Thursday, February 01, 2018

Keller threatened at the ballot box, remembering Johnnie Lindsay, and other stories

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

Remembering Johnnie Lindsay
Johnnie Lindsay, one of the early Dallas DNA exonerees who became active pushing for changes to the law in Austin, is on his deathbed. Jennifer Emily at the Dallas News had moving coverage. I knew Johnnie well through his work at the capitol while I was policy director at the Innocence Project of Texas. Great guy. He will be missed.

Support closing Texas youth prisons
More than 930 Just Liberty supporters have emailed the Governor and Lt. Governor in the last two weeks to ask them to close Texas' 5 remaining youth prisons and shift juvenile offenders into smaller, home-like settings focused on treatment, following the path charged by Gov. Scott Walker in Wiconsin. Go here to join them in sending a message to your elected officials.

Keller threatened at the ballot box?
David Bridges from the 5th Texas Court of Appeals out of Dallas has proven to be a strong challenger to Presiding Judge Sharon Keller on the Court of Criminal Appeals. Her hometown newspaper recently endorsed him, and I've heard Republicans in a couple of different venues recently suggest he is gaining ground. That would be a seismic shift on the state's highest criminal court.

Going gets weird in Bexar DA race
The two big DA races to watch in the Texas primaries are both on the Democratic side, in Bexar and Dallas counties. In San Antonio, Nico Lahood apparently thinks it's a good idea to "tongue-lash" constituents at town-hall meetings. Sigh. At least he's not talking about vaccines. OTOH, he just announced Bexar would begin diverting low-level marijuana cases, which is a plus.

Police and fire pensions blowing up
Following up on themes raised by Ron DeLord in the January Reasonably Suspicious podcast, Reason magazine has published a map of Texas police and fire pensions funded below the 40 percent level. It's a lot of them. And from ALEC, see an article on shifting from defined benefit pensions to 401k-like retirement policies, which DeLord predicted would happen for Texas police departments within 20-25 years.

Forensic errors caught, but still too common
An analyst at the Houston Forensic Science Center was fired after she shredded her notes in a murder case rather than document the source of errors in an analysis, the Houston Chronicle reported. The good news: The system caught the errors. But there have also been problems, the paper added: "Last April, it was reported that 65 criminal cases were jeopardized because of errors by Houston crime-scene investigators, including 26 homicides, five officer-involved shootings and six child deaths." Further, " March 2016, Houston's Office of Inspector General recommended the center revise its quality-control policy procedures after an investigation into three incidents the year earlier found that analysts had mistakenly contaminated evidence."

Don't jail juvie probationers on technical violations
Juvenile probationers in Harris County are being jailed for technical probation violations at high rates, reported the Houston Chronicle.

Trumpian Justice reform focused on reentry
The Texas Public Policy Foundation's Brooke Rollins outlines the Trumpian view for criminal-justice reform. Sentencing and forensic reform probably dead, but reentry initiatives are newly in vogue.

Pattern-recognition based forensics a problem
See a good discussion of forensics based on pattern recognition.


Anonymous said...

There have been over 2500 quality incidents documented in the Texas DPS crime labs from 2005-2017.

Crime Laboratory System - 60 incidents
Abilene Laboratory - 49 incidents
Amarillo Laboratory - 40 incidents
Austin Laboratory - 669 incidents
CODIS Laboratory - 68 incidents
Corpus Christi Laboratory - 38 indents
El Paso Laboratory - 140 incidents
Garland Laboratory - 278 incidents
Houston Laboratory - 616 incidents
Laredo Laboratory - 37 incidents
Lubbock Laboratory - 123 incidents
Midland Laboratory - 18 incidents
Tyler Laboratory - 139 incidents
Waco Laboratory - 133 incidents

How many of these negligence/misconduct incidents were reported to the FSC (as legally required per CCP 38.01)?
How many of these were reported to the FSC...only to have the FSC do nothing?
How many lab managers and/or supervisors were reprimanded or fired for failing to curtail incidents from reoccurring?
How many of these made the news?

As a reminder, the TxDPS, specifically D. Pat Johnson, was responsible for oversight of crime lab accreditation for all of Texas from 2005 to 2016. Good thing he is now a member of the FSC where he can REALLY whitewash problems in Texas crime labs.

Egregious enough for ya?


Did anyone else catch the irony a few months ago, dealing with the Fran's daycare case, of GFB endorsing and supporting someone named Keller?
Also, since we are "Remembering" today, Saturday marks the 20th anniversary of Karla Faye Tucker being rehabilitated by the State of Texas.

John W. said...

"March 2016, Houston's Office of Inspector General recommended the [HFSC] center revise its quality-control policy procedures after an investigation into three incidents the year earlier found that analysts had mistakenly contaminated evidence.""

Three incidents?

What about the 2500 from the TxDPS crime labs? Or do they get a free pass on incompetence?

Unknown said...

The Reason article about underfunded pensions indicates that there are only three pensions funded at under 40%. That does not sound to me like "a lot of them."

Anonymous said...

"There are three single-employer local plans in Texas with funded ratios below 40 percent, according to the PRB data. All three of these local plans cover firefighters. Two of the systems — those covering Paris and Plainview firefighters — are relatively small, each with 50 or fewer active employees."

I agree with Anon 2:09, not only are there only three such plans but they are all firefighter plans too. Since when has Grits cared a whit about firefighter pensions here on a blog about criminal justice reform?