Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Reasonably Suspicious: The conservative case for reducing drug penalties, DWI arrests plummet, and other stories

Does God have a Texas accent? Mandy Marzullo and I address this and other pressing questions on the latest edition (May 2018) of Just Liberty's Reasonably Suspicious podcast. Give it a listen!

Here's what we discussed this month:

Top Stories
  • Prosecutors flailing with Twin Peaks biker massacre cases.
  • Scott talks to David Safavian of the American Conservative Union Foundation on why Texas should reduce penalties for low-level drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor.
Suspicious Mysteries
  • Why have the number of arrests for DWI and drunkenness plunged in Texas since 2010?
Death and Texas
  • On the use of forensic hypnosis in death penalty cases.
Stop the Train
  • Promoting Just Liberty's new decarceration campaign and jingle.
The Last Hurrah
  • Russian troll farms most successful projects were Blue Lives Matter posts.
  • With San Antonio launching a pilot program, what will it take to approve needle exchange programs in Texas?
  • Texas' "subjugation rate" (the number of people in prison, jail, on probation and on parole) declined from 1 in 22 a decade ago to 1 in 41 today. What is the cause?
Find a transcript of the show below the jump.

Transcript of the May 2018 Reasonably Suspicious podcast from Just Liberty, featuring co-hosts Scott Henson and Amanda Marzullo.

Mandy Marzullo: Hi, this is Amanda Marzullo. In Comal County District Judge Jack Robison urged jurors to find a defendant not guilty of sex trafficking because God told him she was innocent. He said he knew it violated the Canons of Judicial Ethics, but declared "when God tells me I got to do something, I got to do it." The state Commission on Judicial Conduct is investigating. Scott, what do you think about this heavenly intervention into this Comal County trial?

Scott Henson: I have many, many questions. First, I want to know more about precisely how God told him to seek a not guilty verdict. Are we talking about a burning bush situation, is he Joan of Arc hearing unseen voices while everyone else is oblivious in the courtroom, or maybe this is like St. Francis where he speaks with animals and a prosecution comfort dog gave him this information at some point during the trial. What does God's voice sound like? Is he a basso, a baritone, a tenor? Perhaps most importantly, does he speak with a Texas accent? I'm hoping the Judicial Conduct Commission looks into all these questions because this is sort of a once in a lifetime opportunity really to get some firsthand knowledge. I want to know more. 

Mandy Marzullo: Yeah, I think we all want to know more. Although, I think we all also know that God clearly speaks with a Texas accent. I'm just really happy that God has finally intervened on the side of the defense.

Scott Henson: It's rare isn't it? Usually he's pro prosecution, God.

Mandy Marzullo: Yeah, pro-prosecution God. He's in the courtroom all the time. I'm finally, I'm just happy that our side has gotten its due.

Scott Henson: All right, well I hadn't thought of it that way, but that is true. All right, little boys and girls, this is Scott Henson with Just Liberty here today with our good friend Amanda Marzullo from the Texas Defenders Service. You're listening to the Reasonably Suspicious podcast for May 2018 covering Texas criminal justice policy and politics. On today's show, fewer DWI cases are being prosecuted, but not as few from the number of defendants from the Twin Peaks biker massacre who's cases have been dismissed at amazingly high numbers lately. Mandy, what are you looking forward to talking about on the podcast today?

Mandy Marzullo: The DUI numbers. I think it's an important set of questions that we've got to think about.

Scott Henson: All right, me too. I am looking forward to that. Meanwhile, first assistant Michael Jarrett at the McClendon County DA's office has made misfires the hallmarks of his career. First, by shooting off a pistol in the DA's offices. Then, as lead attorney on the team that couldn't shoot straight prosecuting the Twin Peaks biker massacre cases, where a visiting judge calls the office's behavior shameful and misleading. He's now abandoning ship after DA Able Reyna lost his primary election, and it's unclear whether any of the Twin Peaks cases will ultimately result in convictions. In fact, just before we sat down to record this the U.S. Attorney in San Antonio announced they'd convicted the state's top two Bandidos leaders of racketeering charges, including allegations of murder, but none of them related to the Twin Peaks fiasco. So Mandy, talk to me about the legacy of this prosecutorial misadventure in Waco, and what Able Reyna did wrong.

