Wednesday, December 05, 2012
Former CrimeStoppers Head, Veteran Dallas Cop Theadora Ross, Sentenced After Stealing $250,000 From CrimeStoppers Reward Fund
Crime Stoppers Organizations Are Big Deals These Days, With Big Reward Funds
Being able to share what someone knows without having to give their name has proven to be an invaluable tool to law enforcement, and Crime Stoppers is viewed as a major crime-fighting tool in most law enforcement circles. Part of its reputation has come from the ability of Crime Stoppers to bring new information to police when investigations don't have much to go on, using money: Crime Stoppers offers rewards to folk who come forward and spill what they know. You've probably seen an advertisement or two, where a reward is offered for information in an unsolved case.
Dallas Cop Sentenced for Taking $250,000 From Dallas Crime Stoppers' Pot of Reward Money
Which means that Crime Stoppers has money in a pot for those rewards, something that Theadora Ross found just too, too tempting there at the Dallas Crime Stoppers office. Never mind that Theadora Ross was a Dallas police officer, who had sworn to perserve, protect, and defend: Officer Ross was sentenced this week to 46 months incarceration in a federal pen for income tax evasion and conspiracy to commit wire fraud (she pled guilty back in August 2012, there was no trial).
Dallas Police Department Senior Corporal Theodora Ross was arrested back in June 2010 by Dallas police while setting in her Crime Stoppers office; seems her pal, Malva Delley, spilled the beans on Ross after Delley was questioned by police. How did the cops find out? An observant bank teller became suspicious after seeing Delley collecting more than one CrimeStoppers reward, and picked up a phone.
Delley and Ross were both arrested, and Delley pled guilty back to one count of conspiracy to make a false statement to a financial institution in May 2011.
While Dallas citizens (and Dallas police) trusted Theodora Ross to run Crime Stoppers, seems that the Dallas police officer was busy creating fake tip numbers to be paid on Crime Stopper cases. These tip numbers are the tools to allow CrimeStoppers to pay rewards to anonymous tippers: present the tip number to the bank, and you are paid the reward in cash. It was an easy scheme: Delley would use Ross's fake tip number to collect the money from the bank as a Crime Stoppers reward.
The rewards added up. By the time that these two grifters were caught, they had taken a quarter of a million dollars from the North Texas Crime Commission, which funds the Dallas Crime Stoppers (along with Dallas court fines, Collin County court fines, fundraising efforts and charitable donations to Crime Stoppers). That's right: $250,000.00.
Ross Ordered to Pay Back the Money and To Pay Her Income Taxes, Too
Luckily, the money may be recouped. Ross has been ordered to pay $274,304.00 in restitution as part of her sentencing. That's covering losses to Crime Stoppers as well as taxes due: over a four year time period, it was found that Officer Ross failed to pay around $38,000 in income taxes on the $175,000 of income she received in her conning. That's right: the IRS expects to be paid even if the income is from an illegal grift.
Here's a question that hasn't been answered in the news coverage or the court opinions or FBI press releases: is that bank teller whose tip lead to the discovery of this huge fraud on CrimeStoppers going to get a reward for calling in her suspicions? Just wondering.
Wednesday, November 07, 2012
Prosecutorial Misconduct in Michael Morton Case: Judge Ken Anderson Faces Court of Inquiry and Now State Bar of Texas Disciplinary Proceedings, Too
For details on that recommendation, read our earlier post. Suffice to say, Judge Harle found probable cause that District Attorney Ken Anderson illegally withheld evidence in the murder trial of Michael Morton.
For all the details, check out the Report to Court filed by Gerry Goldstein of San Antonio, John Wesley Raley of Houston and Barry Scheck of New York City on behalf of the Innocence Project. It's around 150 pages and provides the details that went into the Texas Supreme Court's decision to move forward with a Court of Inquiry.
What Happened to Michael Morton - The Withheld Evidence
As you'll recall, Mr. Morton was unjustly convicted of killing his wife, Christine, and as an innocent man spent 25 years of his life in a Texas prison. Most agree that Michael Morton is a free man today because of the continued efforts of the Innocence Project, and now Mr. Morton is dedicating his efforts to help others who have been victims of prosecutorial misconduct.
