Thursday, April 30, 2009

More Brady Violations

I've mentioned before that it's tough to write in the same area that Scott Henson does because you can't find a light post, tire, or fire hydrant in the neighborhood that he hasn't peed on already, and here's another excellent example.

I posted briefly on Gary Alvin Richard's case yesterday, but Scott's post takes it one step further.

It now appears that the crime lab had several conflicting results, but only reported results that they deemed favorabel to a conviction. Even based on technology existing at the time Richards could have been excluded based on the secreter/non-secreter results. But those were trashed until over 100 cases were recently dusted off to verify HPD crime lab results.

Now, if you're up on this subject you'll remember that Chuck Rosenthal adamantly opposed a review of these cases. So it's telling that we got a hit so early in the process, and today an innocent man has been freed. It's also telling that the DA's office is somewhat equivocating on whether or not this shows actual innocence. I guess they're still using the Roy Criner case as an example of what they think they can get away with at the CCA. To his credit, the defense lawyer praised the DA's office for their cooperation.

The real question: Who's the real bad guy in this one? Without a doubt the crime lab techs are, because they provided false evidence. BUT--did the crime lab tell the DA about all of the conflicting results back in '87? If so, and they withheld it, I think this case is one that gets a DA convicted for withholding Brady material and sending an innocent man to prison.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Jury Suggestion

I'm going to have to read the Austin paper a little more often, it's chock full o' goodies. Like this little gem, where a judge doesn't particularly mind the fact that a juror personally contacted the son of the murder victim in he case in which he's serving as a juror. Now, that's a fairly clear violation of the Jury Charge, but everyone seems to be looking the other way.

The juror says: "I was convinced by that conversation that the defendant should get life in prison and not be sentenced to death."

The judge says: "Instructions schminstructions, I see no problem here."

Bonus: In Harris County the state would be kicking and screaming about this, because they couldn't give the guy the needle.

No matter who came out better, the fact is that personal conversations with witnesses, the son of a murder victim no less, was highly improper. What is it with Austin sentencing hearings? From prosecutors hiding witnesses to jurors talking to witnesses, they just can't seem to get it right.

Dear Arthur Seaton: Here's Another Example For You, You Lying Sack Of [Redacted]

Here's another nail in the coffin for your constant claims that nothing needs to be done to improve the way forensic evidence is used in criminal trials.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Proof That Republicans Are Institutionally Stupid

And I don't mean your every day Republican, most of those guys are just simpletons who have been duped into voting Republican because they bought into the lie that Republicans care about the average Joe--neither party really does. But, by "institutional" I mean the GOP, and those who blindly press its agenda without reason or thought.

Exhibit A: Babara Bachmann, who like Rush Limbaugh believes that Obama spread the swine flu to the US. On top of that, she says it's funny that Obama and Carter both had it hit the US during their terms--when it wasn't Carter, it was Ford. And what does she think, God hit the US with the swine flu because we elected a Democrat? That's one weak-ass God who afflicts us with a plague that doesn't kill anyone. Hell, at least when Robertson an Falwell blamed 9/11 on The Gays people actually died.

Bachmann, please die now. Thanks.

Prosecutors: Desperately Seeking Exceptions

While it would seem obvious to most lawyers that you shouldn't be able to search a person's vehicle incident to arrest using the officer's safety as an excuse when the guy is in handcuffs and already in the police car, and then based on the results of that search arrest the guy for something unrelated to why you pulled them over in the first place, it took the US Supreme Court to tell the various states that in the future they'd probably better make up better excuses to violate the 4th Amendment.

There have been several discussions around the blogs on what Gant means, but mostly from the defense side. Is there a difference between the two perspectives? Not really, but it's just interesting to see the same discussion from the prosecutor's side.

There's not a whole lot of gnashing of teeth, because as a few prosecutors point out they always have the inventory exception. So, never fear cops and prosecutors, you just have to wait until the "inventory search" (yet another exception that has helped swallow the rule, assuming you actually have any belief in the Constitution) before searching a vehicle for evidence and arresting the guy for something that had nothing to do with the broken tail light or unsafe lane change that you pulled him over for in the first place.