Mandy Marzullo: Well I think on the part of Jarrett and Able Reyna, they engaged in some overzealous prosecution decisions here. Some of the interesting things is that we know that the feds were at the scene of the crime with the Twin Peaks case, that was one reason why so many people were killed and that there was such a quick response from law enforcement. 

Scott Henson: Right, all sorts of agencies were there, DPS, and lots of local agencies, and there were undercover officers from multiple agencies. There were all sorts of law enforcement around that place.

Mandy Marzullo: And federal law enforcement I believe.

Scott Henson: That's right.

Mandy Marzullo: It wasn't just at the state level, yet there's no nexus between the federal charges that are brought and that incident, which means that the feds didn't think that there was a connection to the head of the organization involved.

Scott Henson: I'm not sure it's that they didn't think there was a connection. What I think is they looked at the mess in Waco and said we don't want any part of that. 

Mandy Marzullo: Okay.

Scott Henson: Oh my God, what are you doing? You've just messed that completely up. No thanks, we'll convict him on something else. Thank you very much. You just, you have that Able Reyna. You just enjoy that mess you've created.

Mandy Marzullo: Well if nothing else, there are a number of people who were dead at the result of this incident. In fact, most-

Scott Henson: Oh my gosh, yes. It was 9 dead and 20 injured.

Mandy Marzullo: If they could charge someone with the death of nine people, I believe that they would have done it.

Scott Henson: Right. I think the ballistics report said that four were killed by law enforcement. 

Mandy Marzullo: It's a rough situation, but the fact that they've rounded up 177 people.

Scott Henson: That's right. However many were killed, many of the people who were killed were in fact the perpetrators, but beyond that 177 is an insane number. They ended up prosecuting in the 150s. Now they've dismissed almost all of those. Actually, all of them of the original charges were dismissed. They had been charged with first degree felonies, everybody. They've recharged about 24 cases with a variety of offenses, and we'll see if those are more realistic. It was a crazy number though. I had originally put the over under it how many convictions we would see from this at one and a half, and when I saw the Marshall Project headline that two people from the Bandidos related to the Twin Peaks massacre were convicted, I though oh well I've got over. It turned out they didn't touch the Twin Peaks stuff in those cases. There may be a connection in the press, but there's not a connection in those cases. The feds steered a very wide birth around anything having to do with that mess.

Scott Henson: I do think Michael Jarrett shooting the gun off in the office is really sort of a metaphor for the whole Able Reyna tenure. It wasn't just this case where he was engaging in overreach. They had a reputation of demanding extreme plea bargains in penny any cases, including DWI and other misdemeanors, and making people sit in jail if they couldn't come to an agreement or accept the most draconian sentence possible. So their courts were getting very backed up, and the jail was full, and they were starting to have to look for more places for inmates, and the county commissioner's courts having to fork over more money, all because Able Reyna won't go into plea bargains. This is not just the Twin Peaks where he's overcharging and going for the max, and refusing to look more realistically at the individual cases. This is kind of what he's done across the board, if you talk to the local defense bar, throughout his tenure. He's had two terms now, and so we've gotten to have a pretty good sense of what he's about.

Mandy Marzullo: And what he's done.

Scott Henson: That's right. This is not just the Twin Peaks cases.

Mandy Marzullo: Yeah, and prosecutors, I understand why they need to bring fire and brimstone into the courtroom. They're proving their case and they need to be outraged. But when it comes to a charging decision, you want that to be a dispassionate, objective decision because you're infringing someone's liberty. Bringing charges alone has a huge impact on someone's life.

Scott Henson: That's right.

Mandy Marzullo: And you want prosecutors to be judicious in the application of that. It doesn't seem like that's the case in their office is that they're taking that responsibility seriously.

