Thursday, August 30, 2018

Credit to Dallas DA on #RoyOliver conviction, TDCJ's phony AC cost estimates, majority of Llano PD under indictment, and other stories

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

Dallas DA deserves credit on Roy Oliver conviction
Much has been written about the murder conviction of former Balch Springs police officer Roy Oliver for killing 15-year old Jordan Edwards, but here are a couple of things I've not seen emphasized. First, this is the second officer in Dallas County convicted of murder in the last year; Ken Johnson from the Farmers Branch PD received a 10-year sentence in January for killing 16-year old Jose Cruz. Further, the Texas Observer pointed out that a third officer from Dallas PD, Christopher Hess, was indicted in June on aggravated assault as a result of shooting into a fleeing vehicle. All that's a credit to Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson, who personally made the closing arguments in Roy Oliver's case. She may be a Republican in a mostly Democratic county, but none of our big-city Dem DAs have been as aggressive when police shoot unarmed kids. Grits also found it significant that Gov. Abbott, who appointed Johnson, on his personal Twitter account weighed in to declare, "White Texas police officer found guilty of murder for fatally shooting black teen in car. This life should never have been lost." Both the framing of the incident in terms of race and the implied criticism of police in the episode are unusual, to say the least, for this governor, even if the comments seem appropriate and moderate to this writer.

Majority of Llano PD under indictment.
A majority of the Llano Police Department (five of nine), including the police chief, has been indicted, according to published media reports.

Hard to believe TDCJ when they make self-interested claims
When TDCJ was arguing before the federal courts against having to require air conditioning in the Wallace Pack Unit, they claimed it would be unreasonably expensive, estimating it would cost more than $20 million. Later, reported the Texas Tribune, "Before settling the lawsuit, the department conducted its own research and the cost dropped to $11 million." At yesterday's House Corrections Committee hearing, however, TDCJ executive director Bryan Collier said the agency now estimates the cost to install air conditioning at $4 million, a more than 80 percent reduction from their original estimate. (Notably, the agency spent more than $7 million fighting the lawsuit!) The agency is rapidly earning a reputation for promoting false, self-interested information, not just to the press and the public but in this case, to the courts.

Bipartisan support for push to change response to 911 mental-health calls
When the the Austin Justice Coalition last year succeeded in convincing the Austin city council to vote against the union contract with the Austin Police Association, it freed up millions of dollars that can now be used to promote other goals. Check out the group's recommendations to the City of Austin for budget changes that would improve public safety. Important highlights include following Dallas' example to pilot sending an interdisciplinary team led by health professionals to respond to mental-health 911 calls instead of patrol officers. In this, AJC stands in agreement with US Sen. John Cornyn, who has endorsed the Dallas project. AJC also recommended funding independent investigation of police officer misconduct and paying for a one-year study process to determine whether the city should make the Austin PD crime lab independent.

Details on Harris County's state-jail diversion court
At the joint House Corrections-Criminal Jurisprudence Committee hearing yesterday, Harris County District Judge Brock Thomas discussed a specialty court they've used to keep from sending as many people for incarceration in state jails. This recent blog post from the National Association of Counties published an interview with Leah Garabedian, Harris County’s Chief Criminal Justice Strategist, discussing those projects, which were funded through a grant from the MacArthur Foundation.

Unfunded maintenance piling up at Texas prisons
Grits had highlighted underfunding of prisoner health services in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Legislative Appropriations Request, and the Dallas News' Lauren McGaughy detailed unfunded facilities-maintenance costs from the same document. The agency has identified $400 million in maintenance needs, and requested funding for $146 million of that. However, in the current biennium, the Lege appropriated only $40 million for maintenance, and the larger amount was requested in the agency's "exceptional items."

Bail reform goes local
The Fifth Circuit's scaling back of Judge Lee Rosenthal's Harris County bail-reform order may have dampened but definitely has not halted momentum for reform, both locally and statewide. The SA Express News published an extensive editorial supporting reform efforts in Bexar County.

More on blood spatter
After interviewing Pamela Colloff about blood spatter evidence, I was interested to run across this journalistic send-up of blood-spatter forensics published last year in the Springfield News-Leader.

Return of The Wooginator
Congratulations to Amanda Woog, who's moving back to Texas after a stint at the Quattrone Center at Penn Law in order to assume the reins as executive director at the Texas Fair Defense Project. Good luck!


Lee said...

Grits, I still think it is remarkably interesting that former officer Oliver faces only life in prison for killing Mr. Edwards. If the situation or bullet had gone the opposite direction and the officer was the victim, the death penalty would be sought (assuming that the defendant is of age). We still have the problem that the state insists that some human lives are worth more than others. Kill a cop and you face the death penalty. Kill a civilian and the state is more ok with it.

I am hoping that at least they stick Oliver in with general population.

Anonymous said...

Police officers are never placed in GP unless they request it, and even then it is still sometimes denied. They are placed in Protective Custody where the guards treat them like nobility and insure they dine on the best meals (while they're still warm) and usually receive two trays, sometimes three if it's a holiday or special meal. They usually have access to cell phones and their cells are rarely if ever searched. Should other inmates inflict harm on them the guards will beat them silly and place them in solitary and add time to their sentences. Remember, prison guards are considered police officers so they take care of any brothers who should find themselves incarcerated. You may recall Michael Slager who was sentenced to federal prison for murdering Walter Scott by shooting him a half-dozen times in the back then claiming he was trying to get back his taser until a video surfaced showing that to be a complete fabrication. Slager received 20-years for that blatant cold-blooded murder. Unlike anyone else who committed such a callous crime, Slager however was allowed to choose where he did his time and of course he chose the nicest prison in the federal system, Englewood FCI in Colorado. He's rubbing elbows with former politicians and other white collar convicts inside a low security institution. And Oliver, well he won't have it quite as good as Slager but he'll only do 7-1/2 years and he'll still be treated like royalty by his brothers.

Lee said...

I would just like to see the day in which cops get a taste of their own medicine.

Anonymous said...

This case is clearly an unfortunate situation for both the family and the police officer, however, as I read the article in the Washington Post (August 28, 2018) by Eva Ruth Moravec a freelance writer and contributor to the Washington Post and former staffer with the San Antonio Express-News, I did not find any indications in this article that this shooting was racially motivated. However, I did find many racial implications such as “ white former police officer, African American teenager, reigniting concerns about racism and police brutality, White Texas police officer found guilty of murder for fatally shooting black teen in the car.” As many authors and advocates have suggested that there is no freedom without justice, are the implications, expressed and printed in this newspaper fair and just for our local communities and society?

Anonymous said...

Well, 05:14:00 AM, can you cite the last time (or any time ) a white Texas police officer shot and killed a white teen?

The whole point of it is that blacks are treated differently by police officers than white folks. There's a website called Police One that publishes many of the same news articles regarding questionable shootings by police and they allow their members (police officers) to post comments beneath these stories. Those comments used to be able to read by the public but about the time BLM began the owners of the site hid the comments from public view because people were taking screenshots and publishing those comments. The vast majority of the comments were racially charged...

Wolf said...

I would very much like to see a breakdown of the costs of installing a 4 million dollar A/C system in one "unit". Sounds like there needs to be some thinking outside the box. TDCJ has a HVAC training program. Perhaps their graduates could provide the labor, when possible, and actually get some form of remuneration. Maybe the company supplying the parts could demonstrate some corporate social responsibility and make less of a profit.