Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Santa lynched after Ho-Ho-Holdup, a suggestion how to punish everyday police abuses, Abbott's Xmas pardons add insult to injury, and other stories

Grits woke up Christmas morning feeling better than I have any time since last Thursday, when someone slit your correspondent's throat from ear to Adam's apple. That it was, in fact, a surgeon who did this to remove a sizable, cancerous lump should probably absolve him from blame. But the recovery has been a little rough, so in my mind I'm blaming him anyway and telling people who ask that I was attacked by pirates. ;)

Since then, I haven't had much strength for blogging, or even reading, and the missus has taken over holiday cooking duties for the day. But since I'm up and about this a.m., the kids aren't here till noon, and I have some energy, let's clear some browser tabs of items which have accumulated while I've been down:

Abbott's paltry pardons a diminution of executive responsibilities
Gov. Greg Abbott issued seven pardons for ancient, low-level offenses this week. The case details are unimportant. It's a meaningless, cynical maneuver adding insult to the injury of governors largely abandoning their constitutional obligation to serve as a check on excessive sentences and mass incarceration. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Texas governors took this responsibility much more seriously, pardoning between 6-12% of all current prisoners every year! That's how the folks who wrote the constitution intended clemency to work. Pardoning a handful of petty misdemeanors from decades ago amounts to a timid, pointless debasement of executive clemency authority.

Elderly inmates only a symptom of overincarceration
Grits agrees Texas incarcerates too many elderly prisoners who are no real threat to public safety. But we need parole reform more broadly than just aimed at the elderly and sick; the whole system needs an overhaul.

Big D's Case Management Blues
Dallas County has spent more than $10 million developing court software that's turned out to be worthless and has had to revert to software from the 1980s. And it's not the first time.

Politicize homelessness and you own the issue, sometimes literally
From a strategic, political perspective, the idea that Governor Greg Abbott now operates his own homeless encampment in Austin, for which he possesses no funding nor management expertise, makes me laugh every time I think about it. But for the homeless folk affected, it's no laughing matter.  Gus Bova from the Texas Observer visited some of them and relayed grim stories of extreme poverty during the holiday season. That's the problem with GOP political strategists choosing to politicize homelessness by pretending law enforcement can solve the problems associated with it; real people with real lives are affected and all the preening and posturing won't ever mean nearly as much to those folks as a place to live.

Jail suicides and the politics of unrealistic expectations
Jail suicides increased in Texas last year, reported the Associated Press. But it's weird to me the writer framed the issue in terms of the alleged failure of the Sandra Bland Act. I don't think anybody who knew the details of what finally passed in the compromised version thought that the bill would automatically reduce them. We mostly got more documentation and investigations conducted after the fact. I agree Texas needs to do more, but the law accomplished quite a few things on several different fronts (see here for details on its effect on Texas' racial profiling data). Calling it a failure on this basis amounts to an uneducated jab, not a serious criticism of the law.

The quickest way to reduce prison suicides
By contrast, in Texas prisons, the number of suicides declined last year, but Keri Blakinger reported that's because they changed the definition and so are counting different things.

Police sued over death in Beaumont
See a report from the Texas Monitor on a new wrongful death lawsuit against the Beaumont PD.

A suggestion for punishing everyday police abuses
I love this idea for a constitutional small claims court tied to police bonuses. Excellent, incentive-laden proposal that IMO should become part of every city's negotiated police contract.

Why more DNA exonerations don't happen regardless of innocence
Amazing to me that 13 states have never had a DNA exoneration. This article accurately identifies why: 1) crappy evidence preservation practices, 2) unreasonably high standards for proving innocence, and 3) judges and prosecutors more worried about preserving their reputations than seeking justice.

Santa lynched after Ho-Ho-Holdup: Cisco, 1927
The Texan has the story of a deadly, failed 1927 bank robbery in Cisco two days before Christmas in which the robbers wore Santa suits. One of them was lynched following an escape attempt by a mob of 1,000 people, a rare example of a white man suffering such a fate. Correction: A commenter provided data indicating about a quarter of lynchings from 1882-1968 were of white people. I stand corrected.


That's all I've got in me today, folks. Till next time, have a happy holiday. And take care of each other.


Gadfly said...

Get well and get better, Grits. Hope your diagnosis is for a full recovery.


All the best for Christmas and a full recovery.

Steven Michael Seys said...

Stick to your pirate story, Scott. Every good story has pirates. :-)

Anon said...

According to the Tuskegee Institute, 4,743 people were lynched between 1882 and 1968 in the United States, of whom 1,297 were white. That's 27%, a number which surprised me when I first read it since we don't usually think of white people getting lynched in America. Apparently they couldn't whip out their "white privilege" card from their wallet fast enough to save them.

Anonymous said...

All the best. We need you. Don’t have the words to express my admiration.

Anonymous said...

It only worked if you were a Protestant

Chris H said...

I'm not sure a Governor can abandon a role that was taken from him 85 years ago. That power was largely removed from the Governor's office in 1936 after the selling of pardons in the 1920s.

In 2018, the board of pardons and parole only considered 171 cases and only recommended clemency in 21 of them. I think one needs to back the train up and 1) give an accounting of why the 150 denied should have received a different outcome and 2) why the Senate didn't properly fulfill their advise and consent role.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@Chris H, Selling pardons during Prohibition was a campaign allegation, not something ever proven. Regardless, if the Governor prioritized clemency, the board would make more recommendations. We can argue all day whether the chicken or the egg came first, but since the information on denied pardons is secret, your suggestion that we must investigate their details first before calling for more clemency is disingenuous. It's basically a call to never do anything on the topic.

Gunny Thompson said...

From Unfiltered Minds of Independent Thinkers of Independent Thinkers of the 3rd Grade Dropout Section:

Grits, you are that jewel in a crown that puts it all together. My sentiments are similar to others: "Wishing you a speedy recovery and a long and healthy life."

Happy Kawanzaa!!

Anonymous said...

I don't agree with you about half the time. But I realize the criminal justice system can and must do a much better job and yes I am a part of the system. That said God Speed in your full and rapid recovery.

Anonymous said...

Concerning "Police sued over death in Beaumont," I pray the parent of Chad York win big. There is a lot of police cover-up that goes on in Jefferson County, whether it be Beaumont PD or Port Arthur PD. Officers are not held accountable for their actions.

Anonymous said...

The Cato Institute article about using a small claims system for minor abuses is more wishful thinking than they usually go for, it would be a cold day in hades that the state, county, or cities would set aside a bonus of 10% of pay, an amount comprising tens of millions of extra dollars for a city such as Houston or county such as Harris, to draw from. Per state law, the cop would have to be paid to be in the court, he'd have his union lawyer present, and the judge would likely be appointed by some elected hack friendly to his union's endorsement board. The cop would get endless resets while the complaining party would be expected to appear frequently and with little notice during work hours and/or at inconvenient locations, as well as be required to present all evidence ahead of time. And if a bunch of accusers were required to be present for multiple trials to be had, how many would give up after the first couple rounds of resets were issued because there simply wouldn't be enough hours to hear them all? The author apparently has no experience in small claims courts either since most I've been in over the years allow the judge to render a verdict months later by mail, this isn't Judge Judy folks. Better to reform the existing system to demand cops follow the law and respect our rights than jump on the bandwagon of some fly by night Cato crackpot.