Houston Lawyer Sues Downstairs Neighbor for 42 Alleged Nights of Sleeplessness

Categories: Courts

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There's nothing romantic or cute about THIS sleeplessness....
The ancient Hebrews may have spent 40 days and 40 nights in the desert while Moses chewed the fat with God, but we assume they managed to work in at least 40 winks when they weren't partying with that golden calf.

Houston attorney Kiri Martin, on the other hand, accuses her maniacal downstairs neighbor of depriving her of sleep for 42 torturous nights, making her turn to tranquilizers to drown out the dude's outbursts of "AWWW!" and "UUHHHH!," not to mention his insistence on "whistling like a songbird" whenever Martin is home. These and other shocking allegations are detailed in Martin's January 30 lawsuit seeking up to $100,000. You simply have to read this shit.

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Conservative Group: Executing Mentally Ill Killer Undermines Public Faith in Justice System

Categories: Courts

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Courtesy Texas Defender Service
A group of self-described conservative policy experts and "thought leaders" say that executing a mentally ill Texas murderer would violate the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment and undermine public trust in the justice system.

Calling themselves the "National Conservative Movement Leaders," the group -- which includes the former attorneys general of Virginia and New Mexico, the Reagan-era chief of the Office of Management and Budget, and an opinion editor with the right-leaning Washington Times -- filed a legal brief in support of death-row inmate Scott Panetti Wednesday. In its brief, the group urged the federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to grant Panetti's legal team's request for a new mental health evaluation in order to bolster their claim that Panetti is indeed too insane to be executed.

The brief is just the latest in the mind-bending debate over whether Panetti, a man with a history of treatment for mental illness who ruthlessly shotgunned his mother- and father-in-law to death in 1992, is competent enough for the ultimate punishment.

See also: Mentally Ill Death Row Inmate Scott Panetti Isn't Too Mentally Ill to Be Executed

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Family of Man Killed in Conroe Workplace Explosion Awarded $29 Million

Categories: Courts

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Rickie Kelley
Photo courtesy of the Kelley family
The family of an oilfield services worker killed on the job by an explosion of an industrial battery was awarded $29 million by a Houston jury on Wednesday.

On July 30, 2011, Garland Rickie Kelley was working at Professional Directional Enterprises in Conroe when a lithium thionyl chloride battery exploded. Kelley, 38, ultimately died from injuries he suffered in the explosion. He was married and had three children.

Kelley's family alleged that the battery was improperly heated to extend its life for use in an oilfield downhole-drilling tool and was known to be defective. Company officials claimed during a federal investigation of the incident that Kelley and all other employees had been given training materials for their work and then went a step further implying that Kelley was to blame for the accident because he didn't follow the alleged written instructions, according to court documents.

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UPDATED Leah Purcell, Spindletop Owner, Won't Serve Time or Pay a Fine

Categories: Courts

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Way to go, Montgomery County prosecutors -- you guys sure made the public proud.

Update, Feb. 6: See the end for a statement from Katie Jarl, director of the Texas division of the Humane Society of the U.S.

Update, Feb. 5: See the end of the original post for a statement from First Assistant District Attorney Phil Grant.

The owner of a shuttered dog refuge where 38 dogs baked to death in an un-air-conditioned building, and nearly 300 dogs were seized after they were found living in feces-smeared cages will not spend a single day in jail or pay one cent in fines, thanks to a plea agreement with Montgomery County prosecutors.

Spindletop owner Leah Purcell's lone felony animal cruelty charge was dismissed, and two of her four misdemeanor cruelty charges were also dropped Tuesday. She was sentenced to 30 days in jail for two remaining cruelty charges, as well as a misdemeanor charge for illegal dumping, but she was given credit for the time she served in Montgomery County Jail following her July 2014 arrest.


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Texas Workforce Commission Accuses Neighborhood Group of Racial Discrimination

Categories: Courts

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Google streetview
Mosbey's Northwood Park home/business

Shortly after buying some property in the Spring subdivision of Northwood Park in September 2003, James Mosbey opened up a small car wash and a "personal training and nutritional counseling" business out of his home, posting billboards outside the house and signs around the yard to advertise. Those signs sat outside for a decade without any issue or complaint, Mosbey claims. Then, in 2013, the neighborhood tried to force him out.

Mosbey's problem, according to a lawsuit filed by the Texas Workforce Commission last week, was that he just so happens to be black.


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Group Calls for Federal Inquiry Into Jordan Baker's Death

Categories: Courts

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Courtesy of Janet Baker
The Houston Justice Coalition has started an online petition on Change.org calling for a federal inquiry into the officer-involved shooting death of 26-year-old Jordan Baker last year.

