Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Forensic Evidence From Crime Labs Is Not Scientifically Sound: Will Texas Judges Take Note of Latest Warning From Experts?

Forensic evidence isn't scientifically sound and this is a truth that has been heralded for years by criminal defense attorneys - but maybe this cruel reality will get more attention in 2013 after a major editorial was published in the newspaper serving the state capitol this past weekend.  In the Sunday edition of the Austin American Statesman, a former forensic guru with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and a professor at Texas A&M joined together in an editorial entitled, "Make forensic evidence meet standards of science."

What is forensic evidence? 

Forensic evidence is essentially the stuff that comes out of a crime lab and is used by prosecutors to put people behind bars as they argue that the forensics are reliable and sound evidence in their case.  It's what makes up television shows like the CSI series and it's what has convicted many men and women who were unwavering in their protests that they were innocent. 

Forensic evidence includes things like:
  • fingerprint evidence
  • glove print analysis
  • ballistics
  • bloodstain pattern analysis
  • footprint evidence
  • facial reconstruction
  • video analysis 
  • trace evidence
  • profiling.

Forensic evidence is not trustworthy nor is it scientifically sound

Scientists have already warned that DNA evidence can be fabricated. Fingerprints are not reliable either as evidence in a criminal case seeking conviction with jail time or worse.

Crime labs across the country are notorious for being "seriously deficient," to quote a study performed by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers in 2009.  The American Bar Association has joined in the concern that bad evidence is being used by prosecutors to convict people and that American crime labs are not to be trusted. 

The Innocence Project has delved into the failure of forensic science as it has exonerated innocent victims of bad evidence and finds that in:

"...90-95% of crimes, DNA testing is not an option - so the criminal justice system relies on other kinds of evidence, including forensic disciplines that may not be scientifically sound or properly conducted....[M]any forensic testing methods have been applied with little or not scientific validation and with inadequate assessments of their robustness or reliability.  Furthermore, they lacked scientifically acceptable standards for quality assurance and quality control before their implimentation in cases. ...." 
The 2013 Warning to Texas Judges and Texas Courts

This week's editorial comes from Professor Cliff Spiegelman and FBI veteran forensic scientist William A. Tobin. These two men are well known for their expertise in forensic circles and their joint effort is slowly spreading over the web (Grits for Breakfast picked it up  already, so has Charles Smith).

What are Professor Spiegelman and FBI scientist Tobin warning?  From their editorial:
For decades, largely unrealized by judges, many of the forensic practices admitted into judicial proceedings have been without scientific foundation or any other logically acceptable basis other than observational (inductive) study by experimenters untrained in experimental process.

Most troubling are the declarations of certainty associated with proffered expert opinions in those unfounded practices as expressed by examiners in criminal proceedings, such as in firearm/toolmark identification....

When examiners confidently declare individualizations (specific source attributions) between crime scene evidence and evidence seized from an eventual defendant without adequate foundational statistical studies, the testimony constitutes nothing more than intuited opinion or speculation, even if an educated guess, rather than evidence-based testimony.
Let's hope that some judges read the newspaper or surfed the web this week.  And perhaps the public at large will gain more insight into the dangers of forensic evidence that criminal defense attorneys know all too well:  those TV shows aren't reality, and stuff coming out of crime laboratories here in Texas isn't beyond suspicion.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Former CrimeStoppers Head, Veteran Dallas Cop Theadora Ross, Sentenced After Stealing $250,000 From CrimeStoppers Reward Fund

From 2006 to 2010, Dallas police officer Theadora Ross was the respected head of the Dallas area Crime Stoppers program.  You know Crime Stoppers:  there are branches of Crime Stoppers all over the world, dedicated to solving crimes by allowing people to provide information that may lead to an arrest of an evildoer without having to directly deal with the police face to face. 

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

Among the instances of prosecutorial misconduct that we've monitored, the continuing saga of Williamson County Prosecutor Ken Anderson (later Judge Kenneth Anderson) is one of the most shocking So much so that an official Court of Inquiry has been ordered by the Texas Supreme Court upon recommendation of State District Judge Sid Harle.