God forbid you do your work ahead of time and actually get a warrant for evidence of the crime that you're really searching for when you pulled the guy over in a pretextual stop in the first place. Restoring the 4th Amendment completely would just make your jobs too darn hard, I guess.

On a side note, there are plenty of other gems in prosecutors' comments on various topics. One poster claims to have challenged defense lawyers to post some of the most often witnessed ethical violations by defense lawyers, but nobody took him up on it. Imagine that, on a board more biased than FOX News people don't want to contribute grapeshot to the cannon that will only make them fodder. The same guy goes on to note that he's more than happy to present prosecutors' weaknesses, and includes Brady violations as the number one violation by prosecutors. I imagine Arthur Seaton will be crying himself to sleep based on that revelation. But the real catcher--the guy used Ted Stevens as his example! Sure, what was done to Stevens is worthy of investigation and if necessary prosecution. But that kind of thing happens on a daily basis across the country and Harris County is certainly no stranger to it, but there's no way a prosecutor is going to admit that evidence was withheld from the average black criminal defendant. I mean, Canadians are never wronged at trial, but Republican Senators? Man, those guys are persecuted every time.

For Chrissakes Mexico, Not Everything Is Our Fault

I guess Mexico sees that Obama is traveling up and down this hemisphere conceding to complaints of third world leaders, so they're now blaming the swine flu on us. What, weren't our guns killing you fast enough? Oh yeah, the triggers were being pulled by Mexicans. But we all know that you won't blame yourself for your own problems, so go ahead and go after whitey up north for everything. I guess I'm going to have to start blaming Canada for snow.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Chuck Rosenthal Couldn't Be Bothered To Track Down 600 Murderers

I'm iffy on Lykos, I'll admit. She's made marginal advances toward her campaign promises, and some, like providing the offense reports that were already open to defendants, are of marginal benefit. She's made no gains on diversifying the office, but I could care less about that. If black/Hispanic/other lawyers will make good prosecutors, hire them. If not, don't. Her statements to the press and some of her in-house antics have been objectly stupid. But, all you usually hear is complaining no matter who's in charge, and I still think that most of the people leaving to date are leaving not because they can't do their jobs but because they are so entrenched with the Rosenthal era that they're used to doing whatever they want and having no one question them on it. So when they think they're going to have to play on a level field they're taking their ball and going home. Can't have that conviction rate dropped by a diverse jury, or providing all of that Brady material you know.

But if they have all of these huge arguments against Lykos, and to date I haven't seen any big ones that weren't really indicative of any new administration, what do they have to say about Lykos inheriting over 600 open murder cases from Rosenthal and Holmes, who evidently couldn't be bothered to follow up on them? I guess Rosenthal wasn't such a go-getter after all. Say what you want about Lykos in some areas, at least she's trying to go after this obscenely huge list of murderers that Rosenthal couldn't be bothered to track down.

Around the blogs anonymous ADA's are screaming and wailing about how unsafe Harris County citizens will be now that Lykos is in charge, which makes absolutely no sense when Rosenthal the Messiah was sitting on the files of some 600 murderers.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Pat Lykos Arrested?

I can't vouch for its authenticity, and quite honestly it seems a little fishy to me, but it appears that Pat Lykos has been arrested. Looks like the cops got to her before she had a chance to spruce up for the day.

Never Fear, Cuba Is Here...

I must confess that in my personal dealings with mayors across the state, few are as earth-shakingly stupid as Galveston's mayor. This is the same moron who decided that the evacuation for Rita really sucked, so she wouldn't make anyone leave for Ike, the largest and deadliest storm to hit the island since 1909. In fact, I saw her on television telling people not to leave because she thought the highways were worse than a hurricane. She also didn't explain to the morons on her island that years ago computer models showed the escape routes being blocked before the sea wall would be crested. Meaning that by the time her uneducated and ill-prepared citizens, largely due to her incompetence, thought to themselves "Duuuuuuuuuude, the water's gettin' high, I better get out of here..." the roads off the island were already gone.

So is it any real surprise that she ignored Bill White's urgings to evacuate yet is now trying to learn from Cuba? Let me guess--the response to anything by a militaristic dictator is to throw soldiers at it.

(Reads article.)