What happened to Mr. Morton? You can read the full opinion of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals here, where they overturned his 1987 conviction. DNA evidence convinced the CCA that another person, not Michael Morton, was responsible for the death of his young wife.
The key to the pending Ken Anderson proceeding is the allegation that Morton would not have been convicted in the first place if the evidence held by the District Attorney's Office had been revealed. This included (1) the Mortons' young son eyewitness account that the man who killed his mother was not his dad; (2) the bandanna found at the scene with DNA evidence (this proved to be someone else's DNA, not Mr. Morton's DNA; (3) the victim's credit card found at a store in San Antonio; and (4) a forged endorsement on a check payable to the victim that was cashed almost two weeks after Mrs. Morton died.
State Bar of Texas Files Disciplinary Action Against Anderson - Fight For His Bar License
The State Bar of Texas investigated the allegations of prosecutorial misconduct against Ken Anderson and after 10 months, a formal grievance was filed against him. This is another lawsuit.
You can read the Disciplinary Petition filed against Ken Anderson here. This was filed in September 2012. The Texas Supreme Court has appointed State District Judge Kelly G. Moore (of Yoakum and Terry Counties) to preside over the trial, which will be a public proceeding at the Williamson County Courthouse.
On Monday, Judge Ken Anderson filed affirmative defenses in that case, arguing the statute of limitations has run in this case against him by the Bar. That's right: he's arguing that the State Bar filed its case too late, under the State Bar of Texas' own Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct.
Court of Inquiry Into Morton Prosecutor Ken Anderson Begins December 10, 2012 - Fight Over Evidence Tampering Charges / Contempt
Meanwhile, Tarrant County Judge Louis Sturns is presiding over the Court of Inquiry where the issues involve whether or not Ken Anderson should face evidence tampering charges and contempt of court charges for withhold evidence that led to the conviction of an innocent man and his incarceration for over two decades.
Discovery fights are ongoing in that matter, with the expected "shield and sword" arguments being used by Anderson's attorneys to try and get past Michael Morton's lawyers' claims of attorney-client priviledge, among other things. Rusty Hardin is acting as Special Prosecutor in this case.
Wednesday, October 03, 2012
Dallas Police Officer Shoots Man 41 Times, Other Officers Investigated for Taking and Trying to Destroy Witness's Video and Photo Evidence
Police Officer Crashes Patrol Car Into Suspect's Vehicle - And Shoots Him 41 Times
It lasted around 30 minutes, according to news reports - Mr. Allen behind the wheel of a pickup, speeding along - and it ended when Mr. Allen turned into a cul-de-sac and, according to the police officers that were there, then tried to exit the cul-de-sac by slamming his pick up through two police sedans that had slammed into position, blocking the cul-de-sac's exit. Mr. Allen's truck didn't push aside the two patrol cars, and the chase was over. However, other reports are that after Mr. Allen turned the truck around in the cul-de-sac, a Garland police officer named Patrick Tuter slammed into the pickup to prevent Allen from driving any further.
This second version of things has been verified by the police in an updated version of events issued several days later, with confirmation that Tuter's dashcam video confirmed the patrol car crashed into the pick up truck to stop it, and that Allen didn't try to slam his GMC pickup into the police car.
That was not the end of the story. Because then Mr. Allen died - died after being shot there in the driver's seat of his pick-up truck, blocked by the patrol cars in a Mesquite cul-de-sac. He was shot by Officer Tuter who fired over and over and over again: Mr. Allen was shot with police bullets FORTY-ONE TIMES. (You can see video of the truck in the aftermath online here.)
41 times: it means that the police officer had to stop, think, reload his weapon, and keep shooting. Some reports are that this took three clips from Officer Tuter's gun to achieve. Which means he reloaded TWICE. It's not disputed that Mr. Allen was not armed. There was no gun in the pickup truck. No one shot first at an officer.
Officer Tuter defends his actions as not being excessive force but instead a reasonable response as he feared for his life. (Read about Texas law and excessive force on our web site reference pages.) Right now, he's on restricted duty.
However, as bad as this story is - and it's very bad - it gets worse.
