Sunday, November 10, 2019

#PardonMe Mr. Governor, who lied at TDCJ?, a public-safety approach to DWI, and other stories

Let's clear some browser tabs. Here are a few odds and ends that merit Grits readers' attention but haven't yet made it into independent posts:

#PardonMe: More Texans should file for clemency
There are a lot more types of pardons, commutations, rights restorations, and remissions of fines and forfeitures available through gubernatorial clemency in Texas than I ever understood. See here for the full list and links to application documents. More people should start filing clemency requests! It can't hurt, you might get lucky, and an increase in the volume may help put #cjreform on the governor's radar screen. If you do file for clemency, be sure to tag the governor on social media and use the hashtag #PardonMe.

No really, who lied?
Federal District Judge Keith Ellison still wants to know who at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) lied to him, and unlike Grits or Keri Blakinger or prisoner families, he has the authority and the tools to find out!

Taxation by Citation
The Institute for Justice just published a report called "Taxation by Citation." Here's a SA Express-News column from one of the authors. Grits have more to say on this after I've read it.

Rodney-Reed judge leaves bench over fitness issues
The judge in the Rodney Reed case retired, questioning his own mental capacity to preside over cases. Support for clemency in Reed's case is snowballing, with Republican legislators and Hollywood celebs chiming in to say his execution should be halted. Be sure to check out the Reasonably Suspicious interview with Reed's attorneys. MORE: On Twitter, Grits chronicled some of the more storied cases in Judge Doug Shaver's career, from presiding over the Twin-Peaks-biker-massacre debacle to declaring the lawyer for a capital-murder defendant needn't be awake during trial to provide effective assistance.

Guards fired, demoted over fatal TDCJ use of force
TDCJ fired a guard in a Huntsville prison and demoted two others after a fatal use of force incident reported Keri Blakinger at the Houston Chronicle.

Always something
An assistant DA in Panola County has resigned amidst allegations of misconduct.

Harris Co. public defender office growing
With Harris County DA Kim Ogg still publicly fuming that county commissioners didn't let her expand her staff, the commissioners court has significantly expanded the public defender office and it's currently on a hiring spree.

Many prison docs come from bottom of the barrel
From The Appeal and Type Investigations, "Why prisoners get the doctors no one else wants." Grim. Texas wasn't highlighted in the story, but it'd be a mitzvah for some reporter to get the list of docs working in Texas prisons and examine disciplinary histories both here and in other states.

A public-safety approach to repeat DWI offenders that doesn't involve prison
Texas incarcerates thousands of people in prison for repeat drunk driving. But a program first piloted in South Dakota, using insights from behavioral science and focused on repeat DWI offenders, shows far better results than prison for this cohort, reported the Wall Street Journal. Nobody loses their driving privileges or is sent to the penitentiary. Instead, they must show up twice a day - morning and evening - to take a breathalyzer, and are punished with short, one-or-two-day jail stints for non-compliance. Fascinating.

Bashing black-box breathalyzer tech 
That said, the NY Times published a feature arguing that some of the science behind breathalyzer tech is dubious or poorly implemented. This is by no means a new topic, but for a variety of reasons, in 2019, the idea that forensic evidence may not adhere to the strictest scientific standards is greeted with less resistance than in the past.

For the reading pile
Finally, here are several academic articles I'm printing out to read in the near future; maybe some of them will interest y'all:


Gadfly said...

Might add this to the links list. The Observer reports on how crappy indigent defense is in Potter County.

Steven Michael Seys said...

#Prison Docs. In my time on Coffield, we had physicians who were unlicensed, censured, fired for incompetence, and under criminal investigation for actions committed in the course of their practices. One of the doctors, whom no one was happy to see, was an infamous former medical examiner who was fired from El Paso, Ohio and several other jurisdictions for perjury in criminal cases to convict the innocent. I once asked him if he ever treated someone whom he had testified against and was immediately evicted from the office. Before he came to TDCJ, all his patients were dead.

Wolf said...

The process in place to apply for clemency, sentence reduction, etc. has long been totally outdated. It relies on the uninformed approval of trial officials who are generally more concerned about potential fallout than revising their predecessors decisions. No governor in the last two decades has shown a willingness to use their constitutional authority to reduce unnecessary incarceration via this process. It would be great to see the application based on what an individual has accomplished since entering prison combined with recommendations from prison staff.........those who actually know the individual.