Judge Kocurek is well-loved and respected by many in the Travis County criminal justice system. I wish her a speedy recovery and my heart goes out to her and her family. Details
Here are the Family Violence arrest totals for Travis County by arresting agency for 2013 and 2014 as provided by the Texas Department of Public Safety:
Agency Name 2013 2014 --------------- ------ ------ TC Sheriff 528 450 Austin PD 7665 7030 Manor PD 61 61 Rollingwood PD 1 0 UT Austin PD 13 9 Pflugerville PD 89 109 Lakeway PD 17 15 Sunset Valley PD 3 2 Lago Vista PD 45 77 Jonestown PD 14 5 Mustang Ridge PD 3 5 Austin ISD PD 4 7 Bee Cave PD 14 8 Pflugerv ISD PD 0 4
Former Governor Rick Perry refused to order the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to comply with with the Prison Rape Elimination Act. This is particularly interesting since Perry himself faces potential prison time on felony corruption charges.
Recently, new Governor Greg Abbott reversed this policy and pledged to adopt the P.R.E.A. regulations in Texas prisons. Last spring, Mr. Abbott was called to jury duty in Travis County Court at Law #4, a specialized court that handles assaults involving family or dating violence. Most of my cases are in Court #4 since domestic violence is the focus of my practice. Here is a picture of Mr. Abbot with Jesse Ibarra, the bailiff in CC4:
Austin Police Officer VonTrey Clark was indicted for capital murder for the slaying of Samantha Dean, a Victim’s Services Counselor in Kyle, Texas. According to investigators, the (now former) law enforcement officer staged the scene of the crime to make it appear to have been a botched drug deal. Investigators believe that Officer Clark murdered Dean because she was pregnant with his child but refused to have an abortion.
No word yet on whether prosecutors will seek the death penalty.
Steve Adler, the mayor of Austin, wants to spend $11,000,000 to outfit APD officers with body cameras by 2016. Meanwhile, the police believe they can start by 2017 with only $2,000,000 and then spend and additional $5,000,000 in maintenance over the next 5 years.
Why would it be so much more expensive to get the cameras one year early? Currently, the price is high because supply can’t keep up with demand. In a few years these, as production capabilities expand, these camera will be had at commodity prices. If APD does it Mayor Adler’s way then the city will pay the “Early Adopter Tax” for new technology. Body Cam prices are so high that the Dallas Police Chief joked about quitting and becoming a Body Cam salesman to make more money.
Whenever the cameras are deployed, I believe the videos they provide will make it easier to defend people accused of domestic violence. Many law enforcement officers just can’t resist the urge to write reports that twist and/or embellish the truth. I understand that police officers feel the need to justify a warrantless arrest, but do they really need to pretend that one person is evil incarnate and the other is an innocent flower? The truth usually helps the defense in assault cases.
Eric Copeland of the Austin Police Department was suspended for 90 days for violating department policy with his use of a Taser.
When the Austin Police Department falsely accuses a regular citizen of committing a crime, they are usually protected from a lawsuit by the doctrine of Sovereign Immunity.
However, when APD officers falsely accuse each other of crime, they can file a lawsuit based on employment law or contract law.
I’ve been on my soapbox again lately about the unpleasant topic of police misconduct.
A recent change in Texas law is giving criminal defense attorneys even greater access to evidence and information gathered in the course of criminal investigations than we had before. Unfortunately, the deeper we dig into the behavior of law enforcement, the more problems we uncover.
Prosecutors share the blame for this type of police misconduct because they allow it to continue. They are in the best position to identify the bad behavior and they have the tools to correct it. But many prosecutors seem more inclined to ignore it or even cover it up. The problem is, like most people, prosecutors would rather not think about the problem. They convince themselves that police officers are more honest and fair than ordinary humans.
I’m pretty outspoken about police misconduct and sometimes get the feeling that my audience doesn’t appreciate my insights. It leaves me with the same vaguely uncomfortable feeling that one gets after committing a faux pas. And I suppose that I have.
Speaking the truth is frequently impolite. But I find this truth impossible to ignore.
In Austin, it will soon be a violation of city ordinance to use hand-held electronic devices while driving or cycling. Distracted driving is a legitimate concern but I’m not sure it’s a good idea to give police officers yet another means to have “reasonable suspicion” for stopping drivers who aren’t actually violating any traffic laws. It’s still perfectly legal to eat, smoke and adjust the radio while driving, after all.