Author Meagan Flynn

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For years, narcotics field tests have been notorious for sending innocent people to jail. The cheap, roadside tests have misconstrued everything from Jolly Ranchers for meth to Pop-Tart crumbs for crack cocaine. In December, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office trumpeted the arrest of 24-year-old Ross Lebeau for felony meth possession — only for the substance, stuffed inside a black sock in his trunk, to turn out to be cat litter. His dad had used the cat-litter-sock as a trick to defog the windows.

“Building your reputation takes years,” Lebeau told the Houston Press in January. “One false positive can ruin all of that.”

Now, however, in a departure from standard police practice across the nation, Houston and Harris County law enforcement agencies will permanently stop using the narcotics field tests, effective immediately.

img_0871_1_The second suspect in the brutal murder of 11-year-old Josue Flores just became the second suspect to walk out of jail after the Harris County District Attorney’s Office again conceded that it does not have enough evidence to continue prosecuting him for the murder.

Andre Jackson, a 28-year-old ex-Marine, was accused last June of stabbing Josue Flores to death while he walked home from a science party at Marshall Middle School in broad daylight on May 17. Now, however, DA’s office First Assistant Tom Berg said results from a DNA analysis came back, and those results “make it impossible for us to move forward with the case at this time.”

2775636014_a5e40d041f_z_2_Daniel/Flickr

For decades of Texas summers, prisoners of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice have lived in heat they described as equivalent to “walking out to your car in the middle of the summertime,” to “getting into a hot box in the sun.” They have often slept on the concrete because it is cooler than their mattresses, and away from fans that blow hot air on them. They have sometimes struggled to write letters because their sweat drips over the paper as if it were raining. Twenty-three men have died in these conditions since 1998, including Larry McCollum, who, just days after being booked for writing a hot check, died of a heat stroke while convulsing atop his bed. His internal temperature was found to be 109 degrees.

These are all among the reasons that, on Wednesday, a federal judge in Houston ruled that such conditions violate the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment — that there is a “substantial risk of serious illness or death from the current conditions at the Pack Unit.”

angusCourtesy of Darrin Nielsen

In what surely qualifies as an express lane to hell, a man shot and killed a Houston firefighter’s dog in the Heights early Wednesday morning.

Dennis Nielsen told the Houston Press that a neighbor only got a brief glimpse of the man he believes was the shooter, who wore black clothes and possibly carried a pistol, at the corner of Tabor and West Patton streets. Nielsen said the neighbor couldn’t tell the shooter’s race or any other identifying characteristics. The shooting took place between 2:30 and 3 a.m.

screen_shot_2017-07-06_at_9.55.48_amScreenshot/KPRC

A La Porte volunteer firefighter has said he plans to resign from the fire department after crashing into a kid’s bedroom and then getting arrested.

Blake Andrew Stevens, who had been voted firefighter of the year in 2016, was on his way to a reported fire on the Fourth of July around 10:45 p.m. when he lost control of his pickup truck along Shady Lane near Highway 46. Police said he then went through a steel fence before ramming into a six-year-old boy’s bedroom.

img_1792Michael Mabe and his mom, Linda, first met former Texas City police officer Linnard R. Crouch at the emergency room the night their father and husband, James, died of heart failure.

He had something for them, a little clear plastic baggie full of James’s belongings that Crouch found at the scene where Mabe’s heart went out behind the wheel of his pickup truck, on the side of a busy road in Texas City. Crouch had brought James’s cellphone, his wallet and a stack of money with a single $100 bill on top.

Mrs. Mabe and I thanked Officer Crouch for helping our loved one,” Michael wrote in a letter to Texas City Police Chief Robert Burby in February — before launching into the rest of the narrative: Later that night, when Linda opened the bag, she discovered that the $2,400 she had just given him at her office one hour earlier was missing, and that instead, the money had been replaced with single dollar bills. Turns out, Officer Crouch is now under investigation for stealing it and has been sued by the Mabe family.

img_1008On the night Jessica says she was raped by a prison guard at the Federal Detention Center in downtown Houston, she had only four days left of her sentence before she was released. (She requested that we not use her real name.)

It had been about six weeks since she cut off a consensual relationship with a prison guard named Samuel Hawkins and began resisting his advances, she said. But on the night of November 15, 2015, Hawkins came to her cell and told her to come with him to drop off a tissue box on the male floor, where she knew one of the inmates. Hawkins “paraded her around,” said Jessica’s attorney, Bill Underwood. And when he returned her to her own cell, seeming jealous of the attention from other men, Jessica says he told her,  “We’re gonna have our first real fight tonight,” before raping her. Hawkins pled guilty to sexual abuse of a ward.

houston-press-temple-family-evidence_1_Trial exhibit

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg on Friday moved to recuse her office from a possible retrial of David Temple for the murder of his wife, Belinda — opening the door for a special prosecutor to take the case.

“Our duty is simply to do justice, not just win,” Ogg said in a statement. Here’s the background on the messy case.

 

4023058247_dcc7139bb0_zFerran Moya/Flickr

After four hours of unsuccessful negotiations, a Harris County Sheriff’s Office deputy killed a 54-year-old suicidal woman in Katy after she pointed a gun at deputies through a window they had broken.

Just after 2 p.m., Lucille Espinosa’s mother called 911 telling operators that Espinosa was threatening to kill herself, as well as anyone who tried to come into her house. When deputies arrived for a welfare check, she was holding a pistol.

rincon_final_rgb_cropped_for_homepageCameron K. Lewis

Valentina Villafane was sitting in her second-grade classroom when the tear gas canister exploded. The principal of her private school outside Barquisimeto, Venezuela, saw it first — an errant volley from a national guardsman that flew between the bars of the school’s gate and rolled to the front door. The principal shouted for the students to run to the back of the building as gas plumed at the entrance.

As Valentina huddled with her classmates, teachers brought jars of vinegar from the cafeteria and showed the children how to apply it to their faces to protect against the gas. They waited for hours, trapped as desperate Barquisimetanos clashed with police outside.

“I was scared and I almost cried,” Valentina recalls in a telephone interview from Venezuela–where many live in dire poverty while the corrupt businessman who looted the country live lavishly in Houston and Miami.

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