Misconduct in Texas: Prosecutors failed to tell defense that state witnesses were paid thousands

There’s evidence of misconduct in Harris County, Texas, after prosecutors failed to disclose that three of the state’s witnesses in a related case had been paid to testify.
Vernon Brooks and Joseph Bailey are accused of murdering Sergio Saldana in 2012. Bailey was tried and convicted of murder in February 2015, due in part to the testimony of three informants. According to the Houston Chronicle:

Before trial, [Prosecutor Sarah] Mickelson acknowledged that she intended to put several informants on the stand and said they did not receive any benefit for their testimony, according to Bailey’s attorney, Mike Trent.
“We specifically had a pretrial hearing regarding this subject,” Trent said. “And [Mickelson] assured the court that no promises of leniency or other benefit had been made to any of the witnesses.”

Trent said he asked if there were any “paid” informants and was told no. He said the testimony

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Religious right freaks out ahead of vote on Houston’s LGBT nondiscrimination measure

Houston is considering adding nondiscrimination protections for the city’s LGBT population (among others) via a ballot measure Nov. 3, and the wing nuts are obsessing over bathrooms. They want ultimate control over who pees where. It’s very important to them and they’ve put together a video warning that passing the equal rights ordinance means registered sex offenders will start following young girls into bathrooms.

“Any man at any time could enter a woman’s bathroom simply by claiming to be a woman that day,” the video claims. “Even registered sex offenders could follow women or young girls into the bathroom.”

Yep, that’s right. Protecting LGBT people from discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations means that registered sex offenders will suddenly become predatory. Not passing those protections means they won’t be predatory and everyone will be safe.
The video was created by the “Campaign for Houston,” which opposes

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Ted Cruz contemplates bringing back ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) addresses a Tea Party rally against the Iran nuclear deal at the U.S. Capitol in Washington September 9, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst - RTSD7W

Ted Cruz thinks the military really needs to concentrate on two goals:
1) killing bad guys
2) kicking out people who don’t meet his standards regardless of whether they’re good at killing bad guys.

Here’s the ever-enlightened Cruz Monday commenting on the military’s efforts to scrap its prohibition of transgender service as he courted right wingers in Iowa:

“How about having the military focusing on hunting down and killing the bad guys … instead of treating it as this crucible for social justice innovations. We’ve lost sight of what their job is and that’s what we need to get back to.”

Cruz, of all people, is perhaps the least qualified person to be critiquing who’s lost sight of what their job is. Perhaps, he should get to work on passing some bills. Or perhaps he’s content with that one he passed that one time. Or perhaps there just isn’t time

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Black councilman tased by police in small town where Sandra Bland died

picture of councilman miller about to be tased by police in prairie view

Remember Prairie View, Texas? That’s the small town where Sandra Bland was arrested during a traffic stop in July. After she was found dead in a jail cell three days later, law enforcement claimed she committed suicide. Many, including Bland’s family and friends, weren’t so sure. And now Prairie View cops are in the news again, this time for tasing a black city councilman. The Washington Post reports:

“Bodycam footage from two of the officers involved released Sunday shows the council member, 26-year-old Jonathan Miller, talking with police on Thursday night. Several of his fraternity brothers had just left his house to practice a step routine ahead of homecoming, according to local TV station KHOU, when officers stopped them to question them about drug activity.”

According to KHOU, one of the officers said, “There’s been drug activity, little girls and little guys in the car doing whatever, so

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Yet another problem with body cameras—’confidential’ footage

body camera on Bremerton police officer

Among the hurried championing of body cameras as the solution to police brutality, many activists and experts have approached the idea with caution. And as body cameras are increasingly implemented, such hesitation has proved warranted. A growing body of evidence indicates that body cameras alone are not sufficient to create sustainable change. Among other problems, a lack of transparency and of intra-departmental accountability creates massive barriers for citizens seeking justice.
A story published on Thursday in The Washington Post describes just how difficult it can be to get access to body camera footage.

