Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Robot judges, a Dallas data dump, prosecutor fired for doing the right thing, and other stories

Here's a quick, browser-tab clearing roundup post.

Did judges in Harris County mislead federal court in bail litigation?
A new filing in the Harris County bail litigation accuses judges of misleading federal Judge Lee Rosenthal and deleting emails that showed judges were directing magistrate's bail policies. Much of this has already been admitted to by the magistrates in question. See the Houston Chronicle's coverage. Go here for more on the status of Harris County's bail litigation.

Texas high court to consider case of prosecutor fired for disobeying order to withhold evidence
Tomorrow (Wednesday) at the Texas Supreme Court, the national Innocence Project will defend a prosecutor who was fired by the elected Nueces County DA because he refused to withhold exculpatory evidence in a criminal case.

Dallas data dump
The Justice Collaborative has put out a  boatload of data on misdemeanor cases in Dallas County. Check it out. (More on this later.)

Minimizing Class C arrests
Austin police will arrest fewer people for Class C misdemeanors upon implementing reforms negotiated over the last several months, but the police still refuse to stop arresting people for driving with an invalid license. See Twitter discussions here and here.

National praise for debtors-prison legislation
The National Center for State Courts praised Texas' debtors' prison legislation from 2017. For more background, see here.

Civil rights suit vs officer in SA
Reported the Dallas News, "A San Antonio police officer has been indicted on a charge of official oppression nearly a year and a half after a viral video showed him repeatedly punching a teenage girl." The department earlier had insisted his actions were justified.

False negatives lead to crime-lab firing
The Houston crime lab fired an investigator for using her own, non-standard equipment and missing evidence that led to at least two false negatives. Nobody knows how many more cases she might have similarly screwed up.

Don Willett on criminal justice
Judge Don Willett of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals is turning out to be more of a criminal justice reformer than many other Trump appointees, Reason noted. He heard only civil cases on the Texas Supreme Court, so he's only now confronting some of these issues as a judge.

Robot judges?
Jennifer Doleac, an economics prof from Texas A&M, recently suggested that robot judges may be less biased and racist than human ones. Despite widespread concern among liberals about racial bias in algorithms, I'm pretty sure that's true. But for God's sake, nobody have sex with them.

More electronic monitoring critiques
Here's an essay and new report calling for an end to electronic monitoring of parolees. Grits isn't a great fan of this practice, either.

For the long drive home
A couple of recent podcasts to check out:


Anonymous said...

re: False negatives lead to crime-lab firing

@grits - I think it was a "she", not a "he".

Seems like there was some oversight problems, too. Typically there are 1-2 other analysts (including a Supervisor) that signs-off on any lab reports. If there was a problems with the particular ALS used, something should have been said sooner.

And, there is no statement from the analyst that was fired. No explanation. Perhaps there is a valid reason that the analyst was using that particular ALS. Was she given permission by a Supervisor? Maybe the lab's ALS was not working and the analyst was forced to use their own. Who knows. Root cause analysis seems to be a large problem in these crime labs (see FSC's Final Report of Lisa Gefridies against HFSC).

And of course there is the obligatory nondiscript statement by the lab director concerning her other work... "Stout said the forensic agency had other issues with the [analyst] regarding policies and procedures." No details, no documentation. But let's just pile on more derogatory allegations just in case the analyst had a valid reason for doing what they did.

Given all the problems at HFSC, it sounds like they need a new Lab Director.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Whoops, my bad, you're right. Thanks for the correction.

Anonymous said...

(more about crime labs)

"We're not seeing anything that says we need to change the policies and procedures..."

"During the investigation, the center strengthened the language of a policy to make it clear that unauthorized equipment was not allowed...And in their case notes, investigators must now write down the exact model number of their instruments."

These are my favorite kinds of contradictory statements from lab directors. /s
Even though nothing needs to be changed, they changed it anyway.??

This is why no one trusts crime labs. They say one thing, but do something else.

And let's not forget the lab audit findings in 2017, "The need for improvement in the training program was also identified in the 2017 internal DNA audit." Perhaps if Stout had trained her better, she would not have used an unauthorized ALS.

Anonymous said...

Count me among the learned who oppose robots who can both issue rulings and have sex with the defendant since we all know from years or even decades of experience that this will inevitably lead to the defendant getting screwed twice. Uh huh, happy Halloween especially to the corrupt DA’s out there who won’t need a costume tonite because they’ll be going as themselves. Scary indeed.