Police Officers Take Mobile Phone From Witness -- and Destroy Video/Photos On It
Because other police officers on the scene are alleged to have tried to destroy evidence of what happened on that cul-de-sac. Seems a man who lived in that cul-de-sac not only watched what was going on, but took video and photographed the event. According to this man, Mitchell Wallace, he didn't see the shooting but he did see the female passenger (who was not hit by the bullets, wow) being pulled from the truck's cab by the cops and he did see the police send their dog into the cab, where the dog bit Mr. Allen on the neck and then drug him out of the truck to lay face down on the street. Wallace documented all of this, plus the police turning the body over to check for a pulse.
Here's the thing: Wallace's mobile phone video and photos were taken by law enforcement at the scene, and when the phone was returned to him, this stuff was missing from it. Gone. Erased.
So now there are other law enforcement officers being investigated for messing with evidence. As well as destroying property that didn't belong to them. (There's some stories that the evidence may still be available and some investigator just took the SIM card out of Mr. Wallace's phone.)
Under Texas law, the police do not have the right to take personal property like Mr. Wallace's phone or anything inside it unless there is probable cause to believe it's been part of a crime that has been committed. No one is arguing that Mitchell Wallace, using his phone from his own home to document what was happening on the street outside, was committing any crime.
It's being called not only a case of Excessive Force against a Texas citizen on a summer night here in Dallas that ended in a man dead on the street, but a cover up by his colleagues who didn't want to have filmed evidence of what happened that night.
For more information, read our posts:
- Dallas Has Record Number of Police Shootings in 2012
- Dallas County Sheriff Arrests Motorcyclist For Refusing to Turn Over His Helmet Cam Video of Police
Wednesday, September 05, 2012
Dallas 911: How Reliable Is It and What's Dallas Police Department Doing About Making 911 More Reliable
Eleven minutes. That's a long time.
Wednesday, August 01, 2012
Here it is, 18 months later, and Texas crime labs are still a hot spot of controversy and national news media are still finding news stories in the testing being done in crime labs across our state. It's only those who aren't following these stories and those who aren't involved in criminal justice or criminal defense across the state of Texas that assume laboratory work in Texas crime labs are scientifically accurate and as trustworthy as the work being done in TV labs like those on CSI, Rizzoli & Isles, or Law & Order (pick a version).
Massive 2012 Federal Investigation Into Crime Lab Errors in Hair Samples
This month, the Department of Justice and the FBI issued a joint statement that their offices will be reviewing "thousands" of cases where people have already been convicted of crimes based upon forensic evidence because the federal government now has reason to believe that the crime lab testing of hair samples was flawed. The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Innocence Project are working with the feds here, with the Innocence Project double-checking the FBI's findings when they arrive.
Tarrant County Crime Lab Turns Itself Into Authorities
Yesterday, it was reported that the Tarrant County Crime Lab got a pat on the back from the Texas Forensic Science Commission because the Tarrant County Crime Lab turned itself into the oversight commission (filed a "self-complaint") after one of the lab supervisors found that two rape kit tests that had been tagged as tested ("screened") never, ever had their seals broken. No one had opened up the packaging in order to test a darn thing.
You would think that a lab would rarely have something fall through the cracks as being tested while it hadn't been opened, right? You'd be wrong. It is such a commonplace occurrence that it has a nickname: they call it "dry labbing."
Fort Worth Crime Lab Back at Work After Doors Shut for 10 Years
Meanwhile, the Fort Worth Police Department Crime Lab just got the okay to start up its DNA testing once again, after the police crime lab had been sending out its DNA testing since October 2002 (that's right, almost 10 years ago) because there were concerns that the Fort Worth Crime Lab wasn't releasing accurate and valid DNA test results.
Austin Crime Lab Okayed After Complaints From Lab Employee and Dallas-area Lab
And, down in Austin, the Austin Police Department Crime Lab just got the go-ahead from the Texas Forensic Science Commission to ramp up its testing again, after the commission cleared the lab of any errors after two separate complaints were filed against it: one, by a Dallas-area lab that tested the same stuff and found different results and two, by a former employee at the Austin Crime Lab who reported that the Austin lab was cutting corners in its testing.
Bottom line: criminal defense attorneys still have to be skeptical of any evidence that is coming out of a government crime lab these days because this stuff just isn't trustworthy and reliable simply because a "lab" has reported they've tested the stuff. Crime lab results in Texas criminal defense cases still have to be questioned.
