Crime & Justice

Courts, trials and crime coverage for Austin and the Central Texas region.

America's death penalty is under scrutiny after a series of botched executions, drug mix-ups and difficulty acquiring lethal injection drugs. Just last month, President Obama called certain parts of capital punishment "deeply troubling."

Some say long waits and repeated last-minute delays are tantamount to torture.

District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg announced last week that hundreds of criminal cases in Travis County could be subject to appeal because of a change in DNA standards. Initially estimated in the hundreds, the number of cases has begun to look much higher, with anywhere from 4,000 to 5,000 cases that may be up for appeal.

Kathryn Decker/flickr

Austin City Council will soon decide whether to require employers to remove a box from initial job applications that asks applicants if they’ve been convicted of a crime. They call it "banning the box."

Texas Tribune

More than a few Texans are part of a new bipartisan coalition of more than 100 law enforcement officials meeting in Washington to talk about one thing: reducing the number of people in prison.

H. Michael Karshis/flickr

From Texas Standard: Between October 30 and November 2 of this year, about 6,000 federal prisoners from across the country will be released.

Image via

From Texas Standard:

Papers across Texas and across the nation led the news with information on the carnage in Oregon Thursday at Umpqua Community College. Ten people were reported dead, including the 26-year-old shooter.

Investigators are now looking into an online conversation before the shooting took place. Someone wrote: "Don't go to school tomorrow if you are in the northwest."

But it's yet to be determined if the web post was made by the shooter, or if it was just an eerie coincidence. Either way, it didn't seem to set off alarms, raise flags or lead to a call to the authorities. Instead, it garnered plenty of responses like this:

"Do it."

"Become legendary."

"I suggest you enter a classroom and tell people that you will take them as hostages. Make everyone get in one corner and then open fire."

These comments and the original post appeared on 4chan.

KUT News

The new City of Austin budget includes money for the Austin Police Department to outfit its officers with body cameras. The City Council Public Safety committee held a meeting last night to begin figuring out the best ways to use those cameras.

Image via Pixabay/WerbeFabrik (CC0 1.0)

From Texas Standard:

There is an execution scheduled for Wednesday in Oklahoma – but Texas is tied to the case.

According to a court filing, the lawyer for an Oklahoma death row inmate is claiming that his client shouldn't have to use an alternative to pentobarbital, one of the chemicals in the lethal injection cocktail. The filing argues that Texas is compounding its own pentobarbital and has sold the lethal injection drug to at least one other death penalty state: Virginia.

Image via Flickr/Beverly Yuen Thompson (CC BY-NC 2.0)

From Texas Standard: Last year 43 people – all students at a teachers college – disappeared during a school trip. How much closer are we to knowing what actually happened?

Image via Flickr/Paul Townsend (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

It's been 121 days since the so-called biker gang shootout in Waco. Despite nine deaths and a mass arrest of 177 people – each held for days or weeks on $1 million bonds – there have been exactly zero formal charges brought against anyone. Nor has any evidence been offered to support the arrests. And there's been no word whatsoever on whether (or when) cases might be presented to a grand jury, which is currently led by a Waco police detective.

Irving police say they won’t file charges against a Muslim teenager who brought a homemade clock to school that was mistaken for a bomb. 

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (U.S. Government Work)/flickr

From Texas Standard:

It's been called the checkpoint of the stars: Willie Nelson, Snoop Dogg and Fiona Apple have all been snagged at the Sierra Blanca Border Patrol checkpoint.

Musicians and other celebrities have been booked and charged for marijuana possession by Hudspeth County Sheriff Arvin West. But West now seems to be saying his days of cracking down on every joint and baggie may be over.

NPR Southwest Correspondent John Burnett just returned to Austin from West Texas, where he checked out that checkpoint.

"I wasn't holding. They passed me right through," Burnett says, for the record.

But what if Burnett had been carrying a personal amount of marijuana?

KUT News

Part of the city of Austin’s new budget includes $3 million to equip Austin Police officers with body cameras. As for how that money will be spent, buying the body cameras themselves is just one part of the equation.

“The biggest investment in body cameras is not the camera itself,” Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo says.

Ready Houston

The recent on-camera shooting of two television journalists in Virginia has led some to ask whether workplaces could be better prepared for these types of scenarios. So what can employers do?

Flickr/thomashawk (CC BY-NC 2.0)

We’ve been hearing a lot lately from politicians and public figures about crimes committed by immigrants to the U.S., but a new study by a group of researchers, including a University of Texas at Austin professor, suggests foreign-born teens are actually much less likely to commit crimes than those born in the U.S.

Joey Palacios/TPR

The FBI is now monitoring an investigation of a fatal, videotaped shooting involving two Bexar County sheriff's deputies. Some neighbors of the man who died in the San Antonio subdivision of Walnut Pass are on edge.

Photo by KUT News

Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo may be considering a move south to San Antonio. Acevedo announced Thursday that he has been selected as one of five finalists in the running for the Chief of Police position in San Antonio.

He said in a statement released Thursday:

Flickr/Ira Gelb (CC BY-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

Last week Amnesty International joined a chorus of other human rights groups, including the United Nations and the World Health Organization, in calling for the decriminalization of sex work.

Joining us in the studio is Angel Daniels, Assistant Professor in the Department of Forensic Psychology at Marymount University. Daniels teaches and studies the psychology of sex work, human trafficking, sexual exploitation, violence and abuse.

Flickr/Joe Gratz (CC0 1.0)

From Texas Standard:

A Smith County judge recently ordered a 21-year-old man to marry his 19-year-old girlfriend after he assaulted her ex-boyfriend.

The story has gone viral, but as strange as it may sound, this unorthodox sentence is just one of a handful of “shaming”-type rulings that have made headlines in the past few years.

Evan Young is an attorney with Baker Botts in Austin, and he says the marriage sentence isn’t all that uncommon. “The reality is that this is one of many types of sentences that a judge might try to impose,” Young says.

KUT News

A female inmate in the Travis County Correctional Complex has died after being found unresponsive Monday in the shower. 

Investigators announced the death this morning. Autopsy results are pending, but investigators found no evidence of foul play.

No cause of death was immediately released for 40-year-old Athena Covarrubias. Roger Wade of the Travis County Sheriff’s Department says that officials aren’t ready to speak on what the cause of death might be, but suicide is still being considered among other possibilities. “There’s a list of possibilities, but detectives aren’t ready to pin it down to one thing until the [medical examiner]’s office makes a ruling,” Wade says.