Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Corrupt Houston drug cop allegedly set up innocent people, bail reform and mental illness, sensory penalties, and other stories

Here are a few odds and ends that merit Grits readers' attention:

Conviction overturned based on Gerald Goines testimony
A man allegedly set up in a drug case by former Houston PD narcotics officer Gerald Goines has been declared actually innocent by a local judge. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals still must approve those findings, but regardless, with Goines having investigated 14,000 different cases over the years, the implications are huge once convictions start to be overturned. Readers will recall Goines fabricated an informant to justify a deadly, botched no-knock raid that left the (innocent) residents and their dog dead and four officers injured. This case is definitely only the beginning. Now that the red pill has been swallowed, there's no telling how deep the rabbit hole goes.

Bodycam footage emerges of needless tazing that got 2 Austin PD cops fired
Bodycam footage corroborates Austin PD's claim that two police officers lied about a tazing incident that led to their firing, reported KXAN-TV, after my former colleague Chris Harris obtained the footage from the city. Proud of you, Chris. A jury last year declined to convict the two men, but Austin Chief Bryan Manley fired them anyway, declaring their actions were “inappropriate, unecessary, objectively unreasonable and a violation of department policy.”

Bail reform and mental illness
Tony Fabelo has published a new analysis of mental health and the justice system, homing in on pretrial detention. He suggests ways to streamline screening arrestees for mental illness to make it easier to get them services and/or released pending trial. Grits may have more to say on this later when I've read it in more detail.

Legislators urge justice in Rosa Jimenez case
Texas House members from Travis County sent a letter to District Attorney Margaret Moore asking her to "ensure that justice and basic humanity carry the day" in the Rosa Jimenez. Moore responded by leaning on the forensics that courts have now discredited and reiterating that the Court of Criminal Appeals had denied Rosa's writ, as though Sharon Keller and the Government-Always-Wins faction voting against her proves her guilt. Ask Joe Bryan about that.

Arrests vs. jail admissions
Today, nearly everyone who is arrested ends up in the county jail. Remarkably, a quarter century ago, three in ten people who were arrested did not. Why? According to the Vera Institute:
recent scholarship highlights that people are being admitted to jail for reasons that may not have warranted an arrest, including parole violations, bench warrants, failure to pay fines or fees, and failure to appear in court. For example, one report found that in some jurisdictions, 20 percent of incarcerated people are serving time for failing to pay criminal justice debts.
How conservative prosecutors should consider sentencing
The R Street Institute put out a policy brief describing "How conservatives can make prosecution more productive." For example, on criminal sentencing, the author says conservative prosecutors should take more factors should be taken into consideration:
In addition to expressing societal outrage at the defendant’s conduct or the harm they caused, a sentence ought to reflect its costs to society and its ability to shape a defendant’s future behavior for the better. Cost considerations include those of the sentence itself: for example, does it make sense to spend tens of thousands of dollars to incarcerate someone for the theft of a few hundred dollars of merchandise? It ought to also include how a sentence might undermine a defendant’s ability to productively reenter the workforce and society: will incarceration or onerous probationary conditions result in a defendant losing his job and with it his ability to pay victim restitution or support a family?
DNA mixture exoneration
Here's an exoneration out of Georgia based on correcting flawed interpretations of DNA mixture evidence. Grits is increasingly convinced the DNA-mixture mess is a much bigger deal than anyone in the justice system is acknowledging yet.

Sensory Penalties
I'm following a Twitter feed called Sensory Penalties, promoting a forthcoming book, that keeps pointing out interesting stuff. E.g., check out this beautifully written essay out of the U.K. on the sounds of prison, which is a fascinating topic to deeply consider. (The author, Kate Herrity, published her Ph.D. thesis on the subject of prison soundscapes; download a pdf here.) Another essay considers prison environments, visitation, and the sensation of "touch." Another Tweet links to an article suggesting a significant failure of forensics is the inability to convey smells. What an interesting lens through which to view corrections!


Lee said...

Only a fool would believe that Gerald Goines did this all by himself. This reeks of at least a support team of others backing him up.

Steven Michael Seys said...

