Criminal justice

A Conversation With Greg Abbott

For the 11th event in our TribLive series, I interviewed the attorney general of Texas on the politics and constitutionality of gay marriage, why he's suing the feds over health care and why he filed a brief in support of the Arizona immigration law.

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 Graphic by Ben Hasson

TribWeek: In Case You Missed It

Hu compares and contrasts the official schedules of four big-state governors (including Rick Perry) and picks the 21 Texas House races to watch, Ramshaw on a 19-year-old with an IQ of 47 sentenced to 100 years in prison, Stiles on Perry's regent-donors, Galbraith on a plan to curb the independence of the state's electricity grid, Thevenot on the turf war over mental health, Grissom on whether the Texas Youth Commission should be abolished, Aguilar on a crucial immigration-related case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, Ramsey's interview with GOP provocateur Debra Medina and M. Smith on how changes to campaign finance law will affect judicial elections in Texas: The best of our best from August 23 to 27, 2010.

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 Marjorie Cotera

You Be the Judge

Do two recent U.S. Supreme Court opinions have the far-reaching effects on Texas judicial elections that some in our legal community fear? Or do the state's current campaign finance laws adequately address the issues presented by both cases?

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 Callie Richmond

Pat Lykos: The TT Interview

The first female district attorney of Harris County on the massive scope of her job, softening her office's tough-on-crime reputation, the link between mental health care and criminal justice, why she set up a Post-Conviction Review Section and what she's learned from innocence cases so far.

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Justice for Aaron?

He can't read or write, struggles to speak, and at age 19 has an IQ of 47. Yet a judge in the northeast Texas town of Paris still sentenced Aaron Hart to 100 years in prison for performing sexual acts on a 6-year-old neighbor. An appeals court overturned Aaron's conviction this spring. Now he sits in jail facing the same charges a second time, and his family is praying for a different outcome.

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 Illustration by Courtesy of the Cole family

TribBlog: Defending the Innocent

The Texas Task Force on Indigent Defense today approved money to help establish a public defender's office in Harris County — the largest urban area in the nation without one — along with a slate of measures meant to prevent innocent people from serving time.

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Should We Abolish the TYC?

Texas Appleseed and a key state lawmaker think that may be the only way to address persistent reports of violence, poor living conditions, and subpar education and mental health care at youth lockups across Texas.

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 Graphic by Todd Wiseman

Calendar Club

When Bill White criticized Rick Perry in June for "working part time" after his schedule for the first six months of 2010 showed an average of seven hours of state business per week, Perry responded that he doesn’t write down much of his work for the state. By contrast, Perry's counterparts in California, New York and Florida do write down what they do, and they make their schedules readily available to the public.

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 Callie Richmond

The Other BP Catastrophe

BP's problem-plagued Texas City refinery — where a 2005 explosion killed 15 and injured 170 — now faces two civil lawsuits stemming from its release this spring of more than 500,000 pounds of cancer-causing pollutants over 40 days. One suit seeks $10 billion on behalf of 2,000 exposed workers; the other, filed by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, seeks more than $1 million in fines. Both aim to punish the company for one of the largest chemical emissions events the state has ever seen.

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TribWeek: In Case You Missed It

Stiles on Bill White's donor-appointees, M. Smith on a form of meritless lawsuit that's still legal in Texas, Ramshaw on what federal health care reform means for the future of physician-owned specialty hospitals, Galbraith's interview with the chairman of the Public Utility Commission, Philpott on the latest flap over federal education funding, Grissom on the finally-in-compliance Dallas County Jail, Titus on the oiled pelicans of the BP spill, Hamilton's interview with the new chancellor of the Texas State University System, Ramsey on the political and legal definitions of residency, Hu on Barack Obama's visit to Austin and Aguilar on what the U.S. could be doing to aid Mexico: The best of our best from August 9 to 13, 2010.

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 Graphic by Todd Wiseman

Sued Into Silence

Plaintiffs in so-called strategic lawsuits against public participation, or SLAPPs, use the court system to bury opponents in a crush of legal fees and paperwork of Bleak House proportions. They're not concerned about winning damages. They usually don’t expect to be successful, and the targets often don’t have the money to adequately defend themselves. Yet in otherwise tort-reform-happy Texas, there is no prohibition on filing this particular form of meritless suit — yet.

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 Debbie Riddle Campaign

TribBlog: No "Terror Baby" Records

State Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Houston, says "former FBI officials" are the sources of her information about a terror baby plot. When the Tribune asked her office for records of any such conversations, her chief of staff said they don't exist.

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