Friday, September 07, 2018

15-second bail hearings in Big D, doing time for non-existent crime, and other stories

Here are a few odds and ends of which Grits readers should be aware:

Possible poo, snitch lies, caused likely wrongful conviction
Ed Ates has now been paroled but not (yet) exonerated, largely thanks to the efforts of the Truth and Justice podcast out of North Texas. Congratulations to all involved! Texas Monthly's Michael Hall has the details, writing that Ates was convicted based on "two lies, one snatch of hearsay, and one piece of human feces on his shoe that, when all was said and done, was never actually proven to be human feces in the first place."

15 seconds for Big D bail hearings
Video of bail hearings in Dallas County show they routinely last around 15 seconds apiece, reported the Texas Observer's Michael Barajas. FWIW, it was video of unrepresented defendants being bullied by magistrates that was the tipping point in the Harris County litigation, so this could become a pivotal aspect of the ongoing litigation in Dallas. See more from the Marshall Project.

More guards framing prisoners for disciplinary cases
Keri Blakinger at the Houston Chronicle has yet another example of Texas Department of Criminal Justice prison guards proactively setting up innocent inmates for disciplinary infractions they didn't earn - in this case, allegedly planting drill bits in an inmate's cell then accusing him of hiding them. Go read her story.

Debating the utility of ankle monitors
Federal judges are pushing back on requirements in the Adam Walsh Act that they assign all child-porn defendants to wear ankle monitors pretrial. See related, recent Grits coverage: Do ankle monitors on parolees make anyone safer?

Don't blame innocence work for decline in murder clearance rates
Jay Wachtel recently posed the argument that the decline in murder clearance rates is the result of greater "caution" by police thanks to advocacy by the innocence movement. Your correspondent thinks that's a load of horse-hockey. In Texas, 1) declines in clearance rates preceded the enactment of any innocence reforms, and 2) none of the reforms passed significantly tied officers' hands. E.g., courts continue to let eyewitness testimony into evidence when officers didn't comply with best practices. That said, it's fascinating that murder rates have declined WHILE clearance rates declined. Police are solving fewer cases but the result is greater crime reduction. To me, that indicates the decline in murders likely has little to do with effective police work and more to do with unrelated societal trends.

Prosecutor merger in Austin a low priority
The Travis County District and County Attorneys want to merge. Grits thinks they both have bigger fish to fry, but the two officials are gung ho about it. Local #cjreform advocates have given the DA and CA a list of reforms they'd like to see before signing off on the merger, focused on Larry-Krasner-style decarceration policies (with a Texas twang). But as of this writing, the prosecutors haven't bitten. E.g., in Nashville, TN, prosecutors stopped taking invalid-license cases, while Travis County prosecutes more of those than any other large Texas county, according to Chris Harris from Grassroots Leadership. I'd rather see County Attorney David Escamilla focused on eliminating those cases from his dockets than pointlessly merging with the DA's office.

Defense lawyers failed to notice client charged with non-existent crime
A state legislator told me once that, of all the professions, lawyers, doctors, and engineers could do irrevocable harm if they do not perform their jobs well. A case in point is this article about a 17-year old man sentenced and incarcerated for a crime (online solicitation of a minor) that the courts had already declared unconstitutional and stripped off the books. He has filed suit against his former attorneys for malpractice.

Artistic portrayals of mass incarceration
On your next visit to downtown Houston, check out an exhibit at the Contemporary Arts Museum focused on mass incarceration dubbed, "Walls Turned Sideways: Artists Confront the Justice System." The exhibition, the Texas Observer informs us, is "on display until January 6, is accompanied by an ambitious, 464-page catalog containing essays by dozens of scholars, artists and activists."

'Click here to kill everybody'
If you want to think deeply about real security as opposed to the security theater that characterizes most political discussions, read Bruce Schneier, from whom I've learned a lot about how to analyze security questions. His new book is titled, "Click Here to Kill Everybody," and it immediately goes on the to-read list. Grits has read Schneier's Secrets and Lies, Liars and Outliers, and downloaded Data and Goliath onto a Kindle but haven't gotten to it, yet. His blog, Schneier on Security, is a longstanding internet gem; read it if you don't.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

From the news article about leadership in TDCJ. "These actions suggest that there are people in positions of power who simply do not understand that role." That would cover everyone working at the two TDCJ Units I had to deal with as a family member for over 10 years with the Crain and Henley Units. These employees promote to the surrounding female units. Simply rotten to the core.