Suspected Spring Shooter Collapses in Court [UPDATED]

Categories: Courts, Crime

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Harris County Sheriff's Office
Updated: This story was updated to include a statement from a father of one of the victims.

It can be tough to face reality. The man accused of killing six members of his ex-wife's family collapsed in court Friday morning upon hearing the allegations against him, according to reports.

The Associated Press reported that Ronald Lee Haskill, who, according to the Harris County Sheriff's Office, killed six people at a north Harris County home Wednesday, fell to the ground twice during a probable cause hearing -- losing blood in his face while his knees buckled. According to the AP, he was eventually wheeled out of the courtroom and is being treated in the Harris County Jail.

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Municipal Courts Offering Alcohol, Tobacco Education Programs

Categories: Courts, Education

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Photo by SuperFantastic

Hey rebel teenagers in trouble with the law, have a minor in possession of alcohol, minor in possession of tobacco, or public intoxication charge you have to deal with? Look no further than the City of Houston Municipal Courts Department to help you.

The Municipal Courts Department is now offering alcohol education programs for minors, and Texas Tobacco Awareness Program education to minors via the Juvenile Case Manager Program. The courses will satisfy judgments that require alcohol or tobacco education for lawbreakers hit with minor in possession of alcohol, tobacco or public intoxication charges handed out in any state court.

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Leah Purcell: Former Spindletop Owner Arrested for Illegal Dumping

Categories: Courts

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Let this be a stern warning to all y'all alleged illegal dumpers!
Former Spindletop Dog Refuge owner Leah Purcell was arrested July 5 in connection with an illegal dumping charge.

The Texas Department of Public Safety was the arresting agency, but we have no further information regarding the arrest. We're waiting to hear from the Montgomery County District Attotney's Office, which obtained an indictment against Purcell in April 2014.

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New Mustachioed Taxis Under Legal Pressure Pending City Hall Vote [UPDATED]

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Photo from Lyft
Lyft's trademark pink mustache marks ordinary cars as providers of a peer-to-peer ridesharing service that traditional taxi companies call "cheating."
Updated 7/3: This story has been updated with info from a Lyft spokesperson.

Alternative West Coast taxi companies Lyft and Uber have finally deployed in Houston with the reputation of establishing dozens of successful operations throughout the country -- and warding off ample legal protest from local cabbies.

Houston City Council members will weigh criticism from traditional Houston taxi companies summarized in an April lawsuit against Uber and Lyft, in which a long list of transportation services accused the competition of illegally operating uninsured vehicles for hire without obtaining licenses, paying attending fees and charging regular rates.

Lyft and Uber both carry liability insurance of $1 million per incident.

For customers, the trade-off for the security of riding with a licensed driver is simple: cheaper service.

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No to Four Kinds of Contraception for Employees of Hobby Lobby's 15 Houston Stores [Updated]

Categories: Courts

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Photo by Nicholas Eckhart

This story was updated to include a statement from Governor Rick Perry and to shed some light on exactly what kind of contraceptives we're talking about here.

Hobby Lobby has 15 stores in the Greater Houston Area, and none of them will have to offer insurance coverage for birth control methods the company equates to abortion.

The Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 protects corporations with a limited number of shareholders from providing insurance coverage for such contraception under the Affordable Care Act.


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The Finnisher's Strange Story Continues

Categories: Courts, Crime

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Screenshot from abc13.com

Remember the Finnisher? Remember the guy who tackled an armed robber and then capitalized on it with a super-duper cheesy car dealership ad?

This ad:

Well, he's struck again. ABC13 earlier this week reported that RIk Melartin was arrested for bribery and DWI in Galveston County. He blew almost twice the legal limit.

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Houston Lawyer Calls SCOTUS Decision on Smartphone Search a Good Thing (Of Course)

Categories: Courts

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Photo by West Midlands Police
You cell is safe from police search, without a warrant.
If you've ever wondered if, when you get into trouble, cops can just run up in your smartphone and start looking at your pictures, and emails and stuff then you can thank the Supreme Court for helping to protect your rights.