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

Last month here in the Dallas area -- actually, in the city of Mesquite, which sets smack dab inside Dallas' city limits -- a man named Michael Vincent Allen got into a high speed car chase with the police and it's reported that there were times that speeds exceeded 100 mph as police cars from various law enforcement jurisdictions joined in the chase.

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:
Do not let these stories stop you from using your phone to document things that you believe are important to record.  

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Dallas 911: How Reliable Is It and What's Dallas Police Department Doing About Making 911 More Reliable

911.  We depend upon those numbers, and we teach our kids to call 911 in case of emergency almost as soon as they learn to tie their shoes.  However, the reality is that calling 911 may not bring much, if any help, in today's real world.  Particularly here in Dallas, as the tragedy of Deanna Cook's death is still being grieved here in our community.

A few weeks ago, a young and pretty woman named Deanna Cook called "911" from her apartment here in Dallas.  It wasn't a short call:  Deanna was on her cell phone with 911 Dispatch for 11 minutes.

Eleven minutes.  That's a long time.

The 911 recording has been played over and over again now: even Cook's family has had the opportunity to hear it.  Had to have been very difficult for them: Deanna Cook can be heard to be screaming, terrified, as her ex-husband, a man named Delvecchio Patrick, is heard telling Deanna that he is going to kill her.  Cook tells the 911 operator the name of her attacker.  Cook is obviously in fear of her life and her attacker can be heard on the call as well.  

Sadly, no one came to rescue Deanna Cook from her attacker and she died that day.  Dallas Police did show up at her door, though.  They knocked.  They left. 

Dallas Police Department: Acknowledges Mistakes Were Made 

According to Dallas PD, there were problems. (Obviously.)  First, since Cook called from a cell phone there was no automatic identification of Cook's location and it took nine minutes for her location to be pinpointed by the police officers en route.  

Question: why didn't the 911 operator get the address of Cook's apartment during those 11 minutes she was on the phone with the murder victim?

Another problem according to Dallas police: no one answered the door.  That's right: when they arrived and they knocked and Deanna didn't welcome them into her home, they left.  (They did peek in the windows.)  According to the officers, this was because they understood this to be a domestic disturbance call - a spat - and the silence meant to them that the disturbance had been resolved.  (Yes.  It had been resolved in bloodshed.)  Dallas PD explains that the 911 Operator never explained that Deanna Cook was being attacked to the officers who were responding.  

Victim's Family Came to Her Rescue, Not Police: They Were Too Late

When did Deanna Cook's murder get discovered?  Two days later - when water was gushing out of her apartment and her family couldn't get inside because the doors were locked.  The police were called a second time to Cook's home: the family was told that the police couldn't help them - that they needed to call the hospitals and the jails to find Deanna. So, Deanna's family broke down her door and found her body laying in the bathtub.  Cook had been dead for two days.

Understandably upset, Deanna Cook's family is asking a lot of questions about the Dallas 911 service -- as are a lot of other people.  Dallas Police Chief David Brown told the public that the event would be investigated.

Dallas Police Chief Responds to Public Concern: Hire More 911 Operators

So, what's being done?  Yesterday, Dallas PD posted job wanted ads on Facebook for more 911 Call Operators.  That's right: they are going to hire more people to handle 911 calls here in Dallas.  No details on how these new hires will be trained.  Or how those 911 Operators already on the job, like the one who answered Deanna Cook's distress call, will be trained in the future.  

Feel safer?  

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Texas Crime Labs Are Not Trustworthy And Texas Crime Lab Evidence Still Needs To Be Questioned

Back in January 2010, we published a post that still ranks very high in Google results which discussed some of the reasons why Texas criminal defense attorneys cannot trust the test results that come out of Texas crime labs to be presented as forensic evidence against defendants in Texas criminal cases.  You can read that post here.

