Saturday, April 13, 2019

$12K bail for stealing $1?; Twin Peaks prosecutions petered out; Harris justice system still digging out after Harvey, and other stories

Here are a few odds and ends that merit Grits readers' attention while mine is focused elsewhere:

Hurricane Harvey aftermath still affecting Harris County
The Houston Chronicle reports on long delays and an uncertain future for Harris County criminal courts. Commenters are blaming the new county judge, but this is a crisis she inherited. Meanwhile, terms of the county's bail settlement proffer has been announced; more on that development once your correspondent has time to digest it and talk to a few folks.

Twin Peaks prosecutions petered out
The last of the Twin Peaks biker shooting cases were dismissed. What a disaster! After all that hoopla - arresting many dozens for no good reason - not one person will be prosecuted for anything in the whole mess. Grits was told by a defense attorney whose seen the discovery that there may be a not-completely-unacceptable reason for that: The people involved in the shooting were all killed by one another or police during the event, and nearly everyone who was arrested were just innocent people who happened to be there. The few remaining cases finally dropped were ancillary to the event and the statute of limitations has now run out on all of them. Grits can't think of many recent competitors for examples of more egregious prosecutorial overreach. Abel Reyna screwed the pooch on the day of the shootings, substituting his own judgment and investigative approach for police commanders, and the community has been paying a steep-and-getting-steeper price ever since.

Panhandler gets $12K bail for stealing $1 at a food truck
An aggressive panhandler snatched a dollar bill - maybe two, it's a disputed account - from a food-truck customer in Austin last week and the courts gave her a $12,000 bail amount. What kind of jackassery is this? Are they TRYING to give bail reformers a poster child? Good Lord!

Fighting for police accountability via their union contract
Chas Moore and Sukyi McMahon from the Austin Justice Coalition had an op ed in the New York Times about their group's fight to reform the local police-union contract and improve civilian oversight of the Austin Police Department. For more background, check out this interview with Moore and two police-union negotiators in the aftermath of the contract agreement, reflecting on the year-and-a-half long fight.

Grand jury declines indictments for guards accused of falsifying disciplinary cases
Hard to get District Attorneys in small counties with sizable prison-guard populations to get real enthusiastic about prosecuting corruption, so one shouldn't be completely surprised that a grand jury declined to indict guards who allegedly falsified disciplinary cases against inmates. But it certainly contributes to an ongoing perception that the agency benefits from insular, rural settings and that external oversight is needed.

Texas still leader in exonerations/false convictions
Texas tied with New York for the most exonerations last years, according to the national registry. That's primarily because of exonerations based on plea deals based on flawed drug field tests, which have caused hundreds of false convictions in Harris County, and probably other jurisdictions where they haven't been uncovered because no one ever looked.

When prosecutors are too jaded to make a proper argument and too lazy to go farther than their Twitter feed to find an improper one
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ordered a new trial after a prosecutor used a viral video of a lion trying to get at a baby on the other side of a glass partition at a zoo to say that a defendant was a dangerous predator.

Is asset-forfeiture reform ready for its close-up?
Monday is civil-asset forfeiture reform day in the Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee.

For the reading list
Finally, here are a few disparate items for the reading list:


Unknown said...

I spent a year in rehab after surgery and have permanent damage after a meeting with an "aggressive panhandler".

Unless there's information to the contrary I'm open to the possibility that the judge ordered detention as a public safety issue.

Unknown said...

Speaking of external oversight, it's up to Texans to choose what to do, but I'll pass along that WA just installed an independent prison ombudsman who has already made some systemic improvements.

It would take an Inspector General to provide accountability but an ombudsman can get problems solved with minimum red tape and cost.

The Guy that does his job. You must be ther other guy said...

re: Texas still leader in exonerations/false convictions

"...plea deals based on flawed drug field tests...probably other jurisdictions where they haven't been uncovered because no one ever looked."

If only Texas had a forensic science commission who investigated the negligence or misconduct of the science of flawed drug field testing. /s

Of course, if the FSC can't do a proper investigation with the flawed drug testing (as required from House Bill-34), we sure can't expect them to get an Annual Report out on time either.

Yes, Lynn Garcia, it's Mid-April and you still have yet to present the 2018 FSC Annual Report to the public (as required in the CCP 38.01). There are numerous Defense Attorneys and defendant waiting.

Maybe Ms. Garcia should be updating her resume.

Steven Michael Seys said...

A wise public servant once commented that an agency that polices itself is not accountable. Experience with TDCJ shows me that the Inspector General and Ombudsman offices are viewed as primary evidence concealing departments, not oversight to eliminate corruption. Only an outside agency not part of the community can have sufficient independence to do the oversight job.

SOFAQ said...

Panhandler gets $12K bail for stealing $1 at a food truck An aggressive panhandler snatched a dollar bill - maybe two, it's a disputed account - from a food-truck customer in Austin last week and the courts gave her a $12,000 bail amount.

I hope someone gets a petition going for this lady.

Anonymous said...

Sounds a lot like our HOA and HOA management company.

Unknown said...

Re: Unknown at 8:47 on 4/13:

"According to Texas Department of Public Safety records, Guidry’s criminal history goes back 25 years with convictions on charges including drug possession, public intoxication, theft and robbery in places such as Conroe, Houston, Austin and, last year, in Georgetown."