The State of Texas: December 18, 2014
Image of the Day
As the NASA space photo shows, Dallas and Houston really love their Christmas lights. “And how do we know these are holiday lights and not the usual urban-center bright lights?,” writes Dallas Mornings News’s Robert Wilonsky. Something about a “Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite … that filters out moonlight, clouds and airborne particles in order to isolate city lights on a daily basis. NASA researchers say the uptick in brightery begins right on schedule and only gets brighter through the holiday season.”
Can’t we just force the man to lead?
JJ Watt on being on the write-in ballot for governor and US Senator – “My schedule’s a little full right now.” pic.twitter.com/JSOGhmep1T
— James Starks (@JamesStarksKPRC) December 17, 2014
Relative Murders — El Paso saw an eighty percent increase in murders this year. Has the town fallen into anarchy? What kind of insane crime spree is happening? No, it’s just that the city so rarely sees homicide, so any murder jacks the figure up. “The jump from 11 murders in 2013 to 20 so far this year doesn’t mean the city is unsafe,” writes the Texas Tribune, “The increase is consistent with recent trends, said U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, one of a group of border Democrats that has for years fought back against claims that Texas border cities are unsafe because of violence in Mexico.” As O’Rourke notes, the city of more than 800,000 has seen as few as five murders in a year (2010). Of course, it’s tempting to compare the numbers to the city’s neighbor’s performance. “As El Paso grapples with the increase, its sister city across the Rio Grande, Ciudad Juárez, could celebrate its lowest homicide rate in years. As of Dec. 13, there were 424 murders there. In 2013 there were 535.”
Letting Kids Be Kids — A teenager convicted as an adult for a 2008 murder could be released after his landmark case was overturned earlier this month. “A juvenile-court judge certified [Cameron] Moon — who was 16 at the time of the crime — to stand trial as an adult for the 2008 murder of Christopher Seabrook during a botched drug exchange. Moon was found guilty in 2010 and sentenced to 30 years in an adult prison,” reports the Houston Chronicle. “But his conviction was overturned the first time last year, and then again this month by the Criminal Court of Appeals, because the juvenile-court judge did not provide enough detail about why Moon was mature enough to face the criminal charges as an adult.” Teenagers a year shy of even voting can be tried as adults in Texas, but the ruling this month was the first time the courts had overturned such a juvenile conviction and “cast new doubt over the manner in which minors are tried as adults in Texas.”
Sentenced To Death — After being found guilty of the murder of the Kaufman County District Attorney wife, Eric Williams was sentenced to death by a jury. The defense had said that Williams “no longer posed a threat,” according to the Dallas Morning News, which is technically true since he’s behind bars. But the former Justice of the Peace had also allegedly planned vicious attacks on several other people (napalm inside a gorged stomach) and is accused of killing two others. The nail in the coffin seems to have been the testimony of Williams estranged wife, “who narrated every twist and turn of her husband’s plot to take revenge on the prosecutors who ended his career.” ‘That was beyond anything I expected,” [county judge Bruce Wood said. ‘She didn’t leave anything to be imagined.’” The tell-all was part of Kimberley Williams own life-saving bid. “She is hoping by testifying against her husband she will be spared the death penalty and will be given a life sentence,” writes USA Today. The numerous news reports offer no indication whether Williams will appeal the verdict and sentence. If he does, there are two other murders for which he’s been charged.
Hall Of Mirrors — The Wallace Hall controversy has been relatively dormant for the past two months but it’s now rearing its ugly head thanks to accusations fired off between chiefs of staff. “A top aide to House Speaker Joe Straus said an investigation of a university regent would ‘go away’ if Gov. Rick Perry got the regent to resign,” according to Kathy Walt, Perry’s of chief of staff, during an exclusive interview with the Austin American-Statesman. Walt said “that it was her understanding that [Straus chief of staff Jesse Ancira] was referring to the panel’s investigation, not a separate criminal investigation of Hall.” What makes this particularly confusing (and doesn’t reflect well on Hall) is that Hall made a similar claim earlier this month. The only problem is, he “implied in his speech that it referred to a [different] criminal investigation.” Straus’s spokesman called Walt’s claim the “third version of this bizarre fiction. Anyone who knows Speaker Straus knows that he does not operate that way. It’s not true.” Thankfully, UT is sparing no expense in getting to the bottom of all this, or at least to the bottom of Hall’s initial claims. “The University of Texas System is extending its contract with Kroll Associates, the firm hired to investigate the integrity of the admissions process at the University of Texas at Austin,” reports the Texas Tribune. “Kroll was originally expected to finish its investigation in October, and the system agreed to pay up to $145,000 for the service. … the system released an extended contract that does not expire until Jan. 31, 2015, and increases the amount of money the university is willing to pay to $405,000.”