Wednesday, July 04, 2012
No Refusal on Fourth of July 2012: Pulled Over in Dallas or Fort Worth for DWI Does Not Mean You Have No Defense: You May Have to Fight for Your Rights
It's the Fourth of July and that means law enforcement is working today, working hard to pull over and arrest people for suspicion of driving while intoxicated or distracted driving. So be careful today, if you're out on the roads.
In fact, in the Dallas - Fort Worth area, the "No Refusal" campaigns are in place at the Dallas Police Department along with Arlington Police Department, Irving Police Department, and other municipalities as well as the State of Texas Department of Transportation and the counties themselves (Dallas, Tarrant).
What is a "No Refusal" Campaign?
The No Refusal Campaign is the brainchild of the federal government via its National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It's when the Powers that Be have a judge setting at a desk, on stand-by, to immediately sign a warrant that will approve the taking of your breath in a breathalyzer test or your blood with a needle even if you have exercised your constitutional rights and initially declined testing of blood, breath, or any other human body part.
If the Breathalyzer reports a blood alcohol level of .08 or more, then it's most likely that you will arrested on the spot.
Tarrant County Goes One More With Its New Website Campaign
Over in Fort Worth, citizens face even more challenges to their rights. It seems that the Tarrant County District Attorney, Joe Shannon, has announced that his office will publish online the full names and the ages of everyone arrested and charged with DWI on its website, www.tarrantda.com.
Things To Know About No Refusal DWI Campaigns: Fight for Your Individual Rights
Many challenge these No Refusal campaigns as well as the publication of names of citizens who have been arrested as being in violation of their legal rights under the constitution and both state and federal law. The Tarrant County publication list is another, separate constitutional argument involving civil rights.
Additionally, there are several things to remember about these law enforcment sweeps over holidays, including:
- searches and seizures of the vehicles must follow state law as always, this doesn't change the protections given to people from police searching their cars (read our article on searches and seizures here for details);
- it's not illegal to drive below the speed limit, just not over it (read our 10 Things To Know When the Police Pull You Over for more details);
- it's important to act fast if you are arrested for DWI, because not only will the police take your driver's license but you have only 15 days before the ALR Hearing (read here on details about the ALR Hearing and how important it is).
It's not over till it's over and a No Refusal DWI arrest in Texas does not mean that you have no criminal defense. Lawyers experienced in drunk driving defense cases in Dallas, Fort Worth, and other parts of Texas are ready to help you protect your future.
Wednesday, June 06, 2012
Dallas Police Department : 6th Officer - Involved Shooting in the Past 5 Months as Oak Cliff Traffic Stop Ends With Driver Shot in the Back
Maybe Chief Brown needs time to get his ducks in a row, since Dallas seems to be having more and more shootings involving the police shooting citizens. Like the officer-involved shooting this past Saturday in Oak Cliff, where the Dallas Medical Examiner has confirmed that the man was shot in the back by the Dallas police officer.
That's right. Shot in the back.
Dallas Police Traffic Stop for Failure to Use Turn Signal Ends Up With Driver Dead
John Robert Husband died on Saturday from a Dallas police officer's bullet after the police pulled his car over because Husband reportedly didn't use his turn signal. He was 21 years old.
So, in a routine traffic stop someone died. [Read more about traffic stops on our web site resources page.]
The reports thus far are that Dallas police officer Leland Limbaugh smelled marijuana as he approached the vehicle and accordingly ordered Husband to get out of the car. The passengers, Xavier Bryant and Derrick Epps, remained inside.
Conflicting Stories on What Happened in Saturday Night's Officer Involved Shooting
As Dallas officer Limbaugh patted down Husband, the officer's story goes, Husband started to resist when Limbaugh tried to cuff him and tried to pull a pistol from his belt. Limbaugh feared for his life, and accordingly drew his weapon and shot Husband in the back, the bullet entering his body via his left shoulder blade.
The two passengers don't agree with this version of events. Their story is that Husband got scared and started to run from the car, and the Dallas police officer pulled his gun and shot the young man in the back as he ran away. No struggle. No reason for the police officer to "fear for his life."
What about the electric eye, the dashcam video? Wouldn't it solve the conflict between the officer's version of events and the witnesses' accounts? Sure it would: but this police car didn't have a dash cam installed.