Nationwide, police have shot and killed more than 750 people since January, according to a Washington Post database tracking every fatal shooting. Of those, The Post has found 49 incidents captured by body camera, or about 6 percent.
Just 21 of those videos—less than half—have been publicly released. And in several of those cases, the footage […]

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Missouri’s ‘Prosecutor of the Year’ is the same guy who failed to indict Darren Wilson

St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch announces the grand jury's decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the August 9 shooting death on Michael Brown at the Buzz Westfall Justice Center in Clayton, Missouri, November 24, 2

In August 2014, a white cop named Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager. Police left Brown’s dead body in the middle of the road for four hours. After protesters across the nation demanded accountability, Wilson was indicted for murder. But the following November, a smirking prosecutor announced on national television that a grand jury had decided not to indict.
There was a satisfied look smeared across Bob McCulloch’s face as he announced that the case would not go forward, which was slightly confusing. After all, it was his job to secure an indictment, and here he was standing up in front of the nation admitting his failure and smiling about it.  

It became clear fairly quickly, however, that McCulloch hadn’t been interested in actually getting an indictment at all. Turns out his actions were unusual for a prosecuting attorney in a grand jury hearing:

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Republicans can win blacks! First step, stop hating blacks

Former Republican Rep. Gary Franks on a local TV show

You want African Americans to vote GOP? Fix your party first.

Adorable

Gary Franks, a former congressman from Connecticut who was the first black Republican elected to Congress in 60 years [aspires] to get the next Republican nominee 20–25 percent of the black vote. It is ambitious but not impossible, he thinks.

The solution? Charter schools! Less government regulation! Oh, and this:

You would think that conservatives would be all over [ending the drug war] considering that it destroys families and leaves children to be raised in single-family households.

That actually makes genuine, real sense, and shouldn’t be a partisan issue. So why aren’t Republicans jumping aboard the fight for a more equitable justice system? The author inadvertantly stumbles on the answer:

This is particularly true for low-income African-American families.

… and that’s why Republicans won’t embrace that, not when they’re celebrating executioner cops and George Zimmerman and Donald Trump. Theirs

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Mike Pence still hoping to preserve the right to discriminate against LGBT Americans

Gov. Mike Pence (R-IN)

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and basically everyone in the state knows that something has to be done next legislative session in order to repair the state’s image after Hoosier lawmakers passed legislation guaranteeing the right to discriminate against LGBT Americans.
So now Pence and his cronies are considering legislation—similar to what Utah passed earlier this year—that would still ensure the right to discriminate in public accommodations.

A source close to those meetings said the governor has reportedly been discussing what’s known as the “Utah Compromise” – a Utah law that prohibits discrimination in housing and employment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, but doesn’t create a special class for other purposes. 

Yeah, that’s not gonna cut it. The Utah law only worked in Utah because its laws around public accommodations and religious organizations are so peculiar—as explained here.
People who are actually trying to right the

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Finally: Juvenile justice reforms introduced in Michigan

mother holding kids hand in jail

After the widespread coverage of Michigan’s abuse of juveniles inmates—including stories of kids being housed with adults who raped and abused them—the state has decided to make some changes. From Huffington Post:

Michigan lawmakers are expected to introduce 21 bills this week that address prison treatment and criminal justice practices for kids in the adult corrections system. Some measures would ban placing youth in adult jails and prisons altogether.

Michigan automatically charges 17-year-olds as adults, and one of the bills would raise that age to 18. Another bill asks judges to consider certain factors before removing a kid from the juvenile system including the crime, other programming options, and the child’s culpability.  
Another two bills, introduced by a Republican state rep, would ban the placement of children in adult jails and prisons and require that they are in juvenile facilities and that those facilities offer services and treatment.

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Halfway to theocracy: 44 percent of Republicans want to make Christianity our official religion

From the party that’s constantly hollering about Freedumz!, this is hypocrisy at its worst. Nationwide, more than a third of Republicans say that Islam should be illegal in the United States, according to a new PPP poll provided exclusively to Daily Kos Elections. Nearly half—a 44 percent plurality—say Christianity should be our official religion.
So what about that pesky freedom of religion guaranteed by the Constitution? You know, that whole “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof?” Well, PPP asked about that too. And guess what? Just one in 20 Republicans admit to wanting to actually eliminate freedom of religion, even though so many of them had just espoused positions that would do exactly that!