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, 

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:
Finally, you can call your lawyer when you are arrested in a No Refusal campaign, and it's a good idea to have legal representation on board as soon as possible in these kinds of Drunk Driving cases. You will have legal defenses to assert, and you will have big risks in front of you: loss of license, fines, jail time, impact on your public record, and more.  

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

Today, the Dallas Morning News is wondering about what is going on with the Dallas Police Department -- as a lot of people are these days -- but according to reporter Tanya Eiserer, Dallas Police Chief David Brown isn't talking to the press right now. 

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

Innocent men and women set convicted in Texas jails and prisons: it's a harsh reality that serves to fuel the passions of criminal defense attorneys everywhere, since defense lawyers know better than most how unfair and frustrating the criminal justice system can be.

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:

Exonerations of James Williams and Raymond Jackson: This Week's Examples of Innocent Inmates and Justice Denied

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

Texas Highway Patrol Troopers Abuses: How to Control Troopers Subject of Inspector General Report

The Texas Highway Patrol has been around for a long time; most Texans recognize a Trooper on the roads when they see one.  Part of the State of Texas Department of Public Safety, the Texas Highway Patrol works on over 225,544 miles of rural highways, as well as being responsible for other areas of law enforcement, including directing traffic; investigating traffic accidents; helping during emergencies and public disasters; and partnering with other agencies in criminal investigations such as drug law enforcement.  (For details on what all the Troopers handle, check out their web site.)

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). 
Here's the thing: does anyone think that these numbers accurately reflect the reality of what Troopers are doing, out there on Texas roads?  Watch that DPS video (above) and think -- how many complains go unreported? How free do Troopers think they are to do as they wish, out there on patrol alone in their black patrol car on a rural Texas roadway?

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)

The story of an innocent man who spent over 20 years on Texas Death Row is far from over, even though Kerry Max Cook has not only been released, he has become a well-respected author and activist for ending capital punishment worldwide.

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.

Juries usually have a single, solid voice that answers "guilty" or "innocent," simple as that -- but that's not what is happening in the State of Texas today when it's public officials like the Harris County District Attorney's Office or those responsible for running the Travis County Jail that have been called on the carpet.

Austin Jury

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.

The family of Rachel Jackson sued Travis County for her wrongful death, but the jury did not find that the county was responsible for the woman's death. So the family loses its lawsuit.

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 " see significant opportunity for improvement in the processes, documentation and communication within the Travis County Correctional Center."

Houston Jury

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

Texas Police Shoot Down 15 Year Old With BB Gun in Middle School Hallway: Excessive Force?

It's a big national news story today: a fifteen year old boy with a pellet gun was shot down in his Middle School hallway by Texas police this morning.

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.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Mistrial Declared in Criminal Trial of Dallas County Constable Derick Evans

A jury had been chosen and opening statements had been given by Marquette Wolf as Special Prosecutor and the defense for Dallas County Constable Derick Evans and on Tuesday, the trial had witnesses on the stand in the criminal trial where Constable Evans faced charges of engaging in organized crime.

There were some problems: one juror was late, another called in with an emergency and had to be replaced with an alternate, and witness Jim Foster, former Dallas County Judge, couldn't respond to his subpoena to appear and testify because he's in the hospital having just had serious lung surgery.

But nothing was as big a problem as what happened to cause the trial court to declare a mistrial in the case.  Seems that after the prosecution put on its case and Evans presented his defense, the jury was sent back to deliberate and got stuck.

Judge Tracy Holmes got a note from the jury room that the twelve jurors were "hopelessly deadlocked," and then another one, and then a third.  Deadlocked, Deadlocked, Deadlocked.  Stubborn folk on both sides of guilty versus innocent.  (The Dallas Morning News reports they were 7 to 5, guilty vs. innocent.)

So Judge Holmes declared a mistrial and Constable Evans went back to work and the prosecution told the media that they're not giving up.  Another trial is being scheduled for April 2012.

What Did Dallas County Constable Derick Evans Allegedly Do?  

