Thursday, February 06, 2020

Misbehaving cops concealed, afforded leniency; prosecutors' abuse of power criticized; Travis County hires Public Defender, and other stories

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

Many agencies won't disclose police misconduct to Harris DA
About a quarter of Harris County law enforcement agencies refuse to hand over information about problem police officers to the District Attorney's office, reported Keri Blakinger, arising from the grave to issue one last Houston Chronicle story. The biggest non-participating agency is the Harris County Sheriff, along with all the constables' offices, all of whom declined to enter a memorandum of understanding with the DA's office on advice of the county attorney. Of participating agencies:
As of February, that so-called “disclosure database” included 1,461 people, 546 of whom are current members of law enforcement. More than 40 percent of those — 227 — were with the Houston Police Department, which Ogg said is responsible for about 80 percent of the cases filed.
El Paso cop gets probation for on-duty rape
A former police officer in El Paso was sentenced to a 10-year probated sentence after sexually assaulting a domesting violence victim he met on the job. The jury went with the lenient sentence after the officer's father and defense attorney argued that TDCJ couldn't keep him safe and sending a police officer there could be a "death sentence." Are there any examples of police officers sentenced to TDCJ being murdered? I can't recall one.

Prosecutor abusing power to punish uppity defense counsel
In San Angelo, the Tom Green County District Attorney is refusing to negotiate pleas for her clients because, in one client's case, she argued that plea bargaining is unconstitutional.
Stone was forced to give up [more than 10 clients] as a result of a targeted policy devised by Tom Green County prosecutors, according to a federal lawsuit filed in October. The complaint names district attorneys Allison Palmer and John Best and accuses their office of silencing Stone’s First Amendment views and retaliating against her for making the argument in a separate appeals case that plea bargains are unconstitutional.
The Tom Green County DA's policy targeting a lone defense attorney for being too aggressive is “highly unusual and made up out of whole cloth," an expert told the Washington Post. “But given the vast discretion we impose on prosecutors — even if it raises eyebrows — I would be surprised if a judge prevented” it.

Resistance in Big D to ↓ phone rates at county jail
Dallas County is balking at reducing charges for inmate phone calls. Commissoner John Wiley Price objected that the county would lose revenue from the calls and that the Sheriff would need extra staffing to facilitate video chats with inmates via iPad (in person visits would still be allowed as before). Meanwhile, the Texas Organizing Project objected to any charges for calls, insisting they should be free. The vote was delayed for two weeks but as the County Judge and 2 commissioners voiced support for the rate reductions, there's still a good chance it will go through.

Travis County hires Public Defender
Travis County has hired the first leader of its new public defender office: Adeola Ogunkeyede, a University of Virginia professor and former attorney at the Bronx Defenders. Grits recently heard her interviewed along with the other finalist for the position and am excited about the direction in which the office appears to be heading.

Travis DA's handling of sex-assault cases criticized
How the Travis County DA's Office handles sex-assault case has become the most-discussed issue in the Democratic primary. Sarah Marloff at the Austin Chronicle reviewed the controversy that's roiling the District Attorney's office. Grits had earlier called this issue "easily the most damaging complaint against her."

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