The State of Texas: October 8, 2015
The most epic elk chase of 2015 (or at least in Waco), and the Texas law banning flag desecration was ruled unconstitutional.
An elk led authorities on a seven-hour chase around Waco, which made for a pretty wild Wednesday. In the time it took to capture the beast, it became a minor internet superstar. Never forget, #Elk2015.
— Olivia Messer (@OliviaMesser) October 7, 2015
Interview of the Day
Dallas County District Attorney Susan Hawk sat down with the Dallas Morning News and NBC5 for a fairly comprehensive interview. Hawk “opened up about everything from her love of the Rock Band video game to her lifelong battle with depression, which culminated this summer with a plan to commit suicide.” The interview is available in pieces here.
Flagged — You might have thought that the legality of flag desecration was settled almost thirty years ago (by a Texas case, no less), but it wasn’t until Wednesday that it became totally legal in the state. You’re half right about the decision three decades ago, though—the U.S. Supreme Court did rule flag desecration constitutional, but Texas had its own law on the books. Not anymore: “In a 6-3 ruling, the Court of Criminal Appeals tossed out the law, saying the attempt to protect revered symbols was too broadly written, criminalizing acts that are protected by the First Amendment’s right to free speech,” according to the Austin American-Statesman. “The court also rejected arguments that the law should remain on the books because prosecutors know better than to use it in obviously unconstitutional circumstances, such as targeting those who burn flags as part of a protest — a long-acknowledged form of constitutionally protected expression.” This latest case came after twenty-year-old Terrence Johnson pulled down a flag and “threw it into the street, where it was destroyed by passing traffic” in Lovelady. Johnson was charged with destruction of a flag, a class C misdemeanor, and spent nearly five weeks in jail before being bonded out. In Wednesday’s decision, a dissenting judge argued that Johnson was acting out of pure anger, not expressing his right to free speech under the First Amendment. Judge Larry Myers, however, actually defended the law: “It serves to keep people from destroying a symbol of our nation and state, which is exactly what [Johnson] did here.”
Objections — Last Thursday Attorney General Ken Paxton’s lawyers “subpoenaed four Collin County court reporters for information related to the selection and empanelment of the grand jury that indicted the first-term attorney general in July,” the Houston Chronicle reports. Why do his lawyers want that information? It’s not really clear. But “the prosecutors on Tuesday asked presiding Judge George Gallagher of Tarrant County to shoot down the subpoenas,” saying “Paxton’s applications are an improper, indeed, desperate attempt at obtaining pre-trial discovery.” Meanwhile, former Governor Rick Perry is still trying to get his own legal woes sorted out, but this time at the state’s highest criminal court. “Perry has asked the court to dismiss a first-degree felony charge of misusing his powers as governor,” reports the Statesman. The court will also hear an appeal from prosecutors, who hope to have a coercion law declared constitutional (again). A lower court declared it unconstitutional, but prosecutors have “asked the Court of Criminal Appeals to reinstate the law, arguing that free speech protections don’t apply ‘when a public servant illegally threatens to do indirectly what he does not have the power to do directly.'” Both appeals will be heard on November 4, and the court has “indicated its commitment to a speedy resolution.”
Long-Distance Relationship — The San Antonio Express-News has a cute story about what might be the longest long-distance relationship ever. Astronaut Scott Kelly and his girlfriend Amiko Kauderer have been dating for six years, but Kelly has spent the past 200 days, with another five months to go, high above the clouds. The Texas couple has been “able to stay connected through emails, phone and video calls and social media,” nothing too different than your average relationship. Not that it doesn’t get a little odd once in awhile. “Although Kauderer is sometimes able to see her astronaut ‘floating’ on screens around her office at NASA, he is not able to have the same luxury.” And you thought your love life had some obstacles.