Saturday, December 01, 2018

Roundup: Lawsuit alleges cronyism and corruption at DPS; murder indictment of Dallas cop no aberration under outgoing DA; informant testimony makes for messy innocence claims; Pam Colloff's favorite #cjreform podcasts, and other stories

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

Dallas cop indicted for Botham Jean murder
In Dallas, former DPD Officer Amber Guyger has been indicted for murder in the shooting death of her unarmed neighbor, Botham Jean. You've got to hand it to outgoing Republican DA Faith Johnson: She's been more willing to charge officers in wrongful shooting episodes than any Democratic elected prosecutor in Texas, or for that matter, as she boasted in this 13-second clip from the campaign trail, any other District Attorney in the country:

Lawsuit: DPS suffers from 'cronyism,' 'corruption'
A federal lawsuit has been filed accusing the Texas DPS under Col. Steve McCraw of "a 'good old boy' culture of cronyism and outright corruption." See initial coverage from KXAN in Austin.

Corrections Committee Interim Report out
The TX House Corrections Committee has published its Interim Report. Topics studied included responses to Hurricane Harvey, the need for specialized programming for 17-25 year olds, flaws in the state jail system, and heat litigation. More on this soon after Grits has had a chance to read it thoroughly.

Creuzot looking forward to Dallas DA stint
D Magazine published an interesting interview with Dallas DA-elect John Creuzot, for those looking for clues as to how this party hopping fixture in Dallas justice politics might operate at the helm of the DA's office. See the October Reasonably Suspicious podcast for excerpts from a debate between Creuzot and his Republican-incumbent opponent, Faith Johnson; the full 1.5 hour debate is here. Note to Judge Creuzot and other incoming elected prosecutors: Consider hiring this guy for prosecutor trainings.

Forum promotes public defender option for Travis County
A public-defender office has been proposed for Travis County. Those interested should check out this recent community forum discussing the possibility. See prior, related Grits coverage.

TDCJ troubles lead to calls for independent oversight
At the Texas Tribune, see coverage of prospects for independent oversight at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in light of recent scandals, a rise in suicides, and gross understaffing at numerous rural units. House Corrections Chairman James White doesn't sound convinced.

Recanted witness, corrupt DEA agent won't sway Harris prosecutors on innocence claims
Especially in the context of the drug war, but also high-profile murders and violent crimes, the reliance of the justice system on self-interested testimony by confidential informants is one of the most significant causes of wrongful convictions. It's also among the hardest causes to prevent, and one for which the courts are loathe to provide redress. The Houston Chronicle's Keri Blakinger describes a case in which a DEA informant, who has since recanted his testimony, accused Lamar Burks of murdering someone at a dice game. But the Harris County Conviction Integrity Unit wouldn't budge. Now, one of the agents centrally involved with the investigation has been indicted in an unrelated case in New Orleans for perjury and falsifying evidence, evincing a similar fact pattern to what Burks' attorneys allege.

In The Dark shines light on amazing, terrible case
At Pam Colloff's recommendation, I've been listening to Season 2 of the podcast, In the Dark, focused on an apparent false conviction for a quadruple murder in Mississippi. This investigative tour de force is taking the form to new levels. Awesome work, as detailed in this Longform podcast interview about how the story was put together. When I interviewed her for the August episode of Reasonably Suspicious, Pam also recommended the second season of the Missing and Murdered podcast, and the podcast After Effect from WNYC, dissecting the aftermath of a tragic SWAT team raid. Just for fun, I excerpted her recommendations into a short, 2.5 minute clip, for anyone interested:

Sandra Bland documentary premiers on HBO Monday
Last, but definitely no least, on Monday, a documentary titled, "Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland," premieres on HBO. Grits simultaneously cannot wait to see it and dreads the broadcast. It's such a terrible, heart breaking story! Here's a review from the SA Express News, and the trailer:


Anonymous said...

DPS is long known for cronyism. Not necessarily a news flash. Also known for political leanings. Sporting those Democratic Party stickers on your car will get you some attention. Not necessarily the kind you want. And as far as their OIG commander goes, let’s just say her hopes and dreams were shattered with Lupe Valdez’s failed campaign.

Polunsky Death Row-Voice of the Voiceless said...

Didn't DEA agents lie at the trial and then recant several years ago in the case of LINDA CARTY, a woman on Texas Death Row? The Courts did not listen to them either, despite the evidence. Ms. Carty was just denied in the US Supreme Court.