Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Judges explain need for bail reform; Exonerated, Exonerating; and other stories

Here are a few odds and ends which merit readers attention:

Judges explain need for bail reform
See Harris County District Judges Mike Fields and Darrell Jordan, a Republican and a Democrat, respectively, discussing the need for bipartisan bail reform on Reasonable Doubt, a cable-access program from the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association.

Exonerated, Exonerating
Congrats to Chistopher Scott, Steven Phillips, and the late Johnnie Lindsey for being featured on a PBS Independent Lens production. These Texas DNA exonerees are themselves investigating other potential wrongful convictions; those efforts are the subject of the film.

Equal Justice, or Justice Politicized?
So, a black, formerly incarcerated woman in Tarrant county got a five-year prison sentence for voting illegally, and a sitting jurist gets probation for engaging in fraud to get on the ballot! (See here and here.) Yes, the judge pleaded guilty. OTOH, he actually committed an offense with mens rea, as well as violated the public trust. So there's that.

Meaty sentence in South Texas corruption case
A juvenile detention officer in South Texas who was convicted of stealing $1.2 million worth of fajita meat over nine years was sentenced to a 50 year term. That's way too high given the nature of the crime; there's no real public safety justification for it.

Who are homeless?
Most homeless youth in Dallas County are girls, and nearly 60% are black, a study found. See KERA's report.

Incarcerated women
The Texas Criminal Justice Coalition issued a report based on a survey of incarcerated women in Texas. See a summary of their work from The Crime Report.

Do hospitals do deescalation better than cops?
The New York Times published a feature on what law enforcement could learn from hospital training on deescalating potentially violent encounters.

From the Shooting-Yourself-in-the-Foot Department
Eliminating food stamps eligibility for certain drug offenders resulted in increased recidivism, an academic analysis found.

Missouri modeling collections reforms, practices
After the Ferguson report from USDOJ criticizing the use of fine and fee revenue to bolster municipal revenue, the state passed reform measures and collections plummeted around the state of Missouri, spurring one local municipality to merge with another because the majority of its revenue evaporated. Among the new measures, "municipalities are now banned from piling on charges when a defendant does not pay a fine or show up in court. Some municipalities ... now treat unpaid tickets as any other unpaid bill and close the case after sending the ticket to collection."

On prosecutor associations and legislative power
Josie Duffy Rice at In Justice Today had a must-read piece on the legislative power of prosecutor associations and Radley Balko in the Washington Post followed up.


James S. said...

About Crystal Mason....

I'm kinda surprised that you went the way you did on analyzing this, and not an even more obvious direction: our plea bargain system that normally discourages people from going to trial. Mason went to trial thinking that she could convince a jury that she didn't mean to. But she got ridiculously punished for doing so.

On the other hand, you call her "formerly incarcerated" like it's some kind of protected class. It isn't. That's probably why probation wasn't on the table during plea bargaining (and why she went to the judge for punishment -- probation was still an option with him). Plus, it was a fraud-related conviction, so, yeah, that doesn't look good.

Also, you say she lacked mens rea. Well, maybe, but that's not what the jury decided. I probably agree with you that the State didn't prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she intended to illegally vote. But that's why we have trials.

So, I don't think there's a lot to compare in these cases. This dumb-ass JP was suddenly smart enough to realize he was screwed and took the easy way out. I'm also assuming he didn't have a prior felony conviction. Mason, as a convicted felon, had fewer options -- and chose to fight it out.

I think the suckiest part is that she basically gets screwed for going to trial. OTOH, illegal voting is a 2 - 20 year range, right? I guess it coulda been worse.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@ James S, nowhere did I say "formerly incarcerated" is a "protected class." If you read what I wrote that way, it says MUCH more about you than it does any of my stances here.

Ftm, you seem to "probably agree" with me that "the State didn't prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she intended to illegally vote." So apart from the piece you made up out of whole cloth, I can't tell exactly where we disagree.

Yes, the trial penalty is one sucky part, but just one. The tolerance shown toward one person TRULY trying to fix an election compared to another one who simply didn't understand voting requirements adds an additional layer of politicization to these election-related cases.

James S. said...

I have no doubt you didn't mean it the way I took it, but you can't seriously think that it's irrational to have taken it the way that I did. After all, the point to the post was to emphasize how unfair was the contrast between probation for this white JP dude and this black woman -- and using the phrase "formerly incarcerated" in parallel with "black." If you didn't intend it to be sympathetic, I'm not sure what the purpose was.

I guess my point to the whole thing is that they aren't really comparable. As much as I can't stand that god-awful woman (D.A. Sharen Wilson) grandstanding about this case in that indecipherable screech she has, it's hard to blame this outcome on the D.A.'s office -- unless, as i guess we agree, we wanna indict the whole plea bargain system for the juicy deal that JP got.

Steven Michael Seys said...

At the time I was convicted of a murder I didn't commit, no one could vote in any election after being convicted of even the least felony. Now the laws are so murky and complicated that the only safe course for someone with a conviction is to abstain from voting until pardoned, which in my case means waiting until 2088 unless the CCA allows the DNA laws passed by the Lege to be implemented as written. The jury in the voting fraud case was only acting on the information placed before them by the counselors on both sides. I can't blame them. My guess is the only way to correct our justice system is to grant the tryer of fact the power to question and call, even subpoena, witnesses.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Yes, James, I CAN and DO think it's irrational for you to infer anything about a "protected class" from my comments. I didn't say it. And the fact that you can't let it go DEFINITELY says more about you than it does about my positions. It's just stupid.

This blog has railed against a corrupted plea bargain system for years, so I feel perfectly justified including the judge's light sentence in the critique, ESPECIALLY in the context of the excessive trial penalty for the gal.

Maybe you can't see the basis for comparison, but the Fort Worth Star Telegram does, along with many other commentators, apparently so perhaps you can agree that yours is a minority opinion which I disagree with and leave it at that.

Anonymous said...

I bet he does have some minority opinions alright...

James S. said...

I pointed out that 1. The lady had a prior felony; and 2. The JP guy got a plea bargain -- and 6:41 accuses me of being a racist.

Nice crowd, Scott.

Anonymous said...

50 years for fajita meat, c'mon now that's just a tad ridicules. Which it just proves what I've said for years, Texas is all about convictions because they make money from each and every one of them!