Yep. Wow, good luck with that. Seeing as how we've thrown all of our soldiers to the Middle East and lowered our recruiting standards to fat, old, injured criminals, my bet is that the soldiers guarding the island (assuming the feds can get them there in time) are as likely to loot the place as the people who already live there. Although, if those still on the island are 12 year old black girls playing in their front yards, the Galveston PD can lock them up. Assuming they don't get their asses beat by the girls, like the last time.

Dear Houston Chronicle: We Get It Already

We know, we know, Texas is a leading source of guns in Mexico. But guess what, Mexico is a leading source of drugs and illegal immigrants in the U.S.

Is it just your anti-gun stance that makes you recycle this story and slap a new date on it just to keep it closer to the top? How about a story on the fact that the guns were being imported by Mexicans? Or used by Mexicans? Against other Mexicans?

You think the place of purchase is the most news-worthy part of this story? In reporting on the DWI problem in Texas do you write about the evil beer stores?

You know, if Mexico didn't oppose tightening security at the border every step of the way, maybe both sides of the border would be safer.

Interestingly enough, there is plenty of information out there about how Mexico treats immigrants along its southern border. Ever think to ask why Mexico cracks down on its own immigration problem yet facilitates illegal immigration into the US?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

If You're a Catholic Parent in Galveston...

...I'd be a little worried right now. Cardinal DiNardo is corraling all of your kids into one convenient location for his priests.

We all know this is a money-saving plan, which is interesting given the new monstrosity in Houston that looks more like a prison than a cathedral. Oh well, with fewer parishes there will be fewer priests, and that's a good thing for Galveston kids.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

More HPD False Evidence

The title of this one is unimaginative, but I couldn't really think of a creative way to explain yet another corrupt link in the chain of Harris County Justice. I wish I could say it was unusual that Harris County DWI cases are highly suspect, except that just a few months ago about 2,600 other cases were thrown into doubt because a technician wasn't calibrating the breathalyzer machines like she claimed.

The new 13-county crime lab has been much-touted for use in DNA testing, and when DNA evidence is involved in a case it is crucial for both the prosecution to ensure they've got the right guy and the defense to expose it if they don't, but this is yet another case that shows that there's plenty of room to improve all procedures where evidence is an issue--in other words, in every case.

Simple Justice has an excellent follow-up on the Ted Stevens debacle that demonstrates this exact same issue at a different level. In Stevens' case the judge accepted the prosecutors' statements as per se truth, because they're the government and we all know the government wouldn't lie. This most recent HPD issue is more of a bottom-up problem, because cops on the stand are accepted as speaking The Word of God by juries, and they are accepted as credible even in cases like this where they clearly should not be. Why? Just because.

Criminal law is the last bastion of junk science in the courthouse. John Edwards made millions off of it in civil cases in an area that has been soundly discredited, and it has long been fought out in civil courts that scientific processes should apply to expert testimony. But in criminal trials we have only recently begun to expose the junk science of arson testimony, the Texas legislature is only now attempting to limit the use of faulty eye-witness procedures (that's not truly scientific, but their arguments related to why we need change are supported by actual science), and maybe someday we'll get to a point where we don't convict someone based on a cop looking into someone's eyes and claiming they moved funny so they know the defendant was intoxicated.

Especially when that cop shouldn't be trusted in the first place.

When Will Blacks Get Thier Own Quarters Too?

Sure, we all know what they were trying to do here, but come on, housing for gays? I don't see my alma mater ever doing that, or even adopting a don't ask don't tell policy, and it's not like there are only eight gay people on TCU. Good grief, last I heard TCU and SMU were about 30-40% gay. Although I hear they're one man down, now that Arthur Seaton has graduated.

Here's my favorite part: "Well I’ve been trying to create a safe space on campus for the queer community,” Newkirk said...

Queer? Could I say that and not face a torrent of queer anger? And, "safe?" Is the TCU area covered with roaming bands of queer bashers? I'd understand that issue if we were talking about A&M, but TCU? The horned frogs? Any notion that this is required for safety's sake is just plain stupid. Queer, even. Maybe he should start his training to be a waiter at Barnaby's, he wouldn't need anybody's protection then.

What's In A Name?

