Crime & Justice

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

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.

Ben Philpott for KUT News

The president of Austin’s police officers union said that incidents like the fatal officer-involved shooting of unarmed teenager David Joseph last week stem from chronic understaffing within the department.


Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon for KUT News

A local law firm is suing Austin police officers involved in an incident on Sixth Street downtown early in the morning of Nov. 6, 2015. The lawsuit [in full here] claims that officers used excessive force and singled out and arrested two African-Americans for jaywalking, a misdemeanor offense.

Shelby Knowles/Texas Tribune

The Texas Forensic Science Commission on Friday recommended that prosecutors temporarily stop using bite-mark evidence in criminal cases until questions are answered about its scientific validity.

A panel of the commission has been investigating the reliability of bite-mark evidence following several exonerations across the country in criminal cases where convictions were won partly with bite-mark analysis. One primary concern is "the ability of human skin to record bite marks with sufficient fidelity" to be of use for future analysis, commission general counsel Lynn Garcia reported to the group.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon for KUT News

APD Chief Art Acevedo said the police department's investigation into the fatal shooting by an officer of an unarmed black teenager will be completed within 30 days. Officer Geoffrey Freeman shot 17-year-old David Joseph, who was naked and reportedly behaving erratically, on Monday. Joseph is said to have charged at Freeman, who then discharged his weapon.

Nathan Bernier for KUT News

The identities of the police officer and the subject involved in Monday’s deadly officer-involved shooting were released Tuesday afternoon. The officer was more-than-ten-year department veteran Geoffrey Freeman. The subject who was fatally shot in the incident was identified as 17-year-old David Joseph.

Joseph was unarmed at the time of the incident, said Austin Police Chief of Staff Officer Brian Manley. When asked why it took more than a day to determine and report whether the subject had been armed, Manley responded:

Nathan Bernier for KUT News

Austin Police are investigating the deadly shooting of a man by an APD officer. It happened Monday morning in North Austin after what police say were multiple reports of a man behaving suspiciously and aggressively.

No Indictments In Sandra Bland Death, Texas Grand Jury Rules

Dec 22, 2015

A Texas grand jury on Monday declined to indict anyone in connection with the July arrest and subsequent death of Sandra Bland.

Bland, 28, was pulled over by police in Waller County, Texas, in July for failing to signal a lane change. A confrontation between Bland and the officers followed. She was arrested and taken to the county jail, where three days later she was found dead in her cell.

The death penalty is in decline no matter the measure, a new study released by the Death Penalty Information Center has found.

The report found that 28 people were executed this year, the lowest since 1991. The number of death sentences dropped by 33 percent.

Only six states executed convicts during the year, and Texas, Missouri and Georgia accounted for 86 percent of the executions.

Jason Farrar via flickr

Right now, if your loved one calls you from Travis County Jail, it will cost you $4.65. The calls are limited to 20 minutes, but the fee is flat whether the call lasts the entire 20 minutes, or 20 seconds.

But Travis County officials have voted to lower that flat fee by more than 60 percent. And that means the County will lose the money it usually makes from those calls.

From the Austin Monitor

The Travis County Sheriff’s Office is working towards reinstating face-to-face visits for inmates at its local jails.

Yesterday County Commissioners received an update on their progress.


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.

flickr.com/home_of_chaos

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.


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