Scott Henson: Right. Well that's why I say the firing off of the gun is sort of emblematic of a cowboy culture. I mean just whatever we can get, let's go for the max. Anyway.

Mandy Marzullo: And then he didn't know what he was doing right.

Scott Henson: That's right. 

Mandy Marzullo: It was sort of like he was looking at someone else's Glock and didn't know that he was firing it off. 

Scott Henson: That's right. The incompetence layered on top of the arrogance is a big part of the problem.

Mandy Marzullo: Is a piece of it.

Scott Henson: All right. 

Mandy Marzullo: Next up, Scott sits down with a national advocate from the American Conservative Union Foundation to talk about why the Texas GOP should include drug policy reform in its state party campaign platform. But first, because Just Liberty owns the audio, and it's really pretty fun and catchy, let's listen to the jingle Scott's using to promote the new campaign.

Scott Henson: Just Liberty's campaign to install criminal justice reform planks into both state political parties platforms comes to a head next month as Republicans hold their state convention in San Antonio and the Democrats meet in Fort Worth. Mandy and I will take a month off from our regularly Reasonably Suspicious show so Mandy can get her new condo together, and Just Liberty can focus on bringing you special campaign related coverage of both of these venues. To prepare for the GOP convention podcast, I sat down recently with David Safavian of the American Conservative Union Foundation to talk to him about why conservatives in the Texas GOP should support a platform plank to reduce penalty for user level drug possession. Let's listen to what he has to say.

Scott Henson: Finally, let's talk about drugs and drug policy. Texas has seen decline in crime in the past few years, and the past few decades really, two decades. We've seen pretty consistently decline in crime, declining new cases filed across the board. The only new expanded source of new cases, increased cases, has been drug possession. This is really the only growth sector remaining in the criminal justice field in Texas. Everything else is declining pretty radically. Talk to us about whether we should make low level drug possession a felony, whether that should be an offense someone goes to prison for. In Texas, one of the proposals has been if we reduced from felony to a misdemeanor, we would be able to use some of the savings to pay for treatment, for additional types of services and monitoring that might actually address the addiction instead of simply locking them up. Talk to us about, again the conservative viewpoint on what should we do with that drug policy. Why is it being a felony a problem?

David Safavian: Well, one of the things that we as conservatives really push for when we deal with government is looking at the results that the government delivers, or lack thereof. If you consider how punishing low level non-violent drug offenders with a felony, what result that delivers, it is a mark on their record that they can never erase, which hurts their long term ability to get employed, to go to college, to earn a living, and to raise a family. A felony conviction for anything, no matter what anybody really thinks, is an economic death penalty.

Scott Henson: Right.

David Safavian: It makes it nearly impossible to get hired. There are about 43,000 different regulations that bar felons from engaging in different activities, commercial, business, employment, education. Why we would do permanent harm to a person who has been convicted of a non-violent low level drug offense makes no sense to me, number one. Number two, the cost of incarcerating these people for such a long period of time, not to mention the lost revenue, the increased governmental assistance that will be required because they can't find work afterwards, those costs are enormous. You and I, and the tax payers of Texas will all have to shoulder those for what result. 

David Safavian: The result is that low level drug offenders go into prison, they come out of prison. If they have an addiction issue they are untreated. When you put a non-violent offender in with a violent offender, who is going to come out looking more like the other? We are putting non-violent people into prisons, making them more likely to become more serious hardened criminals, which costs the system even more. I think that's a long winded way of saying we're not getting a whole hell of a lot for our money when we arrest and incarcerate for long periods of time a low level drug offense.

Scott Henson: All right, well thank you David so much for chatting with me.

David Safavian: Thank you.

Mandy Marzullo: Next up, a segment we call Suspicious Mysteries, in which we tackle questions to which there are no definitive answers. 

Mandy Marzullo: In recent years far fewer Texans have been arrested for alcohol related crimes than in years past. According to DPS arrest statistics the number of adults arrested for DWI declined by more than a third between 2010 and 2016, and arrests for drunkenness declined by more than a half. Scott, you first reported on this until now unreported trend on your blog Ritz for Breakfast. What do you think is causing it?