Alright, look, I'm all for things like denying drivers' licenses to illegal immigrants and requiring photo identification at the polls. I'm even for making English the official language and requiring remedial English courses as a condition of citizenship or long-term visas.

But this woman has to be one of the most backward-ass people I've ever heard about. What fundamental ignorance she must have to think that people should have to change their name so her simpleton self could more easily deal Asians. The article even comes complete with the "your people" quote that most racists know to avoid. But not this racist, she has to say it on the record, to a person of Asian descent, and during House testimony on the voter ID bill. What a horrible human being this woman must be.

I'm not sure why the name has anything to do with it, if it's also a picture ID. She never outright says that "they all look alike to me," but you know that's only because she wasn't given enough time to speak. I'm sure it was next on her list.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Well I'll Be Dipped in [redacted]

I just knew this was going to get swept under the rug. There was no doubt in my mind. But evidently, there's at least one grand jury out there making some sense.

Now getting a Harris County jury to convict is entiely different, and we have yet to hear whether or not the fact that Tolan's car was "reported stolen" was a complete crock of [redacted], but I bet it'll all come out in the wash. If that cop lied about the report of a stolen car, his hand has been caught in the cookie jar. If not it's going to be a closer call, although the shooting itself should be able to stand alone as a disgrace and a crime.

Good for Tolan, and good for the rest of us to have a little light shone on Bellaire PD's tactics.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Officer Salter Update

Glad to hear HPD officer Salter is out of the hospital and on the road to recovery.

A little advice from your buddy Rage: don't ride a bike past any eight year olds, and always file a written motion asking that DNA evidence be tested--even when they "mistakenly" tell you there isn't any.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

How To Eat An Elephant

Illegal Immigration is something that neither national political party wants to deal with (one of them wants voters, the other, cheap labor), and something that almost every citizen wants to have addressed. Whether you want deportation, incarceration, amnesty, or something in between, you want something done about it.

Will a wall be the best answer? How about raiding employers that have a propensity to hire illegals? Or how about cleaning out the jails, where we already know there are illegal immigrants who aren't being properly dealt with?

The answer: Yes.

One of the few things John McCain ever said on the campaign trail that made sense was in 2004 (let's face it, the best thing he had going for hin in '08 was that he was white) when he said that we "shouldn't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." I don't remember what he was talking about, but his 'let's do something that helps with a problem, even if we don't solve the problem 100%' was a pragmatic approach that can help with just about every problem known to man. With immigration, a wall won't stop everything because we know they come through the checkpoints en masse. Tougher checkpoints won't do it, because they'll return to the remote areas en masse. Going after employers alone won't do it because there are always enough employers who can fly under the radar with contract labor and sub-contractors, and cities like Houston will be more than happy to enable the day laborers. Raiding workers alone won't do it because there is an endless stream of replacements. Amnesty? That just ain't right according to the majority of the people. Even people who are for easier immigration aren't for blanket immunity.

So the answer is to do some of all of them. No one thing will work, but a comprehensive approach that does better at attacking all facets of the problem will have a cumulative effect that doing one or two things alone won't even come close to (save for outright immunity). And if you've read some of my local posts about immigration in Houston, you know that illegal immigrants in our jails are often let back out on the street at a time when they could be conveniently deported.

So I was encouraged to read that Pat Lykos is insisting that criminal defendants disclose their immigration status. And why not? If they are here legally, they get a free pass to a plea bargain and everything goes on as always. If they are here illegally, we start the process of deportation. According to the Chronicle stories on this subject, many freely admit to being here illegally but we've done nothing about it citing a lack of training and other issues like the difficulty in cross-decking information with ICE. Well, now we're doing something about it.

Nobody is forcing them to lie, for which they would face other penalties, and if they take the 5th the state would simply do their own work in verifying the immigration status of the defendant. ICE says that the impact on their work will be minimal. Shoot, it might even make their jobs easier, if you ask me, because the leg work of verifying status will be done. In general, it just means that although it can solve many issues in Harris County, it won't be a significant burden on ICE.

Some may look at that as a reason not to do this, but, that's short sighted. This program is just one more bite of the elephant. And if we can't eat the elephant one bite at a time, we'll never eat it.