Crime & Justice

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

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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.

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.