Scott Henson: Well, as indicated by the title of this segment, we don't really know what's causing it. It's kind of a crazy thing because DWI enforcement remains very popular. We've seen district attorneys be unelected because they didn't enforce DWI strongly enough. So it's really surprising that you would see these numbers go down by a third over this seven year period. Now we do have a few possibilities, a few potential explanations. For starters, we know that the number of traffic tickets went down by about a third, total state wide among all agencies. No one really knows why, but there has been a reduction in traffic enforcement overall. It could be that this is just a part of that reduction in traffic enforcement that maybe occurred for reasons that don't have anything to do with DWI.

Scott Henson: On the other hand, among other possible explanations, this is a period when the Department of Public Safety shifted hundreds and hundreds of troopers, massive numbers of troopers, down to the border. All of a sudden these guys are standing along the river staring across the water with binoculars instead of driving around looking for drunks. While it's amazing to imagine that them making that change in priorities would result in a one-third statewide reduction in DWIs, it probably is a contributing factor that that shift in deployment patterns caused this. We've also heard judges and district attorneys talk about how the driver responsibility surcharge may be causing some of this. That people are allowing DWIs to plead down to reckless driving, or to blocking the roadway, or something that doesn't get a surcharge because they now that people can't pay these surcharges once they're on. 

Mandy Marzullo: But this is the arresting charge, so that would be discretion on the part-

Scott Henson: That's true, that was the arrest.

Mandy Marzullo: -of law enforcement.

Scott Henson: That's true, so that wouldn't explain that. 

Mandy Marzullo: But it could be, I mean it could still be part of what the average law enforcement officer is thinking at the time of an arrest. They make decisions as well. They're implementing policy, whether they think of themselves in that light or not.

Scott Henson: That's right, but we don't really know. It's kind of a crazy moment. If it turns out to be that the DPS redeployment is the reason, that actually is something that could be a political issue in the governor's race this fall, quite frankly. I really think that it's one thing for people to think the DPS deployment is a politicized thing, I'm not sure I support that. It's another to say okay it's a politicized deployment and as a result you have less DWI enforcement in your community. I think that actually could be something that has political consequences, but can we prove at the moment that that's the source, no. We just know that there's been this amazingly radical reduction. The reduction in drunkenness makes you think well maybe it's just something related to alcohol generally. Maybe alcohol is falling out of fashion, and you're not getting as many drunk in public incidents as you used to. Maybe Uber and Lyft are causing some of that, people are taking ride shares instead of driving home drunk. We can't really know from the information we have.

Mandy Marzullo: It would be interesting also to look at how geography is playing a role in this. Is there clustering? Also, what is the relationship between the decline in DWIs and mortality rates. Has that changed?

Scott Henson: Actually, I can answer the latter but not the former. As far as mortality rates, fatal accidents had been going down very, very slightly right before the drop began. They have begun going back up very, very slightly, but the population increase has been greater, so the rate has continued to go down.

Mandy Marzullo: Interesting.

Scott Henson: We're not seeing the rate of fatal DWI accidents going up in response to this. You have seen a slight increase in the overall total number, but when you add in the proportionality for population, it isn't a thing. So it's hard to tell. We don't have enough information from the top line statewide data. I think it's a great observation, you would need some geographic data and to understand better where this is clustered.

Mandy Marzullo: Or even if there is clustering if it isn't-

Scott Henson: That's right.

Mandy Marzullo: And what's happening underneath of all this. Although, it's kind of interesting that the mortality rate hasn't increased under this. That does kind of call to question-

Scott Henson: What's the point?

Mandy Marzullo: Right. Exactly. Why are we incarcerating people? Why are we putting them through overly punitive surcharges for their driver's license if at the end of the day it's not making our roads safer?

Scott Henson: That's right. If you get a DWI in Texas and you actually pay every fee and surcharge, and probation cost, and everything, it's between $15,000 and $20,000 when you're done. 