Formally, Constable Evans has been accused of participating in organized crime.  Sounds very TV Law and Order, doesn't it, until you learn that he's purportedly run a raffle to get funds to run his election campaign and allegedly pressured his deputies and staff to buy and promote the $50 raffle tickets.  Under Texas law, only certain groups (like churches) are legally allowed to run raffles to raise money.  Now, it's sounding less like TV's Law and Order isn't it?

And, here's a big question -- what about the media reports about other local campaign raffles, are they going to get prosecuted as well?

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Texas Judge William Adams Investigated as YouTube Video Showing Man Beating Teen Girl With Belt Goes Viral

Aransas County Judge at Law William Adams is getting an international publicity boost today, but not in a good way, as a YouTube of a man beating a teenaged girl with a belt has gone viral - and media reports are that he's the man in the video.

Watch the video on YouTube here, but be prepared - this may be disturbing so think about it before you click the link:

If you check the video out as it has been placed upon YouTube (downloaded on 10/27/2011), there is a description that relates the teenaged girl to be the judge's daughter, Hillary Adams.

Death Threats and a Criminal Investigation

KRIS-TV out of Corpus Christi is reporting that they contacted Miss Adams, and she confirmed the YouTube video
as being something that she herself placed on the web, to spotlight what had happened to her.

KRIS-TV is also reporting that the Aransas County Courthouse is being swamped with folk calling to complain about the YouTube video and what they perceive to be the actions of a sitting Texas judge. Officials are reporting that there have been death threats against the Texas judge, and a criminal investigation has been opened.

Teenager Depicted in Video Has Been Disabled Since Birth

The YouTube video was accompanied by text (read it all at Above the Law) that states the teenager shown in the video suffers from a disability, having been born with ataxic cerebral palsy.

Ataxic cerebral palsy is a rare form of cerebral palsy that results in poor physical coordination, with victims suffering from shaky movement and problems doing things like walking or writing with a pen or pencil.

Growing Media Frenzy Over YouTube Video and Judge William Adams

The disturbing video is getting not only national media attention by also the international spotlight. This morning, the International Business Times reported that Judge Adams' phone had been disconnected (discovered, apparently, when they were trying to contact him).

Local media are hot on the story, as it breaks: KZTV has online updates, which includes a recent update where Judge William Adams speaks to their reporter about the YouTube video, confirming that he is the man that is shown in it.

Also in that story, Judge Adams relates that he's in touch with the Austin Judicial Review Board. Odds are high that he's gonna be in touch with a criminal defense attorney real soon, too.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Texas DPS Officers Indicted for Manhandling Hays County Jail Inmates

Texans, for the most part, know the Texas Department of Public Safety as the state agency that handles Amber Alerts, and as the agency that oversees drivers' licenses applications and renewals. DPS offices are all over the state, most folk have visited them at one time or another.

DPS is also known for its own branch of law enforcement, the DPS Troopers (the Texas Highway Patrol), and for being the state agency that hosts the famous Texas Rangers. Drive any Texas highway or farm to market road, and sooner or later you will pass a DPS Trooper sitting on the roadside with his radar checking for speeders.

Two DPS Troopers Indicted in San Marcos

It's rare to see DPS Troopers personally make the news, and it's interesting to see the media coverage this month down in San Marcos, Texas (midway between the capital city of Austin and San Antonio, on Interstate 35). Seems that two Department of Public Safety troopers, Charlie Potter and Santiago Montez, have been indicted there.

Potter and Montez were arrested on September 22, 2011, and are facing charges of "official oppression" for events surrounding their dealings with two inmates in the Hays County jail back in March 2011.

According to media reports, the indictments describe the incidents as the two DPS Troopers "intentionally mistreated or detained a man by pulling or grabbing him" back on March 11th. Little more is known right now on exactly what happened here.

What is official oppression?

