The Court of Criminal Appeals Ruled That Police Can't Take Blood From DWI Suspects Without a Warrant

Over recent years, a DWI enforcement policy called “no refusal weekend” has become increasingly popular in Texas cities. During weekends when DWI arrests are more common—usually holiday weekends, or on days like St. Patrick’s Day or Super Bowl Sunday—police will institute a policy that essentially prevents DWI suspects from refusing to provide a blood or breath sample to an arresting officer. 

No Refusal Weekend policies have been controversial since they started popping up in Texas about a decade ago: Nobody wants to be on the road with drunk drivers, but there’s been a longstanding Fourth Amendment concern with the process. Is it “unreasonable search and seizure” to be forced to provide a blood sample without a warrant and based solely on a police officer’s suspicion that you’re drunk? 

Horrible Video Shows a Cleburne Police Officer Calling To, Then Shooting, a Tail-Wagging Dog

Over the past few days, a video that was taken by a Cleburne police officer’s body camera went viral. To say that it’s disturbing is an understatement—we’d strongly advise against watching it. It involves the officer in question walking through what appears to be a residential neighborhood and approaching two dogs that are some distance away, near a drainage ditch. The officer attempts to summon the dogs by clicking his tongue against his teeth (you know, with “here, boy!” kissy noises) and then, as the dogs look up at him, tails wagging, he fires three times before we can see what happens: One of the dogs lies on the ground, while the other runs away from him. As the second dog backs away, the officer pursues it, and then both the dog and the officer stop. The officer raises his gun again, his radio makes a noise, and the video ends.

Why We Can't Celebrate the Great Performances By the Cowboys and the Texans With a Clean Conscience

Last week, buried as part of a late-Friday news dump, the worst PR week in NFL history got even worse: Adrian Peterson, the game’s best running back, was arrested out in Montgomery County on child abuse charges. That followed the horror show that was the release of the video of Ray Rice punching his then-fiancee in an elevator in New Jersey, and the subsequent questions about what, precisely, the NFL knew and when it knew it, and why Rice had only been suspended two games until the public saw the video.

All of this is well-established at this point, and it’s been so pervasive a story that networks have broken into regular programming to feature updates from embattled NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, whose job seems less and less certain as the days go by. 

A Houston Teenager Put a Face on the #IfTheyGunnedMeDown Hashtag

The situation in Ferguson, Missouri, has escalated every night since the shooting of eighteen-year-old Michael Brown by a police officer. Official details on what happened are still scarce—Brown’s friend and an eyewitness to the shooting, 22-year-old Dorin Johnson, has been interviewed by MSNBC in the days since Monday’s shooting, but not by local police. The public still doesn’t know the name of the officer or how many times Brown, who was unarmed, was shot. Police say Brown assaulted the officer and tried to take the officer’s gun; witnesses on the scene, including Johnson, refute that with a detailed recollection of the events

In these types of situations, the character of the person who was killed quickly becomes fodder for discussion, and the evidence used against them tends to come from places like Facebook, where media outlets pull photos that depict the victims of the shootings in ways that make them look like bad guys from simplistic TV shows. The intial photos of Brown, for instance, showed him flashing a sideways peace sign, which media members questioned might be gang signs. This led to the formation of the #IfTheyGunnedMeDown hashtag, where people began sharing pictures side by side—the first of themselves in a way that might match a stereotype of a threatening young person, and the second of themselves dressed in a way that’s more easily relatable to viewers whose understanding of good and bad kids comes, apparently, mostly from stereotypes. 

Is The Grand Jury System In Texas Broken?

The grand jury is a mysterious concept: it’s a group of ordinary citizens who weigh in on a criminal case, but the work they do is secret. According to Texas law, the only people allowed in the room during grand jury proceedings are grand jurors, bailiffs, the prosecutor, the witness being examined, and—under certain circumstances—an interpretor, a stenographer, or a person to allow a witness to testify via videoconferencing. Except under rare circumstances, the results of the proceedings are not public record.

The job that a grand jury is tasked with, though, is rather clear: As the Harris County District Courts explain on their website, where they encourage citizens to apply to serve as grand jurors, “A grand jury consists of twelve people whose job is to review criminal complaints and decide if there is sufficient evidence to issue an indictment. The standard of proof for an indictment is probable cause.” 

“I Believe It’s a Heroic Calling”

Defense lawyers get a lot of grief for a lot of reasons: they thrive on technicalities, they charge high fees, they advocate for the obviously guilty. They don’t get much credit for working the system pro bono to free the innocent. On June 12 the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association did just that, honoring two longtime lawyers, Mike Ware and Keith Hampton, with the Percy Foreman Lawyer of the Year award at the twenty-seventh annual Rusty Duncan Advanced Criminal Law Course in San Antonio.

In a Rare Move, a Conroe Police Officer Was Convicted of Manslaughter

As we’ve noted before, it’s rare for criminal charges to be filed when a police officer shoots a civilian. In Austin, when Detective Charles Kleinert was indicted for the shooting of Larry Jackson Jr. last month, it was the first such indictment out of 25 potential incidents; in Houston, Harris County grand juries have indicted only one officer since 2004; in Dallas, a pair of indictments this spring broke a forty-year drought for criminal charges against police officers who’ve shot civilians. 

Every case is different, and not every incident requires criminal indictments against officers—but by all evidence, it seems the odds of a trial happening when a police officer shoots a person they suspect of committing a crime are not good. 

Convictions, meanwhile, are even more rare. As the Austin American-Statesman reported earlier this year

Richard LaFuente Is Finally Free!

It’s become a familiar scene, especially in Texas: an innocent man walks out of prison, where he’s met by an exuberant crowd of family, lawyers, and journalists. The members of his family hug him, cry, and laugh with relief. His lawyers stand before the gathered press and raise serious questions about how the state could have made such a terrible mistake to lock up an innocent man.

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