Friday, July 06, 2018

Snopes on Harris County Fentanyl Story, Gross on Innocence and Misdemeanors, Conservatives for Justice Reform, and other stories

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

Austin cops said they shot a man because he fired upon them but he did not
Here's the story. He still faces aggravated-assault-with-a-deadly-weapon charges even though police now admit no such assault occurred.

Correction on fentanyl poisoning non-story not nearly as widespread as initial misinformation
Grits has been saying for months that the opiod epidemic in Texas is overstated compared to the problem of meth addiction and overdoses, and that hysteria over fentanyl is largely unwarranted here because the drug does not mix with the relatively impure black-tar heroin common in Texas and California markets. So I was not suprised to see Snopes rule that the fentanyl-soaked flyers touted by the Harris County Sheriff's Office as causing the hospitalization of a deputy was a bogus story. Though HCSO said "field tests" indicated fentanyl on the flyers, lab tests confirmed that was false. Laughably, HCSO said in a statement, "The Sheriff’s Office is also working to verify that deputies have access to the most reliable field testing kits available." Faulty field tests used by law enforcement in Harris County have been responsible for hundreds of false convictions, so don't hold your breath.

Unconstitutional to take away drivers licenses for nonpayment of debt?
In Tennessee, a federal court ruled it unconstitutional for state government to take away drivers licenses for nonpayment of debt. This could be a major sleeper issue. See coverage from AP and the New York Times.

Innocence and misdemeanors
Samuel Gross from the National Exoneration Registry has a short, new article out on innocence in misdemeanor cases, estimating the frequency at which innocent people are convicted of misdemeanors and discussing the reasons why these cases are seldom unearthed through routine court processes. With the exception of the Harris County exonerations based on erroneous drug-field tests, "Most of the [misdemeanor] defendants were exonerated either because videos that proved their innocence came to light after conviction, or because the police officers who testified that they had been assaulted were themselves charged with perjury, violence or other misconduct."

VT first state to "raise the age" beyond 18
Vermont became the first state to "raise the age" at which youth are charged as adults to 19 by 2020 for most crimes, moving it to 20 in 2022 under legislation signed by their Republican governor. MORE: From our friends at the Columbia Justice Lab.

On conservatism and justice reform
Several recent articles on the intersection of conservativsm and criminal-justice reform merit readers' attention. Check out, "Conserving Criminal Justice Reform" from the R Street Institute, "Where the Right Went Wrong on Criminal Justice" from The American Conservative, and "No More Pits of Despair," a column from the Washington Post about Jared Kushner and justice reform in the Trump Administration. In related, Texas news, check out the criminal-justice reform planks added this year to the Texas state GOP platform, here's where those planks agree with the Democratic platform, and here's a special, hour-long edition of our Reasonably Suspicious podcast interviewing Texas conservatives on various justice reform topics.


Gadfly said...

I saw the Tennessee DL story yesterday. Yes, let's hope that people in other states start challenging similar laws and get similar results.

Anonymous said...

The Austin man who was shot by Police is probably guilty of no worse than a misdemeanor deadly conduct.
If he didn’t say anything to Police that night and was unaware Police were there in part due to drug use, they will have trouble establishing the mental culpability required for felony assault that doesn’t result in injury. That man needs a good attorney.
Also, was curious out for disappearing in dash or body cam videos...better TPIA for the complete list of videos.

Anonymous said...

Correction: watch out for disappearing video not “was curious out”

Anonymous said...

One must admit that the sergeant who overdosed on fentanyl then concocted the phony flyers excuse ran a pretty good con. Knowing that there was a good chance the field tests would generate positive results, he is now immune from any form of retribution. He received a few days off with pay and had the sympathy and prayers from his department and public. I predict this same con will be used by other officers across the country who read the first article but are too stupid to follow it up.

Anonymous said...

Police say Parrish eventually emerged from the house holding a .40-caliber Hi-Point rifle. Parrish brandished a weapon in a threatening manner.

Brandishing a rifle at the cops is not assault. Until he shot one of the cops they had no reason to act.