Wednesday, December 17, 2008

DA Watch: In Odessa, Ethnicity is a Threat to Society and It's a Law and Order Love Match

Quick! Someone call the Coen Brothers! I've got a pitch for them. And, it's based on FACT.

Okay, first: the Ector County District Attorney just transfered a case over to the Big Kahuna -- the Attorney General of the State of Texas -- so the Attorney General can represent the government in the penalty phase of a case that's already been tried twice.

That's just not done every day. (Feel the interest build ....)

Then, add to that the reason why: seems that the defendant, Mike Gonzales, was sentenced to death in a case where one of the government's expert witnesses actually testified to the jury (yep, it's on the record) that the guy's ethnicity was an indicator that he was a threat to society.

Ethnicity. You know, like he's ... hispanic. (Okay, we've got a villian.)

That's just not said out loud every day - and particularly, by an expert witness in sworn testimony. Oh - and this expert, Walter Quijano, isn't some zany hired gun they found in the classifieds somewhere. Oh, no no no.

Seems Walter Quijano used to be the chief psychologist for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. That's right.

(Ironic twist: guy with surname of Quijano is swearing that ethnicity is a threat to society and apparently, offering himself of as proof of same. WHEN are the Coen Brothers calling me?????!!!)

The guy testifying that ethnicity means a danger to society (think about that) was the Big Kahuna over at the Department of Criminal Justice's psych dept. Yes, he was the Big Cheese over there. The Man with a Plan. The Chief. The Boss. The Top Dog.

And this crazzzeee guy has apparently given this same sworn testimony in around 6 other cases where men's lives were at stake (a jury has to determine that someone already convicted of murder is also a future threat to society before they can impose the death sentence).

I don't know about you, but I'm already pondering who would play this guy in the movie.

But hey! The story's not over.

Seems that over in Ector County, the first assistant D.A. (Jack McCoy's job in the original Law & Order series) is married to the lead investor (Lennie Briscoe's job, ditto) in Mr. Gonzales' case.

(Here comes the romantic sub-plot!)

So, the Ector County District Attorney, Bobby Bland (great name, let's keep it in the screenplay), asked the Attorney General's advice on Mr. Gonzales' case because he was concerned there might be some talk, since there's all this hoopla over in Collin County about a judge and a district attorney having a long term affair, all the while trying death penalty cases together. (Check out the earlier post on the Collin County Love Connection.)

According to the Houston Chronicle, the Ector County DA told them, "[t]he (attorney general) recommended that my office recuse itself from that case so there wouldn't be an affect on the case if it were to be appealed," Bland said.

Yeah, you think? (Who's gonna play this guy?)

Oh, and what's the latest on Mike Gonzales? Jury selection has been scheduled for April, and the Attorney General's office will be setting at the prosecution table.

Whew. I'm tellin ya -- I see Oscars here.


Houston Chronicle

Monday, December 15, 2008

Cop Watch: Austin Cops Pay Out Their Second $1 Million in 2 Months Time for Wrongful Death Shootings

Be careful in Austin, boy howdy.

Last month, the Austin City Council approved a $1,000,000 settlement in the case brought by Kevin Alexander Brown's family. Seems Kevin Brown, 25, was shot as he was running from an Austin policeman already under suspicion for using excessive force.

Brown was shot dead at the scene, only two days after the press announcement that the US Department of Justice was investigating the possible use of excessive force by members of the Austin Police Department.

This month, here comes the Austin City Council approving another $1,000,000 settlement -- this one for the shooting death of 18-year-old Daniel Rocha.

Rocha was killed during a traffic stop -- shot by a cop who said she was afraid he had gotten ahold of her (or her partner's) Taser and was about to use it on them. The Taser was found 10 feet away from Rocha's body.

Oh, and one interesting point to note: 18-year-old Daniel Rocha was shot in the back.

When Can the Cops Shoot to Kill?

Police are allowed to shoot - and even kill - when they are under the reasonable belief that either they or others are in danger of imminent (and possibly fatal) harm.

With Brown, running away hardly seems like a threat of harm. Let him go and you're totally safe, right?

With Rocha, even if he had a Taser those things aren't guns - they can stop you, they are painful, but they don't kill people. Plus, no one stopped to check and make sure Rocha even had the Taser ... talk about excessive force.

Will Two Million Bucks Send a Message?

Two million bucks. In two months time. Maybe paying that much money out of city coffers will make someone train these cops to stop and think.

Meanwhile, if you're stopped by a cop in Austin -- be very, very careful.


Austin American Statesman

Austin American Statesman