A recent Pew Research Center study reveals that only 6% of state criminal prosecutions around the country go to trial. Plea bargains are even more common in the federal system with 97% of prosecutions being resolved in this way. Texas prosecutors like plea agreements because they are quick and straightforward and allow them to avoid the risks of arguing their cases before a jury, but civil rights advocates are disturbed by some of the tactics they use to obtain them.
Prosecutors in Texas and other states have received letters from progressive advocacy groups including Black Lives Matter and the American Civil Liberties Union. The letters were written after media outlets in Florida exposed violent and racist Facebook posts written by sheriff's deputies, and they ask prosecutors not to pursue criminal cases that rely on testimony from police officers with a history of misconduct, bias or racism. The letters also urge prosecutors to compile lists of officers with troubled pasts that may be shared with criminal defendants and their lawyers.
Despite the claims of law enforcement associations, one study indicates that civil asset forfeiture has little impact on solving or reducing crime in Texas and across the country. Civil asset forfeiture allows police departments to seize property that they suspect of being connected in some way to criminal activity. According to the report by the Institute of Justice, there was no link between the amount of forfeiture funds received by state and local law enforcement agencies and drug use rates or the percentage of cases solved.
Four people were murdered in a Mississippi furniture store in 1996. A man was arrested and tried for murder. After six trials, the case is on appeal again. Since the issue on appeal revolves around racial bias in jury selection, a decision may affect criminal cases in Texas as well.
If two members of the U.S. House of Representatives have their way, malicious acts of cruelty to animals will soon be felonies in Texas and across the U.S. Individuals convicted under the proposed law, called the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act, or PACT, could face heavy fines and several years of incarceration.
There are a variety of ways that defendants in Texas can defend themselves against criminal charges. Generally speaking, the type of defense that is chosen depends on what type of strategy a prosecutor uses in a given case. In some cases, the best defense may simply be telling the truth. For instance, an attorney may try to use the facts in the case to show that a defendant tried to avoid committing a crime.
Texas Tech University football player Da'Leon Ward has had a busy few days. The talented running back was taken into custody on felony theft charges on Aug. 21 in connection with a campus investigation into stolen cellphones, but his situation improved significantly the following day when the Lubbock County District Attorney's Office announced that the charges had been dismissed and no further action was planned. In their motion to dismiss, prosecutors said that proceeding further in the case would not serve the interests of justice.
A court in Texas ruled that the state's revenge porn law is too broad and violates the First Amendment. It also asked a lower court to dismiss the case that made the ruling necessary. The attorney general's office in the state is going to lead an appeal of the 12th Court of Appeal's decision. For now, the ruling only applies to communities that are within that court's jurisdiction, but it is possible that other courts in the state will review the law as well.
Texas is one of a number of states that have laws dealing with drug-induced homicide. In an effort to combat the opioid epidemic, law enforcement is increasingly cracking down on people who provide the drugs that lead to another person's fatal overdose. However, some argue that prosecuting these individuals is not the answer and could even increase the incidence of fatalities since people might be less likely to call for medical aid for fear of prosecution.
With many convictions in Texas, there is a chance that the defendant did not actually commit that crime. According to research conducted in Pennsylvania, the specific odds of that happening are about 6 percent. This was determined by surveys completed by roughly 3,000 people in Pennsylvania state prisons. The study is considered one of the first attempts to determine how often criminals are incorrectly convicted in cases not involving a capital crime.