My question about Goines is, will justice ever be served? Goines was instrumental in carrying out a conspiracy to deny citizens of their basic human rights specifically protected under the Constitution of the State of Texas, yet won't face a fraction of the penalty ordinary persons would face in similar circumstances. None of his co-conspirators have been identified to date in the press, as if he did all this on his own. And worse, multiple innocent people languish in prison because of his crimes against humanity and against the dignity of the State of Texas. Will the courts administer justice for the victims, or merely adjudicate the law in such a way as to minimize embarrassment?

Pat said...

Goines is indicative of a "systemic problem" where there is STILL a problem at every level of the entire chain. There is a best solution but that will never be done as the Houston City Counsel would have to admit partial fault and get everyone of the convicted victims out of jail/prison and make restitution. At the same time take action against everyone whom "worked" with Goines to do what was done to each of his victims. This is not limited to police officers but includes the DAs and other judicial officers. Each link in the chain is guilty in this.

Anonymous said...

Grits, is it just me or is the link under "Bail Reform and Mental Illness" not working...?

Anonymous said...

"...with Goines having investigated 14,000 different cases over the years, the implications are huge once convictions start to be overturned."

The problem with assertions that Goines is a proven, long time loose cannon or even indicative of a systemic problem with HPD is that so far, after over a year of scrutiny under a microscope by multiple eyes, virtually none of his 14,000 cases has displayed any indications of wrongdoing. The cases that were pending when the raid came under question were dismissed because the states witness was compromised of course, but otherwise even they were not shown to have any misconduct involved.

While the investigation is ongoing, the DA's office claimed they were starting with cases that were disputed and then from his most recent cases moving backward, the guy had been employed since the 1980's. Given most cases involved plea bargains, the records are unlikely to yield much to work with past a certain date, making this circumstance mirror the dreaded crime lab scandal where tens of thousands of lab results were revisited to ultimately come up with a few problems, some additional cases where the samples were used up during initial testing, and the vast majority of results were indeed replicated.

The investigation needs to continue until every last case is looked at in detail but frankly, other than holding him completely accountable for the raid errors, his record seems largely untainted when taken as a whole. On a separate note though, why HPD does not have sufficient safeguards to prevent an un-promoted officer from supervising large scale operations like this and why such affairs lacked any form of vetting by anyone of rank, seems questionable. If that narrative is accurate, anyone in Goines chain of command during the time frame of the raid's planning and completion should be removed from office and made personally accountable. It seems very unlikely that this is the case but it is far more important to address than the rogue officer given the scale of the entire police department. It makes sense to allow low level officers some discretion given the scope of their respective duties but unvetted, no-knock raids???

I freely admit there's a lot of speculation in my comments but that is the case with every article and comment I've seen over the last year too, and most of them painted with far wider brushes, but absent concrete evidence of many more examples of Goines going rogue and his department letting it happen, I'm skeptical that this latest case of HPD corruption is the bonanza reformists wished for to institute changes. Perhaps the continuing investigations will uncover more to work with but as time marches onward, it seems less likely.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@8:22, ask Otis Mallet if he agrees Goines' record is "largely untainted."

Anonymous said...

Grits, I accounted for Mallet's case above as he is one of the very, very few who have disputed his conviction for years. Had Ogg not used this case to discredit Goines' longstanding record, perhaps as a stunt as his attorney claims, by presuming any testimony of Goines was automatically a lie, the conviction would stand. That it was one case in over 14,000 makes it a footnote rather than a smoking gun, but it does seem to bolster the bigger claim that HPD's policies were inadequate for the last ten or so years at very least.

"In an interview, Goines’ attorney Nicole DeBorde said she looked forward to defending Goines in court and attacked Ogg’s actions as a “media stunt.” “The DA’s office is using this as way to bolster their position in the other case,” she said, referring to the active felony murder charge Goines faces.""

Anon said...

Re: Bodycam footage emerges of needless tazing that got 2 Austin PD cops fired

I just watched the bodycam footage.

I just don't understand how a jury of 12 residents of Travis County could possibly have given the two officers a pass. Next time I get into trouble, I want to hire the criminal defense lawyers who represented ex-APD officers Robert Pfaff and Donald Petraitis to handle voir dire.