On Monday, the Dallas Police Department published its official statement of these events on the DPD Facebook page. The Dallas Observer provides that statement online in its coverage here, for those who don't access Facebook.
Husband's Death is Sixth Fatal Officer-Involved Shooting in Dallas in 2012: What's Going On?
Saturday's shooting brings the tally of Dallas Police Department officer-involved shootings of citizens to six (6) since this year began -- a ratio of someone dying from a Dallas law enforcement bullet approximately every 2.5 weeks in 2012.
That's unacceptable. That's scary.
When is Dallas Police Chief Brown going to talk to us about this?
Wednesday, May 02, 2012
Hank Skinner Goes Before Texas High Court for DNA Testing Request the Same Week that Two More Men Exonerated in Dallas Based on DNA Testing of Trial Evidence After Serving 30 Years on Wrongful Conviction
Today, for example, Hank Skinner will be arguing his case before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Oral arguments, in fact, may be happening as this post is being typed but it will be months from now before the High Court issues its opinion. (You can follow Hank Skinner's case via its online docket here, as Cause No. AP-76,675 styled Henry W. Skinner v. State of Texas.)
Will a Hank Skinner DNA Test Prove His Innocence?
Hank Skinner sets on Texas Death Row, a man who has consistently claimed his innocence. During his criminal trial, it is admitted that his criminal defense lawyers made the strategy decision to NOT ask for Mr. Skinner's DNA to be compared to all the evidence. Why the prosecutors didn't bother to check this out long ago, well that's a different story.
Since then, it's been found that there were several pieces of evidence that did indeed have DNA from an unknown source -- NOT Mr. Skinner (for details, read here.). Who was this unknown person at the crime scene? Good question.
Understandably, Hank Skinner has been fighting hard for that DNA testing and we've been monitoring his fight. For details, check out our earlier posts including:
- Hank Skinner Execution Still Set 4 Today – France Is Asking for Delay. That’s Right. France.
- Hank Skinner Wins Again: US Supreme Court Grants Cert in His Quest for Post-Conviction DNA Testing
- Texas Prosecutors Come Under Increased Scrutiny in Texas: Hank Skinner Stay Within Weeks of Michael Morton Release
Within days of the Hank Skinner oral argument before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, here in Dallas there was a victory for which Mr. Skinner and his supporters can perhaps take some comfort and hope: Judge Susan Hawk found both Raymond Jackson and James Williams innocent of crimes for which they had been wrongfully convicted almost 30 years ago, having been found guilty and imprisoned for rape and kidnapping back in 1983.
On April 30, 2012, Raymond Jackson and James Williams appeared before Judge Hawk at their exoneration hearing and were officially declared innocent on the public record.
What happened here? DNA testing revealed not only that Mr. Jackson and Mr. Williams were innocent of this crime, but that two other men were involved - and these two men have now been arrested and all these years later, are facing charges of attempted murder.
Wednesday, April 04, 2012
In the future, the Troopers may be known as the Texas Navy. That's because it is the Texas Highway Patrol that will be manning those new boats that will be zipping up and down the Rio Grande as part of our state's border protection. (See Grits for Breakfast for details here including a photo of the boats they've be using.)
So, the Texas Highway Patrol Troopers are a Big Deal in Texas Law Enforcement.
Nevertheless, in recent years, Troopers have come under scrutiny and criticism with some folk arguing that the Highway Patrol needs more personnel; others arguing that the Troopers need an internal affairs division to keep things in hand; and still others arguing that the Highway Patrol budget just needs more cash.
At least everyone agrees that something needs to be done. Why?
Troopers can do bad things. For example, read our earlier post "Texas Highway Patrolman Mistakes US Army 1st Cavalry for Gang/Drug Organization" or watch the video here. Another post detailing bad acts by the DPS Highway Patrol: "Texas DPS Officers Indicted for Manhandling Hays County Jail Inmate."
Now, however, it appears that the Powers that Be are checking out the Texas Highway Patrol and trying to figure out what action needs to be taken.
Houston Chronicle Exposes Details of New Report on Texas Highway Patrol Troopers
Recently, the Houston Chronicle's James Pinkerton wrote a story that detailed a report of the Inspector General that details things that IG Stuart Platt thinks needs to be done within the Texas Highway Patrol.