Mandy Marzullo: Yeah.

Scott Henson: It's a big chunk. The thing I mention on the blog is what's fascinating is that no one's really noticed that we have this many fewer DWIs. The only people that seem to care at all are probation directors because they get fewer people on probation, and the criminal defense lawyers because DWI is one of the few places where people actually hire attorneys. Other than that I think everyone else just looked up and said oh no big deal, don't really care, that didn't really matter, which is fascinating in and of itself. Why are we doing it if we can have DWIs decline by a third and it didn't really affect safety at all?

Mandy Marzullo: Yeah.

Scott Henson: It's fascinating.

Mandy Marzullo: Exactly. Even with all the fees that are collected, it's hard to tell whether at the end of the day the state is even generating money from it because it costs money to incarcerate someone, it costs money to arrest someone and have people out on patrol. There are a lot of questions here about whether this is sound policy.

Scott Henson: Next up, our segment Death in Texas discussing the most pressing issues involving capital punishment and the death penalty in the Lone Star state.

Scott Henson: This month our friend Lauren McGaughy from the Dallas Morning News has a terrific new article on forensic hypnosis. A story spurred by a case out of Farmers Branch called Ex Parte Flores, which we discussed on the podcast in November of 2017. In that case a witness who originally told police a thin long haired white man committed the offense changed her story to accuse Mr. Flores, a portly short haired Latino man, after she underwent hypnosis conducted by the Farmers Branch Police Department. At one time hundreds of police officers in Texas were trained to do hypnosis, but today only a couple of dozen are licensed to do so, most of them at Texas DPS and the Harris County Sheriff's Office. So Mandy, should hypnotically influence testimony be admitted as evidence in criminal trials, in Mr. Flores's case seeking the death penalty?

Mandy Marzullo: Now, absolutely not. I think that's a safe thing to say. There are so many questions about the reliability of hypnotically induced testimony, about its reliability, that it really shouldn't be admitted into evidence. The controlling case on this is a case called Zanney, or Zany, we're not really sure how to pronounce it.

Scott Henson: Let's go with Zany because I think that actually is more appropriate in this case, as in it's zany to use hypnosis or tarot card reading, or palm reading, or tea leaf reading in criminal trial. So let's go with zany.

Mandy Marzullo: Yeah, zany. So in the Zani decision, the first several pages consist of the court sort of recounting all of the problems with forensically induced testimony before they say it's admissible. It's actually slightly terrifying when you think of it as a piece of judicial reasoning that they acknowledge that someone who's under hypnosis is unusually susceptible to suggestion, that they are more likely to try to react positively to suggestions on the part of the person who's hypnotizing them. That they don't feel as though they're under someone's control, but they in fact are. Everything that we also know about recall, and individual recall, and that we ourselves like memories can be implanted in your mind. From that, it really, at the end of the day, hypnosis probably is making someone's testimony less reliable rather than more reliable.

Scott Henson: Right. A researcher on eye witness testimony, Elizabeth Loftus, has found that memories can be implanted or altered via hypnosis. Of course making someone more susceptible is really the basis of hypnosis, so this shouldn't be a big shock. It should be mentioned that the Farmers Branch detective didn't even follow the Zani guidance by the court even there. There's several requirements, you must do this, you must do that, that weren't followed. It was the first time that detective had ever done it. But one of the crazy things is this is something that's going out of fashion on its own without the courts do anything. People are not willing to put their name behind this for the most part. 

Scott Henson: At one point in time in the late 80s there were actually hundreds of Texas law enforcement officers who were licensed by what was in the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement's Standards in Education. Now, the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, to be certified as a forensic hypnotist and to use this in court. As recently as 1999 there were 152 forensic hypnotists statewide. Today there are about two dozen, and almost all of them are at only two agencies. They are at Texas Department of Public Safety, most of them in the Texas Rangers as I understand it, and in the Harris County Sheriff's Office.

Mandy Marzullo: Well those aren't agencies that handle high profile cases, so I don't understand why anyone would have a problem with that.