Since we already know they don’t want freedom of religion for all people, we must interpret this to mean they only want

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Utah is reforming its criminal justice system, and it’s amazing

Judge's gavel

Lawmakers from Utah are using common sense to reform the state’s criminal justice system. A new bill, in effect as of October 1, changes the way the state handles criminal charges and convictions, and expands services that help rehabilitate offenders and reduce recidivism.
The bill, called the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, was conceived after the state decided to try to reduce prison population growth, rather than build another facility to accommodate more prisoners. According to Route Fifty:

“We were going to build a brand new prison,” said Ron Gordon, executive director of Utah’s Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice. “We started talking about building enough beds to replace the existing prison and then thought: If we are going to build 4,000, why not six and if not six, why not eight, let’s really take advantage of things and build a 10,000 bed facility?”
But before Gordon and other officials

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Republicans and Democrats unite in the civil rights battle for health care in North Carolina

Sreenshot: Belhaven NC Mayor Adam O'Neal at US Capitol rally

Republican Mayor of Belhaven N.C. Adam O’Neal of Belhaven, North Carolina speaks at rural healthcare rally, June 15, 2015 in Washington, D.C.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stated, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhuman because it often results in physical death,” after a meeting of the Medical Committee on Human Rights in 1966.  
Nearly 50 years later we see people across the U.S. still fighting the battle for their health care as extremist politicians in Congress continue to wage war against Obamacare, and state legislatures block Medicaid expansion, denying health care to hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens.

Rarely do we think of the struggle for health care as part of the ongoing civil rights movement, but it is a key element. Nowhere can we see that illustrated more clearly than

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View from the left—How progressive change happens and doesn’t

Climate activists

The climate change community had two big weeks in a row starting with Hillary Clinton finally coming out against the Keystone XL pipeline and then Shell Oil announcing that it would cease and desist drilling in the Arctic. They were both hard-fought wins. One proved that the pounding paddles of hundreds of “kayaktivists” can actually make a hundred-billion-dollar company blink and the other was yet another reminder that Democratic politicians often have to be backed into a corner before they do the right thing.
Hillary’s Keystone pronouncement came after she was asked a simple “yes” or “no” question by Drake University student Clio Cullison: Did she support construction of Keystone XL? Clinton responded in kind. “I oppose it,” she said, adding that she now felt she had a “responsibility” to tell voters. But it was a long time in coming, starting five years ago this month

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View from the left—How progressive change happens and doesn’t

Climate activists

The climate change community had two big weeks in a row starting with Hillary Clinton finally coming out against the Keystone XL pipeline and then Shell Oil announcing that it would cease and desist drilling in the Arctic. They were both hard-fought wins. One proved that the pounding paddles of hundreds of “kayaktivists” can actually make a hundred-billion-dollar company blink and the other was yet another reminder that Democratic politicians often have to be backed into a corner before they do the right thing.
Hillary’s Keystone pronouncement came after she was asked a simple “yes” or “no” question by Drake University student Clio Cullison: Did she support construction of Keystone XL? Clinton responded in kind. “I oppose it,” she said, adding that she now felt she had a “responsibility” to tell voters. But it was a long time in coming, starting five years ago this month

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Charlotte police have proposed a new way to fight crime—and it’s insane

Charlotte’s police department and city council are considering a new policy that would prohibit people who have been arrested from entering certain areas of the city. From the Charlotte Observer:

Under the controversial proposal, Chief Kerr Putney could designate a high-crime area as a safety zone in response to crimes such as drug sales or discharging guns that were committed on public property.
Someone who has been arrested for crimes in the area could be issued a notice that they are no longer allowed to enter, for as long as the safety zone is in effect. Entering the zone after being prohibited would be a misdemeanor.

