How Will Henri Morris Defend Himself Against Claims He Drugged and Molested an Employee He's Already Admitted to Drugging and Molesting?

Categories: Courts, Crime

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screenshot via KPRC

On a Wednesday morning last December, 67-year-old Henri Morris sat slumped over in his chair at a defense table inside the federal courthouse in downtown Houston. Morris listened intently, occasionally shaking his head as his attorney quietly talked him through a plea deal he'd arranged with federal prosecutors.

The day before, jurors had listened to opening statements that previewed the nauseating details of the case against Morris: How Morris, former CEO of the local tech company Edible Software, asked younger female employees to accompany him on business trips; how Morris insisted on pouring the women drinks that tasted unusually, bitterly strong; how women who traveled with Morris kept blacking out; how some awoke disoriented and naked in hotel rooms alone with Morris; and how, upon executing a search warrant, FBI investigators found date-rape drugs in Morris's luggage and photos of nude, incapacitated women on his thumb drives.

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Judge: Anti-HERO Signatures Shy of Referendum, But There Are Still More to Count

Categories: Courts

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Flickr/torbackhopper HE DEAD
Come Mr. Tally Man, tally me signatures.
Opponents of the city's equal rights ordinance are still about 3,000 signatures short of the amount required for a referendum, the Houston Chronicle is reporting. But 8,500 more signatures are still to be reviewed for authenticity.

A coalition of conservatives who opposed the bill submitted what they said were enough valid signatures last year, but city officials questioned the legitimacy of many of the signatures, and said the ordinance's opponents fell short. The opponents sued the city, and a jury found in March that their petition "contained forgery and other flaws."

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Texas Finds a New Drug Dealer

Categories: Courts, Crime

Texas prison officials said Wednesday they've acquired a new "small supply" of pentobarbital, the barbiturate Texas uses to execute prisoners by lethal injection, according to the AP. That means Texas has at least enough lethal-injection drugs on hand to kill all four prisoners slated for execution in April.

And, as is becoming standard practice in death penalty states across the country, Texas won't disclose the supplier of its new batch of death drugs.

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Animal "Crush" Couple Will Again Face Federal Charges

Categories: Courts

Going back to federal court.
The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to review an appeal in what's believed to be the first prosecution of an animal torture video under a 2010 statute, meaning the Houston couple accused of producing "crush" videos will once again face federal prosecution.

Ashley Richards and Brent Justice also faced state animal cruelty charges for the actions depicted in one of many gruesome videos they sold to consumers; Richards pleaded guilty in 2013 and sentenced to ten years. She's expected to testify against Justice, whose trial is set for May 1.

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TDCJ Is Running Out of Execution Drugs. Again.

Categories: Courts, Crime

Photo by Ken Piorkowski

Manuel Vasquez, once an enforcer for the Mexican Mafia, was sentenced to die by lethal injection in 1999 for beating and strangling a San Antonio woman who failed to pay the gang's "dime," a 10 percent kick-back on drug sales. Tonight, if all goes as planned, he'll die after Texas prison officials shoot a large dose of compounded pentobarbital, a powerful barbiturate, into his veins.

Randall Wayne Mays, who in 2008 was convicted and sentenced to death for killing two Henderson County lawmen, will meet the same fate as Vasquez on March 18. After that, it's up in the air how or if Texas prison officials will kill the five remaining death-row inmates scheduled for lethal injection over the next two months.

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HPD Doesn't Need a Warrant to Track Your Cell Phone (Nor Should They, Says Prosecutor)

Categories: Courts, Tech

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Matthew Pearce via Flickr creative commons
Back in September, HPD officer James Taylor lamented how the Edward Snowden leaks had spooked the public into thinking that even local law enforcement agencies were part of a broad, indiscriminate surveillance dragnet that gathers data on unsuspecting Americans.

"We are not the NSA nor the federal government," the HPD officer told members of a Senate State Affairs Committee. A PowerPoint slide he'd prepared for the occasion flashed up on the screen: "STATE AND LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT DO NOT 'SNOOP!'"

Maybe, maybe not. The problem, privacy advocates say, is we don't know. What we do know -- actually, what we've known for quite some time -- is that HPD has the technology to sweep up cell phone data in real time, deploying a device that essentially mimics a cell phone tower and tricks your phone into communicating with it. And, according to local prosecutors -- who, it should be noted, admit they don't know how local cops are using the technology, either -- HPD doesn't need a warrant to use it.

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The State Killed Cameron Todd Willingham, But His Case Won't Die

At this point, more than a decade after Cameron Todd Willingham's 2004 execution for the arson deaths of his three young daughters in Corsicana, there's something marrow-deep exhausting about the whole saga. Willingham went to his execution protesting his innocence, and in the years that have followed his death, the case has routinely reappeared in the news cycle with new revelations about either the junk arson science or the key witness used to convict him. The stories just keep coming.

Right now the focus is on the key witness against Willingham, Johnny Webb, and a letter that indicates the lead prosecutor on the case may have made a deal with Webb in exchange for Webb's testimony, according to a new report from the Marshall Project.

For years John Jackson, the lead prosecutor in Willingham's case, insisted that Webb wasn't coached on his testimony and that he got no special treatment or perks of any kind for agreeing to testify against Willingham. Webb ultimately testified that Willingham had confessed to the murders while they were in lockup together. That jailhouse confession, coupled with the "arson science" of the time, eventually led to Willingham's conviction and death sentence.

However, in addition to everything uncovered last year in a story by Maurice Possley, published by the Washington Post and the Marshall Project, a new letter written by Webb has surfaced, Possley now reports.

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Animal Cruelty Charge Filed in Dog Park Shooting

Categories: Courts

Facebook screenshot
An animal cruelty charge has been filed against a man who shot and killed a dog at a Clear Lake-area dog park in January.

Joseph Potts, 27, is not yet in custody, according to a Harris County Sheriff's Office press release. But the real lesson here, according to what has to be the most tone-deaf press release of the year so far, is to keep your dog or cat "under restraint."

That's right: the take-away from this unfortunate incident is not that you shouldn't fire a gun multiple times at a dog park, but to make sure your dog is on a leash. Even at a dog park.

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Fifth Circuit Court Disses Houston Federal Judge, Reassigns Case

Categories: Courts

What a cluster...
In January, we took issue with U.S. District Court Judge Lynn Hughe's bizarre ruling in a suit against a Houston police officer who shot and killed an unarmed man in 2011, and now the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is taking issue with another Hughes ruling.

Texas Lawyer reports that, "in an extremely rare move," the circuit court has for the second time reversed Hughes' decision in a suit accusing Shell Exploration of withholding at least $19 million in royalties owed to the U.S. government -- only this time the higher court has ordered the case remanded to a different judge.

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Family of Woman Injured in Houston Rodeo Golf Cart Accident Settles

Categories: Courts


Just over two years after Bonnie Herndon was injured in a golf cart accident at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo in February 2013, the Herndon family has settled.

Herndon and her husband attended the Toby Keith concert that was put on in conjunction with the 2013 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo on opening night. After the show ended, the couple used the golf cart transportation service to return to their parked vehicle. Herndon was in the front seat with the driver and her husband was in the row behind her. The driver, operating on behalf of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, made a quick left turn, ejecting Herndon from the modified golf cart where she landed head-first on the pavement of the Reliant Stadium (now NRG) parking lot.

Herndon suffered a serious head injury and has remained comatose ever since.

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