Scott Henson: Why anyone would care?

Mandy Marzullo: Yeah.

Scott Henson: That's right.

Mandy Marzullo: I mean it's only the Texas Rangers.

Scott Henson: That's right. This is something that law enforcement has for the most part already moved away from. When you look at the Zani factors and the Zani opinion, there's a moment where they say that the proponents of forensic hypnosis support the video tape theory of memory where your memories are like video tapes and you have somehow suppressed them into your subconscious, and the hypnosis is merely digging into your subconscious to get these video tape like memories. Well, even at the time that that opinion was written we knew that that was bogus. Today scientists know 100% that that is false. The use of FMRIs to track brain patterns and brain circuitry has shown that memories are recreated every single time you draw them back up. That's why they can change and alter over time is that they're being recreated each time. That's why they can be changed, or altered when you're under this susceptible state.

Mandy Marzullo: It's pretty phenomenal at the end of the day. I mean it makes you wonder about the court and its reasoning on this, but ...

Scott Henson: Well, and I've said for years that the court of criminal appeals has been dominated by the government always win faction. Certainly in 2004 when they last considered this that was more the case than it is even so today. The fact is that we've had a bunch of prosecutors, or I should say a bunch of judges on this court-

Mandy Marzullo: Really, prosecution? I don't know why anyone would confuse them.

Scott Henson: That's right. We have had a bunch of judges on the Court of Criminal Appeals for a very long time now who essentially side with government, with the prosecution, no matter what the situation. That's who I sort of viewed this, is that well why did they allow hypnosis in, because the government wanted it in, and there really doesn't have to be much more of a reason than that.

Scott Henson: Finally, just because I'm really liking how it turned out, and like Mandy said we own the audio, let's play one more tune for you. This is Stop the Train, a promotional jingle Just Liberty is using to brand and popularize our campaign to reduce incarceration and close more prisons in Texas. I wrote the lyrics, that's Malford Milligan on vocals, and Donnie Winn and Gabe Rose did an amazing job on the drums and guitar respectively. I think it's pretty catchy. By next spring I hope most Texans, and certainly most Texas legislators think about closing prisons every time they hear the chorus.

Scott Henson: If you'd like to add this song to your own playlist, go right now to justliberty.org. From our homepage you can send a message to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice asking them to include prison closures in their legislative appropriations request. You can download the song from the thank you page. 

Scott Henson: Now it's time for our rapid fire segment, The Last Hurrah. Mandy, are you ready?

Mandy Marzullo: The question is are you ready? You get the first one Scott.

Scott Henson: All right.

Mandy Marzullo: The most successful fake news ads promoted on Facebook by Russian troll farms during the 2016 election turned out to be the blue lives matter posts intended to inflame white Americans against the black lives matter movement, according to The Daily Boost. What does that say about Americans that this worked?

Scott Henson: Oh my gosh, this is just heart wrenching. Frankly, of course it worked. Of course it worked. Oh my God! This is a complete embarrassment. The idea that this was being ginned up by America's enemies is just sad and disquieting. It should also be mentioned, by the way, that the same Russian troll farms it turns out were the ones generating all the controversy over Jade Helm, remember when our governor actually ordered the Texas State Guard to monitor the U.S. military because they might be seeking to imprison average Texans. Well it turns out that was all also from a Russian troll farm. It's just embarrassing and awful, and everyone should just feel terrible that this is where we are right now. All right.

Mandy Marzullo: Fake news.

Scott Henson: Mandy, we're going to give you one of the easy ones. In San Antonio, both the Republican and Democratic district attorney candidates have endorsed allowing a local needle exchange program to go forward. In 2015, a bill allowing charities to operate needle exchanges passed in the Republican led Texas House with bipartisan support. So, what will it take to get Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and Governor Abbott on board with other Republican leaders to endorsing harm reduction responses to the overdose crisis?

