Saturday, March 20, 2021

Arrested for pot, then dead; capital murderer sent out to write tickets; fired cops won't stay fired; bail-legislation updates, and other stories

Here are a few odds and ends that merit readers' attention while mine is focused at the Texas Legislature:

Say his name, folks: Marvin Scott. Arrested for marijuana by the Allen Police Department, the 26-year old man died in the Collin County Jail on Sunday while being forcibly restrained by seven detention officers. Scott was schizophrenic, but its unclear if he was being treated at the jail under mental health protocols. This is a bad one. Over marijuana!

Capital murderer sent out to write tickets: Dallas PD suspected an officer of two capital murders but left him patrolling the streets for two years, ostensibly so as to not compromise their investigation. When the new chief came on and learned of the situation, the officer was immediately arrested. Great reporting from Cassandra Jaramillo.

Nightmarish outcome in Houston: an officer fired at a carjacking suspect and hit a one-year old baby in the head. At last report, the baby, Legend Smalls, was still alive and fighting for its life.

Meet the new chief, same as the old chief: Houston edition. Acevedo's out. Finner's in. Experience in Austin suggests nothing much will change if Art's leadership team is left in place. MORE: See critical retrospectives on Acevedo's tenure from Texas Monthly and the Houston Chronicle. Was particularly pleased to see this quote from Neal Manne in the TM story: “only the for-profit bail bondsmen spread more falsehoods and scare stories about bail reform than Chief Acevedo.” Tbh, he probably spread more falsehoods and scare stories than the bail industry itself; his real competition on that front is Andy Kahan, with Kim Ogg waiting in the wings to adopt his role now that Acevedo's departing.

Garbage in, different garbage out. Crime data was already a disaster and the process of improving it requires us going through a rough patch during which the data becomes incomparable/unusable. We are entering that period now. An avalanche of articles and books will be written in coming years on the profound implications, on many vectors, for the data-collection changes involved in shifting from UCR to NIBRS. Today we can only speculate. Should be better when the transition is complete, but a rough row to hoe from here to there.

Bail reform bills not ready for prime time. With bail reform litigation in Dallas headed toward its denouement, Grits considers 2021 an inopportune time to change Texas' pretrial detention system: Whatever is done may be swept away by federal action and, by 2023, the 5th Circuit likely will have established a constitutional floor on bail that could guide Texas in upgrading its system. Even so, the Governor's bail legislation is moving in both chambers, with a hearing on SB 21 in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday.  Here's coverage from the Texas Association of Counties. Notably, the hearing focused on people who murdered while out on bond. But Joan Huffman's bill mainly restricts use of personal bonds. It turns out, 93% of the killers referenced had paid their way out through the traditional bail system, Republican Judge Mike Fields told the committee. That's one reason why the Harris County Justice Administration Division last month argued, in a presentation to the commissioners court accompanied by this detailed memo, that bail reform didn't explain recent crime spikes. JAD told the senate committee the bill as written would require the county to violate federal court orders. At one point, Sen. Huffman seemed to acknowledge the bill was so broad it could impact Class C cases, promising to narrow it before it left committee. Truth is, this effort isn't ready for prime time and Texas would be better off waiting on the 5th Circuit.

Fired cops won't stay fired: A reminder, half of cops fired at the Fort Worth PD are put back on the force by an arbitrator. In San Antonio, that figure is 70%.

Visitation reinstated! The Texas Department of Criminal Justice is reinstating in-person visits. This is big news, though it remains to be seen what restrictions will apply. It's been a year!

What does the badge mean, Tim? Turns out, Tim Fleck is way cooler than I thought he was. From his pseudonymous 1981 underground hit, "The Badge Means You Suck":

The men who killed Joe Torres
Never went to jail
The sniper who picked off Carl Hampton
Never paid any bail
The killers of Milton Glover
They might be pulling you over tonight
And if you happen to get shot
Well, I guess you started the fight

CORRECTION: This post originally included an item about the death of Jamail Amron in which I misstated the grounds on which his case was dismissed by the 14th Court of Appeals. A commenter corrected me and, rather than rewrite it, I removed the item since a more accurate account would be a) too involved for a roundup post and b) irrelevant to the original point. I'd misinterpreted from the press coverage and regret the error.


Gadfly said...

A prez with gonads would do something like cutting off COPS grants to all departments in a state that doesn't reform qualified immunity.

Anonymous said...

"Last year, the 14th Court of Appeals threw the case out on qualified immunity grounds." Huh? That's not how I read the opinion. The Court specifically denied the deputy's claim of qualified immunity. (It found Harris County wasn't liable and that the family failed to prove that the deputy's actions caused the death of the guy).
James S.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

You're right, James, my bad, I misremembered the press coverage and hadn't read the actual opinion - a double error. I deleted that item and added a correction since I'd screwed it up.

Susan said...

As a longtime Grits fan, I'm beyond stoked to see a link to my TM story about "The Badge Means You Suck." Thank you! (and apologies for accidentally posting another susan's handle)

Gritsforbreakfast said...

My pleasure, Susan, it was a fun story!

JC said...

Remove qualified immunity for all public officials, elected or appointed. All or none.