Under the Texas Penal Code (see details below), official oppression is a Class A misdemeanor that each carry a fine of up to $4,000, a sentence of up to a year in jail, or both. It is a bad act by a law enforcement official in the State of Texas that is harmful but not as serious as felony acts that include excessive force, something that we blog about quite regularly, since it is unfortunately something that happens all too often in our state.

What happens next to the Texas DPS Troopers?

Right now, Potter and Montez remain on the Texas DPS payroll although they have been suspended from work and they are free, having made bond ($10,000 for each Trooper). They are scheduled to be arraigned on October 27, 2011. Will they serve time in jail? Let's watch and see what happens.

Texas Penal Code Section 39.03

Here is the language of the Texas law on which the two DPS Troopers have been indicted:

Sec. 39.03. OFFICIAL OPPRESSION. (a) A public servant acting under color of his office or employment commits an offense if he:

(1) intentionally subjects another to mistreatment or to arrest, detention, search, seizure, dispossession, assessment, or lien that he knows is unlawful;

(2) intentionally denies or impedes another in the exercise or enjoyment of any right, privilege, power, or immunity, knowing his conduct is unlawful; or

(3) intentionally subjects another to sexual harassment.

(b) For purposes of this section, a public servant acts under color of his office or employment if he acts or purports to act in an official capacity or takes advantage of such actual or purported capacity.

(c) In this section, "sexual harassment" means unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, submission to which is made a term or condition of a person's exercise or enjoyment of any right, privilege, power, or immunity, either explicitly or implicitly.

(d) An offense under this section is a Class A misdemeanor.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Texas Rangers Investigating Another Case of Police Brutality and Excessive Force

The news started trickling out over the Labor Day Weekend that the Texas Rangers had been contacted by the family of a South Texas man who was comatose in a Corpus Christi hospital, another victim of excessive force by law enforcement.  Sure enough, the Rangers are on the job, investigating the family's belief that their loved one, Martin Garcia Ortiz, had sustained his injuries in a vicious beating by a Texas law enforcement officer.

That's right:  another case of police brutality in Texas.  And another instance where either the FBI or the Texas Rangers has had to come into the area to find out the truth of things.  It's something that happens far too often here in Texas: law enforcement using excessive force against people - something that we report about regularly

What happened in this case of alleged police brutality?  

According to news reports, 48 year old Martin Ortiz had been at a local bar in Aransas Pass.  No worries about a DWI arrest here:  Mr. Ortiz left the bar on his bicycle, to ride his way home.  It wasn't far.  He had no weapon, unless you are afraid of bicycles. 

Things took a bad turn around midnight on August 10th.  Seems Mr. Ortiz, there on the roadside on his bicycle, was stopped by an Aransas Pass police officer  -- and according to family members, the cop pushed Ortiz off the bike only to then beat Ortiz after the man was laying on the ground beside (some reports say underneath) the bicycle.

The Texas Rangers have reported that their investigation reveals three police cars zipped to the scene (that must have been a very scary bicycle) and that some of these officers are now witnesses to the incident.  They also report that Ortiz was purportedly stopped because he was weaving as he rode the bike, and his bike didn't have a headlight

Guess what?  All this may be on video.  Seems that Aransas Pass police cars are equipped with dash cams, so sooner or later, some member of the press is going to get ahold of those videos and we'll all see what happened.

Right now, we know that Martin Ortiz lies, seriously injured, in Corpus Christi's Christus Spohn Hospital where he spent ten days on life support in a coma before starting to come out of it.  It's not known at this time whether or not he will suffer permanent harm from this attack -- like traumatic brain injuries or spinal injuries.

The Texas Rangers are asking anyone who may have information about what happened to Martin Ortiz to come forward, and if you have any information about the Martin Ortiz case, you can call the Texas Rangers directly at 361-364-6239 or 512- 424-2160

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Dallas Cop Busted on Domestic Violence Charges, "Not Sober" When Arrested

Here in Dallas, it's very hot and staying that way as we endure a record-breaking heat wave.  Day after day of 100+ degree weather.  So, it's understandable that tempers are rising and that domestic violence calls are high.  It's not as easy to understand when one of those domestic violence events involves the cops: not the cops coming to the scene, but a cop smack dab in the middle of it. 

