After defeating Sheriff Ron Hickman in the election this month, Sheriff-elect Ed Gonzalez is already sticking his nose in Hickman’s official business — mainly, the lawsuit filed against him.

Hickman, along with the county, all the county judges and five bail hearing officers, has been sued for participating in what a national civil rights group calls an unconstitutional bail system. The group that sued on behalf misdemeanor defendants, Civil Rights Corps, argue that poor people in Harris County are being systematically jailed before trial just because they cannot afford to pay an arbitrary bail amount, unlike wealthier people charged with the same crime.

Turns out Hickman’s successor agrees.

rapisthpdHouston Police Department

Houston police believe a 30-year-old man being held on two sexual assault charges may have committed at least six sexual assaults in southeast Houston since May.

David E. Beard has been in Harris County Jail since October 5, after two women identified him as their attacker, according to a Houston Police Department press release. Beard allegedly had a very peculiar M.O.

texasexecutionchamber_thumb_565x359Texas Department of Criminal Justice

More than a decade ago the U.S. Supreme Court declared executing mentally disabled people unconstitutional. However, the court didn’t define what standards should be used to determine what level of disability precludes execution, so Texas came up with its own standards, derived from John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. Go figure that these “standards,” based on a fictional character and no scientific evidence, have turned out to be problematic at best. And now the Supreme Court is looking at the consequences.

5397173156_4f063c388a_z-2Bill Strain/Flickr

Houston defense attorney Randy Schaffer says the only solid evidence Harris County prosecutors had against his client in his 2002 capital murder trial was that he admitted to being present when his drug dealer was killed.

But then a jailhouse witness named Karl Jones took the stand, and he told the jury that, yes, actually, David Holford had confessed to committing the murder while they were sitting in the privacy of a holdover cell. Holford was convicted.

Jailhouse snitches are always a red flag to Schaffer, who says that in his 40-plus years of experience he has never once encountered jailhouse witness testimony used ethically in a capital case. There’s a certain irony about these jailhouse snitches: They are the most inherently unreliable witnesses, yet they are often testifying in the most high-stakes trials. Their testimony is generally only necessary when most other evidence against defendants is weak — yet those are also the cases in which a wrongful conviction is most likely.

kansas.highway.patrol.largeBreakfast reading from the Voice Media Empire: Law enforcers from states that neighbor places that have legalized medical and/or recreational marijuana have frequently been accused of conducting traffic stops and subsequent drug searches based on the license plates on particular cars. A man who was victimized filed suit and a federal court brought the hammer down. Westword has the story.

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