute still has some shortcomings, but it's a lot better than it was when those cases were decided.

The End of the Briseño Standards: Aftermath of a benchslapping
After the US Supreme Court benchslapped the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals over its Briseño decision in Moore v. Texas, the issue of when it's acceptable to execute the developmentally disabled is now back on their plate.  I've always considered Briseño one of the best examples of "outcome-oriented judging" by the Texas CCA (although there are many others). The court intentionally used outdated scientific information and other extraneous standards for years to get around SCOTUS' Atkins' decision, and their contrarian views finally caught up to them in 2017. Now, in the wake of this latest decision, even the Harris County DA agrees Mr. Moore has an intellectual disability. But the question remains: Will the CCA continue to flout SCOTUS, or will they acquiesce? See an op ed from the head of the Special Olympics asking them to honor the Supreme court's decision. MORE: The Republican DA in Dallas County reversed course to announce she would not seek the death penalty in a case governed by the Moore decision. Such bipartisan acquiescence to the new decision by Texas DAs perhaps makes it more likely the CCA won't take it upon themselves (again) to rewrite science and SCOTUS precedent on these topics. But you never know.

The role of community groups in the Great Crime Decline
What was the role of ordinary citizens and community nonprofits in the Great Crime Decline witnessed since the early '90s? See coverage of a new study purporting to answer the question. (Spoiler alert: their answer is "some.")


Anonymous said...

Perhaps you missed it Scott but apparently Waco has achieved special status as a Michael Morton Act free zone.
Of special note was a witness interview where District Attorney Abel Reyna and prosecutors Michael Jarrett and Amanda Dillon were present. Jarrett justified not turning over the Brady material because " because they knew the man was lying".

They burned through about a half mil in deputy overtime alone on the first trial. They're going to be passing the hat asking the rest of the state to kick a buck for this fiasco.

Txbombshell said...

It will be easy for TDCJ to provide video from the systems inside of Stiles that would support their stance. One inmate whose claims were published was saying they were in water up to their calves. I say that inmate is lying.