Crime & Justice

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

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.

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.

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