Seems that this weekend Dallas police officer Rafael Mendoza, on the force to protect and serve since December 2008, was arrested by his fellow law enforcement officers on charges of domestic violence.  Specifically, Mendoza has been charged with (1) domestic assault and (2) unlawful restraint, two Class A misdemeanors under the Texas Penal Code. 

Mendoza's also on administrative leave pending an Internal Affairs investigation (as well as the criminal investigation).  He won't face jail time, maybe he will be looking for another type of employment.  Have to wait and see on that one.

What happened for a Dallas Cop to get busted for Domestic Assault and Unlawful Restraint?

This past Sunday, according to media and police reports, Officer Mendoza was setting in a car parked near an apartment complex on San Jacinto.  It was a hot day, and apparently Mendoza was getting hot under the collar, arguing with a woman about an ex-girlfriend as they sat in the car.

It's reported that Mendoza and the woman stepped out of the vehicle - and that Mendoza then shoved the woman onto the ground, slammed plastic handcuffs on her, and telling her she was about to go to prison for 10 or 15 years. 

Scary stuff, right? 

After about an hour setting there in the parking lot, in the heat of that Dallas Sunday afternoon, Mendoza escorted the woman up to her apartment.  He un-cuffed her. 

Around 2 hours later, Officer Mendoza was busted by his colleagues.  It's reported that he was "not sober" at the time. 

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Liberty County Prosecutor Arrested This Week But Kept On the Job as DA in Cleveland Gang Rape Case of 11 Year Old Girl by 19 Defendants

Liberty County is in the national spotlight this summer as the place where 19 defendants (ranging in age from midteens to almost 30 years) have been charged with the gang rape of an 11 year old girl in Cleveland, Texas, mobile home - some of which was caught on video.

It's a case that is dividing the Cleveland community as well as the child's family, as the girl has been removed from her parents' care and placed in Texas foster care for the time being.

Prosecutor in Cleveland Gang Rape Case Is Arrested

Needless to say, this Cleveland Gang Rape case is important from many different perspectives and its prosecution - you would think - would be the cream of the crop putting on the best case that the State of Texas can assert. Right?

Think again. This week, one of the prosecutors on that Cleveland Gang Rape case was arrested and is facing charges as a defendant of (1) Tampering With a Witness, (2) Terroristic Threats and (3) Deadly Conduct.

That's right: the state's attorney has been accused of three pretty serious crimes while he's assigned to the big Gang Rape case. (That's his mugshot at the top.)

Liberty County Assistant District Attorney Joe Warren surrendered to the Liberty County Sheriff's Office last week, and was quickly released on a personal recognizance bond by the local judge. The Sheriff's Office is refusing to comment on the case so far, and little is known for sure about the events that led to the ADA's arrest.

It is known that the Sheriff's Office is the authority handling the investigation -- not a grand jury, not the Texas Rangers or the FBI -- and that Liberty County District Attorney Mike Little has told the media this is strange -- the ADA's case is getting special treatment (it's legal for the Sheriff's Office to run the ball in the investigation, this usually doesn't happen, though).

Joe Warren is still on the job, too: despite being a state district attorney who has been arrested on allegations of committing these crimes he has not been removed from his position and presumably is at work today (as this post is being typed), working on the Cleveland Gang Rape case.

Reports are ADA Threatened to Shoot Pit Bulls that Entered His Backyard and Killed His Pet

So what happened? There are some media reports out there and they are reporting that ADA Warren had a pet dog (a boxer-mix) who were killed by his neighbor's pit bulls after the pit bulls dug a hole under the fence to gain access into Warren's back yard so they could attack his pets.

Warren responded, according to these reports, by threatening his neighbor that he would shoot the pit bulls in order to protect his pets. Apparently, the neighbor called the cops and filed a complaint.