Criminal justice

Morgan Smith

2010: Hey, Wait a Minute

Late last night, Rick Green took to his Facebook page to dispute comments attributed to Debra Lehrmann claiming he had pledged to have his supporters back her in the general election campaign.

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Thanks, But No Thanks

Depending on whom you ask, Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins’ repeated refusal to allow Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott into a local corruption investigation is either bold or stupid. Either way, it’s unusual. Abbott has offered prosecution assistance to local district attorneys 226 times since 2007, when lawmakers first gave him permission to do it. In all but 16 cases, he’s been invited in. And Watkins didn't decline politely.

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Night of the Insurgents

Voters routed state Reps. Delwin Jones and Norma Chavez on Tuesday, turned back former Rep. Rick Green's bid for a spot on the Texas Supreme Court and handed victories to at least three candidates who appeared to benefit from the Tea Party insurgency in Texas.

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Reeve Hamilton

Going It Alone

Attorneys, judges, legal aid experts and law librarians gathered last week to strategize about how to create a system that can accommodate an increasing number of self-represented litigants — a problem that some say is going to shut down the court system.

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Caleb Bryant Miller

Runoff Day: A Spectator's Guide

Today’s elections in 18 Texas primary races, all but two involving Republicans, probably won't change the overall temperature of the statehouse or our delegation to Congress. The partisan makeup of those places isn't at stake until November. But for three House incumbents and challengers in two other races — for the State Board of Education and the Texas Supreme Court — how the vote turns out is a big deal.

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Morgan Smith

Tipping the Scales

If Rick Green wins his runoff against Debra Lehrmann on Tuesday, Democrats will be licking their chops — but do they really have a shot of occupying their first Texas Supreme Court seat in more than 10 years?

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Explaining the Violence

We've all read the grim headlines about the uptick in violent crime in Northern Mexico, close to the Texas border, but what's behind it all? Erika Aguilar of KUT News explains.

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TribWeek: In Case You Missed It

Grissom on her two hours in Juárez, Grissom, Ramshaw and Ramsey on four of the runoffs on Tuesday's ballot, Ramshaw on the religious experience that is voting for Dallas County's DA and an energy regulator's play for a job at the entity he regulates, Mulvaney on the Texas Senate's biggest spenders, Aguilar on whether — as U.S. officials claim — 90 percent of guns used in Mexican crimes really flow south from Texas, M. Smith on the continuing Texas Forensic Science Commission follies, Stiles on how inmates spend their money behind bars and how counties are responding at Census time, Hamilton on the creative accounting and semantic trickery that allows lawmakers to raise revenue without hiking taxes when there's a budget shortfall, and Hu on Austin's first-in-the-nation car-sharing program. The best of our best from April 5 to 9, 2010.

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Linda Rux

TribBlog: Back on the Short List

Supporters may tout her as a Chicago justice for a Chicago president, but Diane Wood — said to be in serious consideration as a replacement for the retiring John Paul Stevens — got her start in Texas: as an undergrad and a law student at UT-Austin.

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Caleb Bryant Miller

The Inquisition

Ninety minutes of back-and-forth on Wednesday between a House committee and representatives of the Texas Forensic Science Commission — but not its chairman — covered the besieged agency’s nonexistent enforcement power, lack of written procedural guidelines, and public records policy. Oh, and the late Cameron Todd Willingham.

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Graphic by Matt Stiles

The Senate's Biggest Spenders

The 31-member body spent nearly $16 million last fiscal year on travel, staff and office expenses, according to records from the office of the Secretary of the Senate. Overall spending by individual senators ranged from $206,000, by Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, to $637,000, by Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston.

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Morgan Smith

2010: Lubbock or Leave It

Low voter turnout means that in a downballot statewide race like that between Debra Lehrmann and Rick Green the winner could be decided by chance — whose name comes first, or whose name sounds the friendliest. Green and Lehrmann are working to combat that dynamic in an unlikely place: Lubbock.

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Jacob Villanueva

"I Won't Stop Dispensing Justice"

Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins won’t go so far as to compare his support to the near-divine fervor of President Obama’s. But Watkins, who gained national prominence for using DNA evidence to exonerate nearly two dozen wrongfully convicted people in one of Texas’ notoriously tough-on-crime jurisdictions, will come close. “It’s a religious experience to vote for Craig Watkins,” Texas’ first African-American D.A. says without irony. Like Obama, he says, other Democratic candidates are “hanging their hats” on his re-election — and on the minority voters he draws to the polls. Like Obama, he’s got “a big target” on his back. “I’ve got to fight the political attacks coming at me from all directions," he insists. “I’ll say it publicly: If you throw punches at us, we’ll drop a bomb on you.”

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Sun on the Horizon

A small but growing number of state officials are warming to the idea of greater transparency and open access to raw government data, following a budding trend across the country. In the latest example, state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, wrote to numerous Texas agencies, urging them to post "high-value" databases online in open-standard formats.

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U.S. Census Bureau

On the Records: The Census Gets Interactive

The U.S. Census Bureau recently launched an interactive map that makes it easy to track participation in the decennial count of households. The map application, which relies on the Google Maps API, visualizes the participation rates by color — orange for higher rates, and blue for lower rates.

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Graphic by Matt Stiles

Down for the Count

As of Friday, three-quarters of Texans hadn't returned their census forms. Only five states have a worse rate of participation so far.

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