Saturday, January 11, 2020

Made-up informants, prosecutor misconduct, reacting to crime in Dallas, and other stories

Here are a few odds and ends that merit Grits' readers attention on a big football weekend:

How deep does the rabbit hole go in Houston PD narcotics scandal?
Gerald Goines, the Houston PD narcotics officer at the center of the scandal surrounding a botched drug raid based on a fabricated informant, allegedly set up innocent people in other cases. In the latest episode, Goines alleged mendacity combined with what the post-conviction division chief at the DA's office called a "quintessential" example of prosecutor misconduct. In related news, Houston PD paid $1.2 million to the family of a black man shot by one of its officers in 2014 to settle a wrongful death suit.

San Antonio crime lab to use disputed DNA mixture software
San Antonio PD crime labs announced they will begin using STR-Mix software to analyze DNA mixture evidence. That's fine, as long as they analyze samples with a maximum of three contributors, with 20 percent or more of the sample coming from suspect in the case. A federal judge in Michigan recently declared the software shouldn't be used for more complicated mixtures. And while her ruling doesn't apply in Texas, the debate throws the future of the STR-Mix approach up in the air for more complicated mixture evidence.

Audit: Dallas PD too easily dismisses, loses, or ignores citizen complaints
An audit of the Dallas PD complaint process skewered that agency's handling of misconduct allegations, reported the Dallas Observer. The audit "criticized the department for allowing sergeants wide latitude in deciding whether to investigate, or even document, a complaint. Anonymous or third-party complaints were ignored, a practice that has been criticized by the Department of Justice."

Ready, fire, aim! Dallas' reaction to recent murder uptick
A Dallas Mayor's task force recommended non-policing methods of crime reduction, mostly blight remediation, improved lighting, training formerly incarcerated people as "violence" interrupters, and improving mentor programs in schools. These are all feel-good programs, and if crime goes down in their wake, Dallas pols can take credit. Notably, though, this article from the New Yorker on interpreting crime data should be required reading for everyone participating in the debates over Dallas crime rates. While every murder is a tragedy, from a statistical perspective, because the numbers involved are relatively small, annual fluctuations may amount to just noise. Regardless, if crime goes down next year, those same voices will attribute the reduction to their own actions. If crime increases, they'll call for the chief's head on a platter. We've seen this movie countless times; both reactions demonstrate hubris. The media and local politicians in Dallas are reading way too much into relatively limited data.

Progressive prosecutors and sex crimes
This Appeal article on how "progressive prosecutors" treat sex crimes cases resonates as the Travis County Democratic District Attorney primary debate has largely centered around these questions. The incumbent, Margaret Moore, has been criticized on the campaign trail for her record and announced she wouldn't attend an upcoming candidate forum on the topic.

Unspeakable tragedy for Atatiana Jefferson's family
Both the mother and father of Atatiana Jefferson, the woman killed by Fort Worth Police last fall while she was babysitting her 8-year old nephew, have died since her tragic death. At the time Jefferson was shot, she had moved home with her mother to become her caretaker as her health declined. Her mother died  on January 9.

HPD shoots 4 so far in January, one unarmed
Houston PD officers have shot four people since the beginning of the new year. One of them was unarmed.

Mental health first response
KUT has an update on changes in progress at Austin PD related to how mental-health calls are handled. The City Council funded a new system to have non-police responses to many suicide and other mental-health-related calls, but the details haven't been ironed out and it hasn't rolled out yet. In related news, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has published a statewide Mental Health Resources Guide.

Barriers to reentry
"There is a deep level of material hardship in the first year after leaving prison, especially among those with the most physical and mental health traumas," wrote Bruce Western in this research brief from the University of Wisconsin. In related research, Texas was one of the four states in which prisoners were tracked in this reentry study out of Florida State.

Politics of criminal justice
Read an interview with Rachel Barkow on the politics of criminal justice.

1 comment:

Steven Michael Seys said...

After reading through the Dallas Mayor's proposal to reduce violence in the city, the only piece of the plan that looks as though it may work is the part on "Violence Interrupters." However, I didn't see anything in the article that explained how the police and these interrupters will be coordinating. I can't see how it would work without coordination and cooperation with the Dallas Police Department.