Curious by its absence is much media coverage about this report and the Chronicle's work at getting a copy of it.
In its April 1, 2012, article entitled "Report says Texas troopers need more supervision," the IG report is not provided in its entirety, but it is reported to include:
- an opinion that the DPS Highway Patrol should be given funds to hire more supervisors for the Troopers (i.e., sergeants);
- a schedule showing that the complaints about Trooper activity made up almost 70% of all the complaints received against the DPS personnel overall (68%); and
- the most common complaint against the Troopers was driving drunk (DWI).
Tuesday, March 06, 2012
Former Texas Death Row Inmate Kerry Max Cook's Case Continues to Expose Texas Prosecutors Gone Wild (In a Bad, Bad Way)
Back in 2008, Kerry Max Cook wrote a book, Chasing Justice: My Story of Freeing Myself After Two Decades on Death Row for a Crime I Didn't Commit, that detailed what happened to him in the criminal justice system and how he was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death for the rape and killing of Linda Jo Edwards back in 1977.
A big part of that book: all the misconduct by the prosecution in his case. Surprise, surprise.
The book, published by HarperCollins, got excellent reviews and got some very big names giving it praise, including Sister Helen Prejean, former FBI director William Sessions, and actor Richard Dreyfuss. This seems like a lot of exposure on how prosecutorial misconduct works in Texas.
But the Kerry Max Cook story isn't over yet.
Now, one of the journalists that covered his story long ago - former Dallas Morning News reporter David Hanners - is stirring things up. And Hanners may know a lot more about the extent of the evildoing that took place during the Smith County criminal trial and subsequent appellate process of Kerry Max Cook's case than Mr. Cook ever did.
Here's what is happening: Kerry Max Cook is in the process of seeking a full legal exoneration via DNA testing. This isn't being done without static from the prosecution, and the conflict is hitting the media. In particular, Cook's story made it to Texas Monthly and in response to that coverage (in a blog post, notice blogs at work for justice again) the old Dallas reporter David Hanners wrote a long comment that gave some very, very interesting tidbits.
You can read the full text of what Mr. Hanners wrote online here, and here are some of the shockers that you'll find there:
- It took the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals nearly eight years to rule in his case because his file was "basically lost."
- After reading the entire trial documentation (transcripts and exhibits), and without going into the story with any clue or care whether or not the man was guilty or not, the reporter determined that not only had there not been a fair trial - he determined that this man had not killed the victim. In fact, he believes it reveals who the real killers are and it's not Mr. Cook.
- There was no basic - much less competent - police investigation, and he gives examples. With details.
- In charging Mr. Cook and get this homicide to a capital murder charge, the police department created "theft" from a fantasy sock (yes, sock) and then alleged that body parts had been removed from the crime scene by Cook in this sock. Nevermind that the body wasn't disturbed: there were no body parts removed here. The body had not been cut up. How was this ignored? But it was ....
- The prosecution planned on doing DNA testing; semen was found at the scene. It was tested, and lo and behold: it was not that of Mr. Cook. So instead of investigating further, the prosecution changed their case to keep Cook in their crosshairs. This, even though they knew the identity of the semen source. Amazingly blind, isn't it?
This case may end up being the example used in future classrooms of how ruthless and evil it can be when prosecutorial misconduct exists in our criminal justice system. Expect to hear more about this travesty of justice: not only from David Hanners (by the way, a Pulitzer Prize winner) but from Mr. Cook.
If Mr. Cook can win his latest efforts to obtain full exoneration through DNA testing, then he will be eligible to receive $80,000 from the State of Texas for each year he sat behind bars as an innocent man.
Here's the bigger question: what happens to the prosecutors and the police officers who were committing those injustices back in the mid-1970s? Where's the justice there?
Is the lesson for bad apple prosecutors that if they do bad things, by the time the system gets around to pointing the finger at them, decades and decades of time will have passed?
Wednesday, February 01, 2012
Texas Juries Issue Warnings to District Attorney, County Jail Officials But Don't Hold Anyone Criminally Liable.
This week, a federal jury down in Austin spent lots of time hearing testimony and reviewing evidence about the case of Rachel Jackson, a 21 year old woman who died while she was being held in the Del Valle Jail (part of Travis County) under a “psych lockdown.”
