Crime & Justice

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

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / KUT

This month, voters elected the second woman in history to serve as Travis County sheriff. Now, the department is working to recruit more female deputies and corrections officers to its ranks.

Jon Shapley for KUT

In the year since Texas lawmakers mandated random selection of grand jurors in place of the controversial “key man” system, grand juries in Travis County have become less racially diverse.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

Decades ago, the area around the intersection of 12th and Chicon streets was a central corridor in historically black East Austin, but over the years, drugs became a presence at the corner. Prostitution and other illegal activity happened in broad daylight there, and in 2012, Austin police took a new approach to the problem – what’s called a drug market intervention.


The Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday in the case of Duane Buck, a convicted Texas murderer sentenced to die after a psychologist testified that he was more likely to commit violent crimes in the future because he is black.

Buck shot and killed his ex-girlfriend in front of her three children while she begged for her life. He killed the man he thought she was sleeping with and he shot his own stepsister, Phyllis Taylor, who survived the horrific night.

Jennifer Whitney for Texas Tribune

From the Texas Tribune: More than a year after state lawmakers told it to stop incarcerating so many teenagers, the Texas Juvenile Justice Department has diverted 52 juvenile offenders to local programs for help and rehabilitation instead of shipping them to state lockups.

University of Michigan School of Natural Resources & Environment via Flickr

From the Austin Monitor: The Public Safety Commission upped the ante Tuesday, calling for an additional $5.6 million to tackle a backlog of DNA cases that continue to accumulate while the city’s lab remains shuttered.

Callie Richmond/Texas Tribune

Thirty years ago, a Williamson County murder set in motion a shoddy prosecution — one in which ignored witness accounts and withheld evidence led to the conviction of an innocent man.

Michael Morton spent 25 years in prison for his wife's bludgeoning death before DNA analysis finally freed him, a miscarriage in justice that still reverberates through the state's criminal cases.

Travis County Sheriff's Department

The death of Travis County Sheriff’s Office Sergeant Craig Hutchinson has been ruled a case of suicide.

Williamson County Justice of the Peace Bill Gravell made the announcement a short time ago, suggesting that the investigation had collected “all pertinent evidence."

Rob Crow via Texas Tribune

Almost 7,000 individuals in Texas have died while in police custody or behind bars over the past 10 years, according to an online report released Wednesday by a University of Texas at Austin research institute. Nearly 2,000 people who died had not been convicted of a crime, Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis data shows.

KUT News

The violent arrest of an elementary school teacher after a traffic stop is being investigated by Austin police. There are questions about the arrest itself, and the way police officers’ supervisors handled the incident.

The arrest of 26-year-old Breaion King, an African American woman, happened last summer. But it was not until this week that Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo saw the police car video of the arrest.

Jorge Sanhueza Lyon / KUT News

For weeks now, hordes of the young and young-at-heart have been wandering the streets looking for Pokémon. Some have wandered onto private property, raising concerns about what is legal and illegal in the new world of augmented reality.


Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / KUT News

Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo spoke with KUT's Kate McGee this morning, saying that the department will assist the Dallas Police Department in any necessary capacity and that APD will remain on high-staffing levels for the remainder of the summer. At a press availability this afternoon, he reiterated that staffing plan, but also denounced comments from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick that blamed the Black Lives Matter movement for Thursday night’s shootings.


Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / KUT

After delaying a vote for several meetings, Public Safety Commissioners Monday supported a resolution asking for more racial profiling data from the Austin Police Department and a more rigorous analysis of it by the Office of the Police Monitor.

Commissioner Mike Levy took a minute to congratulate fellow commissioners after a unanimous vote.


http://kutne.ws/1WUk9Hq

Austin Police say they are considering closing the lower deck of I-35 at some times of night, after a string of more than 80 incidents involving large rocks being thrown at cars along highways in Austin.

APD gave an update on their efforts to address the rock throwing Wednesday after several more incidents over the weekend.

Miguel Guitierrez Jr./KUT

UPDATE 8:30 p.m.: The Austin Police Association, the union representing APD officers, issued this statement on Facebook tonight:

EARLIER: The Austin Police officer who fatally shot a teenager in North Austin in February will not be indicted by a grand jury, says the Travis County District Attorney's office. Freeman shot and killed 17-year-old David Joseph after the teenager reportedly charged at the officer. 

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / KUT

From the Texas Tribune: Urban crime rates are at historic lows across the country, and in Texas they are still dropping, according to an analysis of crime rates in the 30 largest U.S cities.

Between 2014 and 2015, the five largest cities in Texas saw an average drop of 6.5 percent in the overall crime rate per 100,000 residents, according to the analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. 

Jorge Sanhueza Lyon/KUT

Maria Orozco sits on a brown vinyl couch in her mobile home in Austin. Her big purse is splayed out on her lap as she digs around for her wallet, which holds her Texas driver’s license and a red, white and blue Employment Authorization Card. “When I got my license, oh my God, I was super happy," she says.


Michael Stravato for the Texas Tribune

From the Texas Tribune: Former Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Brian Encinia walked solemnly before a state district court judge Tuesday afternoon, and a few minutes later was out the door after pleading not guilty to a perjury charge stemming from his arrest of Sandra Bland last year.

Nathan Bernier for KUT News

The largest law enforcement union in Texas will appeal Austin Police's firing of Officer Geoffrey Freeman, the union said Monday afternoon in a statement. Austin Chief of Police Art Acevedo confirmed that the department has indefinitely suspended, or fired, Freeman, a ten-year department veteran, over his use of deadly force against a naked unarmed teenager, David Joseph, in February in North Austin. 

Perla Arellano for KUT News

The ability to send an anonymous tip to Austin police is now available right at your fingertips. The Austin Police Department unveiled a new free smartphone app Monday that they say will streamline the process of sending information to police.

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