Crime & Justice

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

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.

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

From Texas Standard:

Tamara Tabo runs The Center for Legal Pedagogy, and she has some concerns over how authorities are handling the cases of more than 170 bikers arrested in the May 17 shootout in Waco, Texas.

Flickr/Chris Miller CC BY 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

For 35 years, Jerry Hartfield sat in a prison awaiting trial — and now he’s finally getting one. Hartfield was convicted in 1977 of murdering a woman in Bay City. He was sentenced to death, even though by today’s standards, his IQ of 67 is considered mentally impaired.

Three years after that conviction, in 1980, it was overturned because of problems with jury selection. The governor of Texas at the time, Mark White, commuted the sentence to life in prison. The problem? The underlying conviction has been invalidated, so there wasn’t even a conviction to commute. Hartfield waited for years in prison for a trial that never came.

Flickr/thomashawk (CC BY-NC 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

The highly publicized shootings of Michael BrownSam Dubose and several other African-American men has shined a spotlight on how the criminal justice system interacts with men of color. But with Sandra Bland’s recent death in the Waller County Jail, some are now asking how that same justice system treats women of color.

On the cover of the largest African-American-owned paper in the City of Houston — The Houston Forward Times — the headline reads, “The New ‘Jane’ Crow: Black Women Are The Target For Mass Incarceration.” Jeffrey Boney is the author of that article, and he lays out some pretty staggering statistics on African-American women being involved with the criminal justice system:

  • 1 in 100 African American women are in prison.
  • African-American women are seven times more likely to be incarcerated than White women.

Nathan Bernier/KUT News

VonTrey Clark, the Austin Police Officer linked to a murder in Bastrop earlier this year, is now in FBI custody in Indonesia.

Clark was given an indefinite suspension of duty last month after he refused to attend an in-person interview related to the Bastrop murder investigation. But before he was suspended, Clark spent several months on "restricted duty" with APD.

But what does being on “restricted duty” actually mean?

Cody Duty/Houston Chronicle

From Texas Standard:

Sandra Bland’s case has made international headlines. But as the Houston Chronicle reported this week, Bland’s suicide is hardly a one-off incident in Texas county jails. Since 2009, 140 inmates in Texas jails have died by suicide; that’s when the state started tracking those numbers. Journalist Sinjin Smith has been following the issue for some time. His most recent article on this issue focuses on the methods and ways that inmates complete suicide in jail. He investigated the case of Danarian Hawkins, who was found last year hanging from a noose he’d made from a bed sheet tied to his cell’s sprinkler system.

Screenshot via Facebook video/1168639983152111

From Texas Standard:

As officials further investigate Sandra Bland’s case, the Standard continues to ask questions. Tuesday we talked about the legalities of the arrest itself. Here we look at mental health procedures for Texas inmates. This interview discusses suicide and provides some details of Bland’s death.

Flickr/punchup (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

On July 10, 28-year-old Sandra Bland was arrested and charged with assaulting a public servant. She was taken to the Waller County Jail; three days later, she was found in her cell dead from what officials called suicide. Both the FBI and the Texas Rangers launched investigations trying to find out what happened.

Dashboard camera footage from Bland’s traffic stop was released on Tuesday.  (Note: The video was uploaded to YouTube Tuesday evening; it has since been taken down, after people pointed out errors and inconsistencies in the video, which led many to believe it had been edited. A DPS spokesman denied editing the video, and re-uploaded the footage without errors or omissions this afternoon.)

Sandra Bland Mourned From Illinois to Texas

Jul 20, 2015
Callie Richmond/Texas Tribune

From the Texas Tribune: Sandra Bland began her Facebook videos by greeting viewers as "kings and queens." Those close to her believe she truly meant it.

“She talks to us as kings and queens,” one of her sisters, Shavon Bland, said outside the family's church in Illinois on Sunday. “That’s how she went around the world speaking. From here to Chicago to Texas — wherever she went.”

On both ends of the path that marked Bland's 28-year life — the western suburbs of Chicago where she grew up, and the Texas town where she died — family, friends and supporters continued to raise questions Sunday about her startling death in the Waller County jail as they took time to remember, honor and reflect.

For more background information on the case of Sandra Bland, the Texas Tribune has coverage here, here and here.

Bob Daemmrich/Texas Tribune

From the Texas Tribune:

The Texan who is the U.S. House's top Republican on homeland security issued a scathing indictment of Mexican officials on Tuesday for letting Joaquin Guzmán, the world’s most notorious drug lord, tunnel out of a maximum-security prison.

Guzmán, who was captured last year after being sought since 2001, fled one of Mexico’s maximum-security prisons last weekend through a one-mile tunnel that was connected to the shower in his cell.

“The idea that there wasn’t complicity and corruption going on when you got a mile-long tunnel underneath the facility is absolutely absurd,” U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, told CNN Tuesday morning. 

Texas Department of Public Safety

An Amber Alert is in effect for 16-year-old Tanner Jordan, who was last seen Sunday morning in the Nacogdoches County town of Appleby. He’s 5’ 10”, 115 pounds, with blue eyes and brown hair. The suspect is 34-year-old Katie Miller, 5’11”, 170 pounds, with brown hair and eyes. They may be in a White 2005 Dodge Ram 3500 four-door pickup, with Texas plates, AE8 5145. Anyone who sees them is asked to call the Nacogdoches County Sheriff's Office at 936-560-7777.

The Guardian

Austin has the fourth-highest total number of people fatally shot by police this year, according to a new analysis by the Guardian Newspaper.

The report shows Austin has six deaths caused by police in 2015 – the same as New York City. All six of those shot reportedly had a gun, or one was found near the scene. In one case the weapon turned out to be a BB gun.

Houston had the second-most deaths caused by police this year with eight. Los Angeles, with 11 so far this year, tops the list.

IAEA Imagebank/flickr

From Texas Standard:

Allegations that Bill Cosby sexually assaulted or raped multiple women have been making headlines for several months. Now, thanks to the Associated Press, his previous admission to slipping sedatives to women has come to light. The 10-year-old deposition was part of a sexual assault trial filed by a former Temple University employee against Cosby. The case was settled privately in 2006, so no final verdict was issued.

Texas Observer

From Texas Standard:

John Carlos Frey, a reporter with the Texas Observer, joins the Texas Standard to talk about the wrong-doings he found while looking into an inquiry led by the Texas Rangers.

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT News

Sunday is Father's Day, and as we celebrate the fathers in our lives, we realize that roles are changing.

Little by little, more men are participating in the upbringing of their children. Of course, some fathers are more hands-on than others.

wikimedia commons

After a shooting early Saturday at the police headquarters in Dallas, officials there are calling for more building security. One of the improvement measures they are considering is installing bulletproof glass.

Austin had its own shooting on police headquarters back in November, and repairs on the building will start in a few weeks. But the department did not have bulletproof glass before the shooting, and there are no plans to install it now.

People have been lining up outside the U.S. Supreme Court for days hoping that they will be among the lucky ones to get a seat for Tuesday's historic arguments on gay marriage.

As of now, gay marriage is legal in 36 states. By the end of this Supreme Court term, either same-sex couples will be able to wed in all 50 states, or gay marriage bans may be reinstituted in many of the states where they've previously been struck down.

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