Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Roundup: Forensic follies featuring DNA mixtures, blood spatter, and DWIs, plus how the Drug War props up mass incarceration in Texas, and other stories

A few odds and ends while your correspondent is focused elsewhere:

Flood of coverage, emotion, anger surrounding Botham Jean killing
The killing of Botham Jean by Dallas police officer Amber Guyger is the most politically significant episode of alleged police misconduct resulting in a death in Texas since the Sandra Bland tragedy. Your correspondent began a longer commentary on the topic over the weekend, but the stories being put out by law enforcement evolved so quickly that, with no first-hand knowledge, Grits decided it prudent to wait a moment, take a breath, and watch things play out. Others have said what needs to be said in the context of what is known, and too much remains unknown to say much more. Go here to review the voluminous news coverage surrounding the case.

Blood-spatter bollocks blown open
The blood-spatter case Pro Publica's Pam Colloff wrote about last spring was broken wide open in a Texas habeas hearing yesterday, with all of the probative evidence systematically debunked. See her  latest report, and check out Grits' interview with Colloff about the case on the latest Reasonably Suspicious podcast.

Brady and forensics
The mishandling of a DWI blood sample led the 14th Court of Appeals to reverse a conviction based on Brady violations (failure to report exculpatory evidence to the defense) by what was then the Houston PD crime lab, and is now the independent Houston Forensic Science Center, the Houston Chronicle reported. See a pithy summary of the case from exoneration expert Brandon Garrett.

Austin DNA SNAFU may have caused false convictions
Some of the DNA mixture cases from the Austin crime lab being reviewed by outside experts "came back with results that could be beneficial to the defendants’ cases, such as a previous DNA result not excluding a person that came back inconclusive," reported the Austin Statesman. The layman's interpretation: Innocent people may have been convicted based on flawed DNA mixture forensics. Stay tuned.

Exoneree Anthony Graves is teaching ex-offenders how to advocate for justice reform in a class at Texas Southern University.

A narrow window of journalism on Austin police contract controversy
Finally, an account of the controversy over police oversight and Austin's union contract that goes beyond bashing advocates for their impertinence at winning after the local media sided with their opponents. See the story from Nina Hernandez at the Austin Chronicle. From Grits' vantage point, this is essentially the first fair-minded assessment we've seen after the stream of pro-police-union apologia that's passed for MSM coverage in this town for the past several years. Indeed, more journalists are changing their minds about how to cover police accountability than just in Austin. The National Review's David French recently penned a column titled, "Why I changed the way I write about police shootings."

You're a liar! No, you're a liar!
The Aransas County District Attorney stopped taking cases from the Rockport Police Department more than a year ago because she thinks their officers have been dishonest and intentionally failed to comply with "Brady" disclosure requirements, the Texas Observer reported. Rockport police have responded with counter-allegations, and it's all a big mess.

Drug war propping up TX mass incarceration
In this Twitter thread, your correspondent demonstrated using Office of Court Administration data how "the drug war is propping up mass incarceration in Texas," keeping felony conviction numbers high even though crime is way down.

High complaint numbers valid predictor of bad cops
A new study found that civilian complaints against police are a valid predictor of police misconduct. And complaints were equally predictive whether or not people are required to sign a sworn affidavit. Ninety percent of officers have few or no complaints against them, but those with a significant complaint history or more likely to be among those who end up costing their department through civil suits and bad publicity.

Even misdemeanors impede job search
Study: Misdemeanor convictions significantly harm employment prospects.


Anonymous said...

If the Rockport Chief had the presence of mind to turn on his body camera for a casual meeting with the DA idI say his officers never have an excuse not to have theirs on when on the job. I'm glad we bought all those police cameras so officers could misuse them in their political disputes.

Anonymous said...

Botham Jean and Amber Guyger. Was Amber a spurned lover?

Sam said...


While the shooting of Jean was very tragic and correctly charged as manslaughter, it's improbable they were ex-lovers without a single photo located of them as a couple noted to-date.