The Jackson family argued that Travis County and its jail psychiatrist, Dr. John S. Ford, were responsible for the young woman's tragic death in a jail cell because Dr. Ford prescribed thioridazine to inmate Jackson but he failed (among other things) to follow the warnings on the drug packaging to check her potassium levels as well as her heart's electrical activity before giving her the antipsychotic drug. If he had bothered to do so, the family argued, then he would have known that thioridazine can cause sudden death by causing the heart to beat out of its normal rhythm.
You can read the warning for yourself online: seems pretty serious and pretty long for someone - especially a doctor - to just disregard.
There was also evidence presented at trial that the inmate told her Travis County jailers that her heart was racing, to which the jailer did not get her medically checked out; and that days later, she told a Travis County jail nurse that she was having chest pains, and that the jail nurse did not record in her file any of her vital signs at the time.
Here's the thing: most always, all we would know from the jury was their verdict. Period. However, in this case the federal trial judge, the Honorable Sam Sparks, approved the jury's request that a written statement they had compiled there in the jury room be read into the record.
So, the jury foreman stood up there in the courtroom, just as forepersons do whenever they announced they have reached a decision, and read a statement that the jury couldn't find that Travis County was the proximate cause of Rachel Jackson's death, they "...do see significant opportunity for improvement in the processes, documentation and communication within the Travis County Correctional Center."
We've been monitoring the Grand Jury investigation of the Houston BAT Van Controversy (read all the details here) and now, the Grand Jury has spoken: the Harris County District Attorney's Office will not face any indictments for criminal wrongdoing.
Once again, however, there's the unusual twist to the story: the jury isn't speaking in the usual way, in the decision it has handed down. No. This jury has also sat together and drafted a joint statement, which has been released to the public.
A one-page statement from the jury was read by Grand Jury foreman Trisha Pollard, which criticized the Harris County District Attorney's Office for its "unexpected resistance" to the investigatory process and singled out Harris County prosecutor Rachel Palmer for invoking her Fifth Amendment right not to testify in order to avoid self-incrimination. The grand jury's statement also accused the District Attorney's office of investigating the grand jurors themselves as well as the special prosecutors assigned to oversee the case.
All that being revealed, the Grand Jury still found that "there was no evidence of a crime" on the part of the Harris County District Attorney's Office and so no indictments would be issued.
Jury Statements Are Worth What, Exactly?
These jury statements may make the jurors feel better, but legally they do squat. Verdicts are what count with juries. And in both of these instances, the public officials have been found innocent of a death and of tampering with the judicial process of fair trials, etc.
When juries have this much doubt and concern, one has to remember that where there is smoke there is fire and that something smells bad in Texas today.
Wednesday, January 04, 2012
Jaime Gonzales is Dead Tonight and Lots of People Are Asking Why
Just last week we were pondering how out of control Texas law enforcement officers are getting to be in a post entitled, "Texas Cops Shooting Citizens All Over the State This Month: Excessive Force? Overstressed Officers? Three Dead From Police-Issued Bullets." Now, we're wondering how truly serious this situation may be.
Cops Shoot 15 Year Old to Death Down in Brownsville: Excessive Force?
Down in Brownsville, it seems that the police were called to Cummings Middle School shortly after classes started. It's not clear how many officers arrived on the scene, but students are reporting that Jaime had entered a classroom and punched another student in the nose. Why this causes a bunch of police to appear isn't clear.
What is known right now is that Jaime took a pellet gun to school this morning. Which was not the smartest thing to do, that's a given.
However, for the Interim Police Chief to tell the media that a boy waving around a pellet gun was sufficient justification to shoot the child to death - well, you gotta wonder. There a big question right now about whether or not the force used here was excessive.
Middle Schoolers Are Known to Bring BB Guns to School - Jaime's Not the First
This isn't the first time a Middle Schooler got the bright idea of bringing a BB gun to school (a pellet gun is more commonly known as a BB gun), check out this school administration web site discussing a previous, similar event up in Ohio.
This is a real tragedy and condolences go out to the family and friends of this young life cut short. Let us hope that one result of this death is increased scrutiny on Texas law enforcement and whether or not Texas cops are getting a bit gun-happy these days.
For more on excessive force/police brutality, check out our resources page where Texas law on this issue is discussed.