Last week, U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes of Houston dismissed a lawsuit filed against the state by three death row inmates who claimed that Texas planned to execute them using untested compound drugs that may cause them great pain, in violation of the eighth amendment. Now, two of those men are appealing the judge’s decision to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. (The third prisoner who brought the lawsuit, Michael Yowell, was killed by the state in October after the Fifth Circuit denied his request for injuctive relief.)
In early November, 37-year-old Sarah Tibbetts was in a motel room in Irving with her boyfriend, 35-year-old Jack Pritchard, when the police arrested both of them—Tibbetts for allegedly being in possession of someone else’s credit card and baggies containing trace amounts of marijuana, Pritchard on old warrants. Tibbetts had been convicted on misdemeanor charges in the past—trespassing and drug possession—and during her prior arrests, she had made it clear that she was a diabetic who was dependent on insulin.
According to a report from the Dallas Morning News, the jail staff was aware that Tribbetts needed the insulin (which is available over-the-counter in Texas)—they just limited their efforts at finding her the treatment she required to calling Tibbetts’ mother, who lives in California.
Last March, Dallas mayor Mike Rawlings made headlines after hosting a major rally against domestic violence in the city. The event took place at the AT&T Stadium, where the Cowboys play, and featured major names among the speakers—Emmitt Smith, Roger Staubach, Dez Bryant, and Brandon Carr all spoke, representing the football team, and the non-sports names included religious and political leaders from throughout the area.
The event, part of Rawlings’s Dallas Men Against Abuse initiative, came shortly after the mayor spoke to the UN about domestic violence. And his statements as part of human rights organization Breakthrough’s “Ring The Bell” campaign, which puts the onus on men to end domestic violence against women, are concise and convincing:
“Make no mistake: men’s violence against women is a men’s issue- It’s our problem. And I’m here to say we’ve had enough of women being disrespected, and we won’t tolerate it any longer. It’s not only about not being violent; it’s about changing a culture that says ‘violence is okay.’ I promise to stop laughing at jokes we’ve all participated in. I promise to speak out against domestic violence. And I’m asking men in Dallas — and everywhere — to do the same. Let’s make our homes, and our cities, safe for all.”
When dealing with home-run records and financial opportunities, a reliable rule to follow is this: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. When dealing with child-sex-abuse allegations, a reliable rule too follow is this: if it sounds too bad to be true, be very, very skeptical.
Over the past week in Texas, we have seen this rule come to life, not once but twice. Last Tuesday, there was a hearing in Quitman regarding the so-called “Mineola Swinger’s Club” cases, which involved four children, aged four through seven, claiming that seven adults from Tyler made them go to a sex kindergarten and dance in live sex shows onstage at a swingers club in front of dozens of people. The kids testified that grownups cast spells and wore witch outfits, and one child even claimed to have ridden in the air on a broomstick. Though no evidence was ever found, seven adults were sent to prison based on these outrageous claims; six were eventually freed, and one remains there—for life. The star of last week’s Quitman hearing was Margie Cantrell, the adoptive mother of three of the accusers. She stood accused of physically abusing her children, and in the end, CPS removed four of her kids, including the three accusers. Finally, it seems, the citizens of Smith and Wood County are treating the bizarre claims made by these kids—which were made only after entering Cantrell’s care—with skepticism.
A Tarrant County jury found a defendant not guilty in a DWI trial on October 29th, after having questions about the Intoxilyzer device used after his arrest. The shocking thing isn’t that a DWI case went to a jury trial—though that is certainly rare—but how visiting retired Judge Jerry Ray responded to that “not guilty” verdict. Via Grits For Breakfast, we get the court reporter’s transcript:
I’ve been at this such a long time I know better than to get angry. But you just decided to ignore the law and your oath, and you know you did. The note that you sent out says, “Can we ignore the Intoxilyzer.” And you have the definitions of intoxication. And they were certainly—At least that one was very plain in this case and up on the board for you to see. And for whatever reasons, you chose to ignore that part of the evidence. And you have the right to do that. It’s called jury nullification. It’s when a jury decides to ignore the law or ignore the evidence. And they just want a certain outcome, and they maneuver until they get there. Perfect example, the O.J. Simpson trial. He clearly committed murder, and the jury didn’t want to convict him, so they found a way to—to render a not guilty verdict. So it happens. I’ve been around over 40 years in this profession, tried an awful lot of cases as a defense lawyer, as a prosecutor, and as a judge, and it happens. But this ranks among there as one of the most bizarre verdicts that I’ve seen. Thank you for your service, and you are excused.
Christopher Scott planned it all from an uncomfortable state prison bed at the Coffield unit in East Texas, where he would kick back, listen to R&B and daydream. Some day the criminal justice system would recognize that he was not, in fact, a murderer. He would be exonerated, and he would work to save other wrongfully convicted people. He would fulfill his lifelong dream to open a men’s clothing store. He would live in a sprawling home with a swimming pool and a basketball court.
As executions go, Michael Yowell’s was not destined to be particularly notable. Fifteen years earlier, in Lubbock, he had been convicted of shooting his father and strangling his mother while trying to steal drug money. He left a gas jet on, which set the house on fire, and his grandmother, who could not escape, died in the blaze.
Fred Yazdi was accused of murder after the death of Enrique Recio in February 2012, and most elements of the story were never in dispute: Yazdi never claimed that he didn’t shoot Recio, who had crashed his car near Yazdi’s Avery Ranch home in suburban Austin, and who had been under Yazdi’s wife’s car. Other elements were disputed: Yazdi claimed, for instance, that Recio had pounded on his front door—though prosecutor Lytza Bragg argued that Yazdi lied about that part of the story, according to the Austin American-Statesman:
Yazdi, 49, lied when he told police that Recio had banged on his front door, the prosecutor said, because police found no evidence of damage to the door or any of Yazdi’s property. Yazdi’s wife, who made the 911 call to report the shooting, also never reported that Recio had banged at the front door and she decided not to testify during the trial, said Bragg.
Recio never would have banged on Yazdi’s front door because he was waiting for a friend he had called to pick him up and didn’t want to bring attention to himself, Bragg said.
Yazdi saw Recio outside his house and and ran outside because he “wanted to apprehend him before he escaped,” Bragg said. Yazdi also left the front door open, which showed he was not afraid of any possible intruder, she said. He also took the time to take off his watch and put down his cell phone before running outside, she said.
He shot Recio once as Recio was climbing over an iron fence and then shot him twice after Recio fell on the ground, according to the pattern of the wounds, Bragg said. Bullets hit Recio’s left hip, the left side of his abdomen and the side of his right knee.
The shot to his hip was fatal because it hit the aorta, which supplies blood from the heart to the rest of the body.