Mandy Marzullo: At the outset I'm going to say that I don't think that this bipartisan endorsement in San Antonio means too much because it's San Antonio, which is, for those of our listeners who are from outside the Lone Star state, that is the most Democratic pocket that our state has so you're going to see more of a left leaning bet towards criminal justice out of San Antonio. But I think in terms of what it's going to take to pass, it's going to be a huge investment from the Republican establishment. I would expect maybe the evangelical movement, or members of the liberty caucus who have endorsed this policy in the House to stand up and say that this is a priority for them. But it's going to need to be some sort of outreach to the like of and Governor Abbott to say that this is both consistent with the Republican thinking about limited government and that it's an ethical thing to be doing.

Scott Henson: That's right. It has to be messengers they support.

Mandy Marzullo: Exactly. Finally, fewer Texans are under control of the government that at any time in recent memory. The Lone Star state's "Subsugation rate," which Scott has defined on his blog as the total number of people supervised in prison, jail, on probation, and on parole compared to the adult population, has declined from 1 in 22 adults back in 2008 to 1 in 41 in 2018. So Scott, Texas's population has grown, but not that much. What explains this unexpected and unacknowledged up serve in freedom?

Scott Henson: Well this is actually an amazing number and an amazing change. The national average is 1 in 38 people in prison, jail, probation, or parole, so Texas is now below.

Mandy Marzullo: Yay!

Scott Henson: The number that's really changed is probation. The main reason that it's changed is the increase in the property theft thresholds, the thresholds at which you get charged with a higher offense, a felony or whatever the higher offense is, in 2015. We had understood that this would reduce the number of people who went to prison because fewer people would be charged with a felony, they're now charged with a misdemeanor. The thing that no one understood and that this data actually reveals is that when all those people shifted to a misdemeanor, misdemeanor probation is typically only six months long. The felony probation is 2 to 10 years. So the number of people on probation has plummeted, and that's the reason for the far, far lower number.

Mandy Marzullo: Excellent.

Scott Henson: All right, we're out of time, but we'll try and do better than next time. Until then, I'm Scott Henson with Just Liberty.

Mandy Marzullo: And I'm Amanda Marzullo from the Texas Defender Service. Goodbye and thanks for listening. 

Scott Henson: We'll be back in July with another edition of the Reasonably Suspicious podcast. Next month look for Just Liberty's podcast coverage aimed at the Republican and Democratic state political conventions. I'm excited about that. Until then, keep fighting for criminal justice reform. It's the only way it's going to happen. 

Transcribed by Rev.com, with minor editing for grammar and clarity by Scott Henson.


Anonymous said...

People use Uber as opposed to driving under the influence


Anonymous said...

Grits - I have heard that the May 14th East and North Texas County Judges and commissioners conference pointed out that the State owes counties close to 3 billion in indigent defense fees. Do you have any information regarding that meeting, verification of the State's delinquency in paying???

Anonymous said...

DWI cases not down as much as misdemeanor theft. 2013 66,119 DWI 1st filed compared to 58,786 in 2017. Theft in 2013 57,534 compared to 31,147 in 2017. By the way, not just Theft, but also, TBC, Family violence assault, other assault, traffic, and DWLI. All 2017 numbers less than 2013 indictments.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@9:25, it's false that the State owes counties $3 billion.

The counties are calculating their increased costs post-Texas Fair Defense Act (2001) and claiming the state should pay for those. That's silly, for reasons I've discussed before. First, inflation and population increases account for much of the growth. The rest comes from counties being forced to provide counsel in cases where they SHOULD have done so before but were not adequately shouldering their responsibilities.

IMO the state should only agree to reimburse more to counties for indigent defense if counties agree to a cap and trade system to limit mass incarceration on the back end.

The locals want to retain all the discretion and shift all the costs to the state, but that's not how politics works.

Anonymous said...

Nutso Abel Reyna is losing his mind: http://www.wacotrib.com/news/courts_and_trials/some-twin-peaks-defendants-re-indicted-new-charges-include-murder/article_3a08949a-3171-50b8-8f8d-60c7b4b6cd50.html