The State of Texas: October 21, 2015
Ahmed Mohamed and his family announce their departure, and officials float another possible cause for the Hidden Pines fire.
Quote of the Day
“I just don’t like that guy.”
— George W. Bush’s unexpected assessment of Ted Cruz.
Texas by the Numbers
Biggest Tex — Amount of coupons sold at this year’s state fair: $53.6 million. Increase from last year: $10 million.
Changing Climate — Percentage of Texans who think global warming is real: 69. Percentage of all U.S. citizens: 76. Percentage of Texans who say cities should be able to ban fracking: 57. Percentage of Texans who support fracking: 55. Percentage nationally: 41.
Friendly Judges — If anyone is looking to go after Dallas County district attorney Susan Hawk, they may have a difficult time with it. It seems that no one is capable of overseeing the case to remove her from office. “The judge assigned to handle the lawsuit to remove [Hawk] from office has recused herself, and so has the administrative judge who would have appointed her replacement,” the Dallas Morning News reports. The case has now been referred to the Texas Supreme Court, and “Chief Justice Nathan Hecht is expected to appoint someone, likely a retired judge from a nearby county, to consider the case.” In other judge-related news, a new “Your Honor” has been named in the Darren Goforth murder case, according to the Houston Chronicle. The previous judge had inexplicably recused herself from the case against Shannon Miles, accused of killing the Harris County deputy execution-style.
Head Case — The Texas Tribune takes another look at the twenty-year effort to execute Scott Panetti, the diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic who killed his wife’s parents in 1992. Panetti hasn’t had a mental evaluation in eight years, because he can’t afford the cost of the testing or a lawyer, for that matter. Now the court “is weighing whether to order a lower court to give him a lawyer and money for a mental health expert to evaluate him,” the Tribune reports. “Two lawyers with the Texas Defender Service are representing Panetti in 5th Circuit proceedings. They contend he is not competent to be executed and want to be appointed to help him make that argument in the lower court.” His attorneys are arguing that Panetti has not been afforded due process because the state has failed to provide the needed resources to assess his mental faculties. Disturbingly, “more than 20 percent of Texas death row inmates have been classified as mentally ill,” and as the story notes, it’s a troubling Catch-22 for inmates who aren’t competent enough to ask or push for legal help.
Clocking Out — The day after the now-famous Irving teen Ahmed Mohamed visited the White House and met with President Barack Obama, his family announced that they are packing up and moving to Qatar. “We are going to move to a place where my kids can study and learn, and all of them being accepted by that country,” his father told the Dallas Morning News. An educational foundation has agreed to pay for Mohamed’s high school and college education in Doha, Qatar. Before skipping out, however, Mohamed is likely to make a few more guest spots. While in Washington he “appeared with a U.S. Congressman who, along with nearly 30 other members of congress, have asked the federal government to investigate whether anti-Muslim discrimination prompted Ahmed’s arrest.”
Hidden Answers — Authorities think they may have a different explanation for the Hidden Pines fire near Smithville. Previously, authorities thought the fire was started by farming machinery overheating. Now they suspect it “might have been caused by an ‘intentionally set’ burn pile in violation of the county’s burn ban,” according to the Austin American-Statesman. About 80 percent of the fire had been contained by Tuesday, and a total of 64 homes had been destroyed. “Officials remained optimistic about the fire’s containment Tuesday, but warned the effort is still ongoing as crews work to put out smoldering tree stumps and other remaining hot spots.”