This is everything that is wrong with policing and criminalization in America in one insane policy.
At first glance, it’s easy to name at least five elements of this proposal that, if implemented, will result in over-policing, over-incarceration, and disproportionate criminalization of poor

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You probably don’t know how easy it is for law enforcement to take your stuff

Civil asset forfeiture is one of our country’s most outrageous law enforcement practices. It gives police the right to take any property—including money, cars, or even homes—that they think may be related to a crime. A person need not be arrested, charged, or convicted for law enforcement to legally take their stuff and keep it or sell it.
It happens constantly, and on a huge scale. Across the country there are countless reports of law enforcement seizing the personal property of people who have committed no crimes whatsoever. Yet somehow, few seem to know about it.

A recent Huffington Post/YouGov poll revealed that most people don’t know just how easy it is for police to brazenly confiscate their property. In fact, 75 percent of those polled had never heard of civil asset forfeiture at all. And less than a third of those polled realized that law enforcement must only suspect

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Christian bakery owners flout legally binding order to pay damages to lesbian couple

Aaron & Melissa Klein

This is now becoming a thing among Christians—if they don’t like the law, they simply don’t obey it. Christian owners of a bakery that refused to make a cake for a lesbian couple’s wedding in violation of an Oregon nondiscrimination ordinance are now refusing to pay $135,000 in damages to the couple they discriminated against.

Melissa and Aaron Klein, owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, cited religious beliefs when they refused to bake a wedding cake for Laurel and Rachel Bowman-Cryer more than two years ago. […]
The Kleins have filed an appeal of the ruling and are defying the order to pay. They’re claiming financial hardship although crowdfunding efforts have raised more than $500,000 on their behalf, according to The Oregonian.

“It’s difficult to understand the Kleins’ unwillingness to pay the debt when they have, very publicly, raised nearly a half million dollars,” labor

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Oklahoma is about to kill a likely innocent man

lethal injection, death penalty

In just a few hours, the state of Oklahoma will execute Richard Glossip, despite evidence supporting his innocence. His death is a direct result of the cowardice and callousness of many over the past 20 years, all of whom will have Richard Glossip’s blood on their hands.
In 1997, Richard Glossip was arrested for the murder of Barry Von Treese, who was found dead at the motel he owned and Glossip managed. A 19-year-old man named Justin Sneed admitted to beating Von Treese to death with a baseball bat. Sneed claimed that Glossip, his boss, offered him money and employment opportunities to kill Von Treese. By pinning it on Glossip, Sneed was able to avoid the death penalty. Despite almost no additional evidence other than the murderer’s testimony, Glossip was sentenced to die.

Glossip has never once veered from his claims of innocence. And over the past few years a

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Nebraska AG opposes listing both gay spouses on children’s birth certificates

Nebraska AG Doug Peterson picture

**To serve some citizens of Nebraska with fidelity to the laws we like.

Now that marriage equality is the law of the land, Republican officials continue to throw up every possible roadblock to normal family life for same-sex couples. Nebraska attorney general Doug Peterson is just the latest example:

The Nebraska attorney general’s office is objecting to a new effort by a civil liberties group to have both same-sex spouses listed as parents on their children’s birth certificates. […]
The American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska asked a judge last week to order state officials to list both spouses on birth certificates. The group says the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services has refused to provide married gay couples with birth certificates for their children on the same conditions as married straight couples.

Of course. No consideration for the welfare of the family or the child. Because

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Hillary slams Jeb! for ‘lecturing people of color’ with his ‘free stuff’ remark

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton went after Jeb! Monday for his telling remark last week that Republicans were offering black Americans a message of “hope and aspiration” rather than one of “we’ll take care of you with free stuff.” Hillary called the comment “deeply insulting,” reports Alan Rappeport.

In a question-and-answer session on Facebook, Mrs. Clinton lumped Mr. Bush together with Donald J. Trump and Mitt Romney, who made a similar suggestion in 2012, and said that Republicans have been missing the point when it comes to appealing to black voters.
“I think people are seeing this for what it is: Republicans’ lecturing people of color instead of offering real solutions to help people get ahead, including facing up to hard truths about race and justice in America,” Mrs. Clinton said. […]

“Republicans have no problem promising tax breaks and sweetheart deals to their corporate friends, but when Democrats fight

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