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.

christopher-gebers-facebook-3-croppedBreakfast reading from the Voice Media Empire: Gebers seriously injured a state trooper and killed a cadet training to join the service. He was charged with murder because prosecutors said he’d fled a traffic stop and was en route to a drug deal when the crash occurred. Going for a murder conviction under such circumstances may have seemed like an overreach, but that’s not the way it turned out. Westword has the story.

jonbenet-one-we-have-your-daughterBreakfast reading from the Voice Media Empire: Woodward is a controversial figure in the JonBenet case — the reporter given the most access to the family in the weeks and months after the killing. Now, with the cooperation of father John Ramsey, she’s come forward with a book that aims to put all the facts on the table, including some that have been newly unearthed. Westword has the story.

tamea-siscoBreakfast reading from the Voice Media Empire: A judge ruled that Sisco, the operator of a controversial “medical detox” center, was in contempt of court for continuing to refer to herself as a doctor and administer IVs containing her proprietary blend of amino-acid injections, despite an injunction prohibiting her from practicing medicine. Westword has the story.

6120199762_c1a20bf7cd_zAndrew Malone/Flickr

A former Medicare provider who owned an ambulance company has been found guilty of engaging in organized crime after deceiving dozens of mentally disabled patients and attempting to steal more than $1.3 million through fraudulent Medicare and Medicaid programs, the Texas Attorney General’s Office announced Tuesday.

A Harris County judge sentenced the 44-year-old Houston man, Chimaroke Echenwune, to 30 years in prison for the elaborate theft.

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