The online petition was posted on Saturday and had collected 160 signatures as of Tuesday afternoon. Justice Coalition members say they want to collect 10,000 signatures in hopes of pressuring the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate Baker's death.

"We know that Jordan Baker's life is at least worth a trail," Houston Justice Coalition co-founder Durrel Douglas said. "We're hoping that by gathering 10,000 petitions we can pressure the Justice Department to take a look not just at the shooting, but everything that came after. To look at all the evidence of the case all the way through to the grand jury decision."

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Brent Justice: "Crush" Video Isn't Torture -- It's Kosher!

Categories: Courts

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Justice's argument is meshuggah.
The Houston man going to trial Feb. 6 for producing and selling animal torture videos is arguing that a dog hacked to death by a meat clever and knife in one of the videos was not tortured, but killed humanely using kosher slaughter methods.

Brent Justice's partner in the videos, Ashley Richards, 23, pleaded guilty to three counts of animal cruelty in 2013 and is expected to testify against Justice. Richards was sentenced to ten years in prison.The two were also charged under a revised federal statute banning "crush" videos. Those charges are under appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court. Justice remains in Harris County Jail, in lieu of $50,000 bond.

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Judge's Opinion in HPD Shooting Death Isn't Tethered to the Facts

Categories: Courts

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Sergeant Curtis W. Hampton was cleared in the shooting of Blake Pate.
A Houston federal court judge based his recent dismissal of a wrongful death case on a misreading of toxicology results, relying on HPD's Internal Affairs officers' use of Wikipedia to determine drug levels, and chiding the plaintiffs for questioning the judgment of the officer at the center of the case, a man who once assaulted a woman -- a fellow officer -- to such an extent that she had to bite his penis in order to escape his home and call 911.

According to the Houston Press' reading of documents filed by Patsy Pate, whose son Blake Pate was shot to death by an HPD sergeant on Christmas Day in 2011, some HPD authorities coddled a man with a history of sexual violence toward his fellow officers. After Patsy Pate raised the issue of how those officers said Hampton made them fear for their lives, the judge admonished her by writing off Hampton's predatory behavior as "character assault." Yet Hampton's record speaks for itself -- not character assault, but character description. The officer's lack of judgment in those incidents dovetail with a judge's bizarrely written opinion dismissing Pate's wrongful death case and call into question just what happened the night Sgt. Curtis Hampton shot Blake Pate to death.


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UPDATED Texas Uses Of Mice and Men Standards to Execute Mentally Disabled Man

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Photo courtesy of the ACLU
Robert Ladd

Update 1/30/15 at 8:00 a.m.: Last night, Texas prison officials executed Robert Ladd for the brutal murder of Vicki Ann Garner. Ladd's time of death was 7:02 p.m., 27 minutes after officials administered lethal-injection drugs.

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Original Story

Barring a last-minute intervention from the U.S. Supreme Court, Texas will execute a man with an IQ score of 67 tonight.

Robert Ladd is scheduled for execution by lethal injection at 6 p.m. Thursday for the 1996 murder of Vicki Ann Garner. This is despite the fact that the Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that executing a mentally disabled person for murder is unconstitutional. Stranger still, Texas has once again used standards derived from John Steinbeck's classic 1937 novella, Of Mice and Men, to justify executing a man that meets the clinical definition of intellectually disabled.

"Anywhere else in the country, Mr. Ladd's IQ of 67 would have meant a life sentence, not death," Brian Stull, Ladd's attorney, said in a statement. "But the Texas courts insist on severely misjudging his intellectual capacity, relying on standards for gauging intelligence crafted from 'Of Mice and Men' and other sources that have nothing to do with science or medicine. Robert Ladd's fate shouldn't depend on a novella."

And yet.

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Why Do People Plead Guilty to Drug Crimes When They Don't Have Drugs?

Categories: Courts, Crime

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iT@C via flickr
In its annual report released this week, the National Registry of Exonerations highlights a troubling oddity of the criminal justice system that's become more visible in Harris County than perhaps anywhere else in the country: People convicted of drug crimes in cases where there's no evidence of a controlled substance.

Back in October, the Houston Press received copies of hundreds of notices the Harris County District Attorney's Office sent out to defendants who'd pleaded guilty to drug offenses, telling them that forensic lab reports ultimately showed they were "convicted in error." In some of those cases, testing showed a lesser quantity of the drug than they were convicted for (the difference between, say, class A and class B misdemeanor possession). But in many of those cases, lab reports simply showed there was no controlled substance whatsoever.

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