Ex-Jailer Fired After Inmate Death Sues to Get Job Back

Categories: Courts

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Taylor says if the guy who threw the punch was rehired, he should be too.
A Harris County detention officer fired in the wake of an inmate death is suing Sheriff Adrian Garcia and the Civil Service Commission in a bid to get his job back.

Christopher Taylor claims that he was unfairly singled out, because two other officers fired after the 2011 incident were later rehired. One of those officers punched the inmate -- a 72-year-old man with a history of schizophrenia -- who later died at Ben Taub, according to the suit, filed Tuesday.

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Appeals Court Strikes Down "Improper Photography" Law

Categories: Courts

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chris white
A Texas appeals court has ruled the state can't ban "improper photography" in public places, striking down a sweeping law that criminalized photos taken in public "with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person."

Like many free speech battles, the underlying case that triggered the ruling involves some rather creepy behavior. San Antonio prosecutors charged Ronald Thompson, a middle-aged Kentucky man, with "improper photography" alleging that in 2011 parents at a local SeaWorld waterpark found him swimming with and snapping photos of children in their bathing suits. "It's not a bunch of kids with smiles on their faces and that's it. I don't think you have a First Amendment privilege to invade someone's sexuality," Bexar County DA Susan Reed told the local paper when the case was appealed last year.


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Sheriff Unwittingly Rehires Investigator Forced Out by DA's Office

Categories: Courts, Crime

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Failure to communicate, indeed...
The curious case of Ruben Carrizal -- the investigator forced out of the Harris County District Attorney's Affice for misconduct only to be rehired by the sheriff's office three days later -- just didn't seem right to us when we first saw KPRC's report earlier this week. We just didn't understand how failing to get a judge's signature on a search warrant on a murder case, executing that search warrant, and then tampering with the search warrant to make it look legit wasn't enough to keep Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia from re-hiring someone as a homicide investigator.

Turns out what we've got here is a failure to communicate. According to sheriff's officials, the Harris County District Attorney's Office never told them about allegations against Carrizal before they re-hired him days after the DA's office let him resign in lieu of firing him over him backdating a search warrant.

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Attorney for Death-Row Inmate Slams State Secrecy on Eve of Execution

Categories: Courts

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Wikimedia Commons
As is typical before any scheduled execution, attorneys for death-row inmate Willie Trottie are fighting the clock. As Trottie - a Harris County man convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend and her brother in 1993 - awaits his date with the country's most active death chamber tomorrow, his appellate attorneys are fighting a battle that now seems to accompany every execution: Trottie's attorneys want detailed information about the drug Texas will use to carry out the ultimate punishment, which the state refuses to provide.

Texas, like many other death penalty states, says the source of its execution drug of choice - the sedative pentobarbital - can and should remain secret. Attorneys for death-row inmates insist the number of botched executions this year in other death-penalty states has made knowing the source and potency of those drugs all the more important. But in recent weeks, as Trottie's attorneys feverishly sought any info on Texas' current batch of pentobarbital (which is still of unknown origin), it looks like the Texas Department of Criminal Justice tried to run out the clock.

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Court Scolds Greg Abbott for Midnight Appeal on Abortion Ruling

Categories: Courts

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Francisco Montes
When Federal District Court Judge Lee Yeakel knocked down a key component of the Texas' tough new abortion law Friday, we all knew Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott would immediately appeal the ruling. Apparently we underestimated just how quickly Abbott could pull together his argument.

While Abbott filed a notice of appeal with the federal Fifth Circuit appeals court Friday just after Yeakel's ruling, he apparently waited until midnight Sunday to actually send over his emergency motion asking for permission to implement the law this week. Had Abbott succeeded, more than half of the state's remaining clinics would have shuttered this week.

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Texas Supreme Court Rules in Internet Smear Case

Categories: Courts

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Jeremy Brooks
The Texas Supreme Court last week issued a ruling that could change how Texas lawyers fight defamation in the internet age.

The State Supremes ruled in the case of Robert Kinney, a Texas legal recruiter for BCG Attorney Search, Inc. who left the firm in 2004 to start a competing venture. Some time later, BCG's president Andrew Barnes posted a warning of sorts on the websites JDJournal.com and Employmentcrossing.com accusing Kinney of taking part in a kick-back scheme while at BCG. Barnes claimed he'd uncovered evidence that Kinney attempted to pay a recruiter at competing firms under the table to hire one of his candidates. Barnes says he fired Kinney immediately upon discovering the kickback scheme.

Kinney insists that's all false. The case landed in Travis County court when Kinney sued Barnes, BCG and two subsidiaries for defamation. The case entered questionable First Amendment territory when Kinney asked the court for a permanent injunction ordering Barnes to remove the (allegedly, since his case hasn't yet been decided) defamatory statements from his websites, to contact any third-party publishers and ask them to scrub the defamatory statements from their websites, to "conspicuously post a copy" of the court order on Barnes' website, to publicly retract said defamatory statements, and to issue a letter of apology that would appear on Barnes' website for six months. (Kinney has since dropped his request for an apology and retraction from Barnes.)


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Houston Man Gets 20 Years in Synthetic-Drug Case

Categories: Courts

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We wonder what Scootdog makes of all this.
The supposed mastermind behind a Houston-based synthetic drug distributorship linked to the deaths of two teens in Minnesota and North Dakota has been sentenced to more than 20 years in prison.

Charles Carlton, sentenced in a North Dakota federal court August 28, was the 15th defendant sentenced in the multi-state "Operation Stolen Youth" investigation by the DEA, FDA, IRS, and Homeland Security. Carlton's business partner, John Polinski, was sentenced to 11 years in July.

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85-Year-Old Woman, a.k.a. "No Soul," Pleads Guilty to Ordering Hit on Prosecutors

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MCSO
Dorothy Clark Canfield might look like your grandmother, but in lockup she had an ominous nickname: "No Soul."

Canfield, 85, apparently picked up the moniker after being jailed in Montgomery County in 2012 on charges that she swindled undocumented immigrants out of $100,000 after posing as an immigration attorney. It was while she was in jail for that felony theft charge that she hatched a darker plan, according to authorities.

Two of Canfield's former cellmates testified Thursday in a Montgomery County court that Canfield asked them to help her "knock off" Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Rob Freyer, who was handling her theft case, according to a report in the Chron.

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Trial Set for Case Against Bellaire Cop Who Shot Unarmed Black Man

Categories: Courts

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A federal judge has set a trial date for the civil suit against a white Bellaire police officer who shot an unarmed black man in his parents' driveway.

A federal magistrate on Wednesday put Robbie Tolan's lawsuit against Bellaire police officer Jeffrey Cotton on course for a September 2015 trial, court records show. Tolan's family filed the lawsuit in 2009 shortly after a jury acquitted Cotton on state charges of first-degree aggravated assault. The civil suit had stalled until a May 2014 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that overturned a lower court ruling dismissing the claims against Cotton. In June, a three-judge panel on the federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals sent the case back to the trial court, paving the way for an eventual courtroom showdown.

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Judge Hears Motions in Facebook "Threat" Case

Categories: Courts

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Josh Huskin
Don Flanary says Justin Carter did not commit a crime.
The charge against Justin Carter, the New Braunfels teen accused of making a terroristic threat on Facebook, should be dropped because a detective lied in an affidavit, Carter's lawyer argued in Comal County District Court Tuesday.

Carter made international headlines when Carter, then 18, was charged in April 2013 for allegedly writing "I think I'ma shoot up a kindergarten" during a Facebook conversation, landing him in jail on a $500,000 bond.

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