The court ruled unanimously today that cops cannot search your phone after they stop you. In most cases, they'll need a warrant.

Here's a summation from the court:

Modern cell phones are not just another technological convenience. The fact that technology now allows an individual to carry such information in his hand
does not make the information any less worthy of the protection for which the Founders fought. Our answer to the question of what police must do before searching a cell
phone seized incident to an arrest is accordingly simple -- get a warrant.

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UPDATED: Time Running Out for Charges in Spindletop Dog Refuge Case

Categories: Courts

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The clock is ticking.
Update -- June 27: Katie Jarl, Texas director of the Humane Society of the United States has given us a statement that makes us even more puzzled about what has taken Holifield so long. She tells us in an email that "part of our assistance involved documenting the condition of the dogs through medical exams and photographs. These records were organized in binders and included each animal's individual medical exam and multiple photographs....of all obvious injuries. Every photo shows the animal and their unique identifying number. This documentation was turned over to the country directly following the seizure."

Moreover, Jarl says, "Final documentation -- the expert veterinary statement -- was given to the county more than one year ago."

She adds: "The HSUS believes the evidence collected warrants cruelty charges and has reached out on several occasions since the seizure to offer further assistance." Specifically, she says, "We spoke with Holifield on multiple occasions and each time reiterated to let us know if we could be of further assistance regarding the case."

If it's true that Holifield had well-organized medical reports and photographs shortly after the seizure and has been sitting on expert veterinary testimony for more than a year, what could possibly account for this delay?

Update -- June 26: We heard back from Montgomery County First Assistant District Attorney Phil Grant, who tells us "Our office has aggressively prosecuted animal abuse cases (for example the donkey dragging case) over the last few years, and we will review the Spindletop case with the same eye. We cannot review it, however, until we get a completed investigation. We look forward to reviewing that offense report when it is referred to our office. I will reach out to [investigator Tim Holifield's] office this morning to see if there is anything our office can do to expedite the investigation."

We don't believe the January 2014 conviction of Marc Saunders for dragging a donkey behind his SUV is analogous to the Spindletop case. In that case -- which took 15 months to go to trial -- the animal survived, and the physical evidence and witnesses statements were overwhelming. We find it inconceivable that any prosecutor could actually lose such a case. In a complex case like Spindletop, involving alleged mistreatment of hundreds of dogs over a period of years, and an allegation of 38 dogs actually baking to death in a building, a little more investigative and prosecutorial effort might be required.

Update: We want to point out that the statute of limitations for misdemeanor animal cruelty charges is two years. However, a state jail felony charge has a three-year statute of limitations.

If Montgomery County authorities wish to file animal cruelty charges against Spindletop dog refuge owner Leah Purcell, they only have three weeks left: July 17 marks the expiration of the two year statute of limitations.

That will be the anniversary of the day sheriff's deputies and personnel from the Humane Society of the United States seized nearly 300 dogs from Purcell's facility in Willis, where authorities say the dogs were found living in filthy conditions. Investigators also learned that approximately 38 dogs asphyxiated in a building on the property that lacked air conditioning.


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"The Rooster" Is Back in Houston, This Time Against His Will

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Photo by Jim Bahn

A Mexican national notorious for trafficking women in the Houston area landed in the United States yesterday and will face charges from the U.S. Attorney's Office relating to his smuggling of women.

Gerardo Salazar, 47, of Mexico City, arrived in Houston yesterday after being arrested in Mexico. He will make his initial appearance before a U.S. Magistrate Judge Friday.


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Lawsuit: Houston Man Blind in One Eye After CVS Gives Him Eardrops Instead of Eyedrops

Categories: Courts

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Photo by Michael (a.k.a. moik)
CVS is being blamed for blinding a Houston man, according to court records.
A Houston man is suing CVS Caremark for allegedly screwing up his prescription, giving him eardrops instead of eyedrops, causing him to go blind in one eye.

Claudis Alston picked up the prescription from a CVS pharmacy at 12601 Tomball Parkway in 2012. But instead of the eyedrops meant for treating his pinkeye, the 64-year-old Alston received a solution used to treat ear infections, the suit claims.

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