This Week: November 19, 2015

Last week, lawyers representing Waller County in a federal wrongful death lawsuit by the mother of Sandra Bland filed a motion for summary judgment to try and bring an end to the lawsuit. The filing of the motion is not the least bit surprising, in fact such a move is routine and expected in defense of any civil lawsuit. However, what is surprising (frankly shocking and appalling) is that Waller County places the blame for Bland’s death on her family and friends for their “refusal” to bail her out of jail.

Sandra Bland had her bond set at $5,000 meaning she had to come up with $515 in order to be released, not an easy thing to do for most people. She never had a true bond hearing; was never found to be a danger to the community; was never found to be a risk of flight; and most importantly was never given a fair chance in a system that is set up to oppress the poor. Bland was pulled over for no legitimate reason and then was denied, without even a hearing, a personal recognizance bond (“PR bond”). A PR bond would have allowed her to have been booked in and sign a piece of paper promising to appear for a future court date. Sadly the practice of granting PR bonds is rarely used in state courts both in Texas and across the rest of country. Instead, courts continue to set bonds in amounts that most cannot make forcing them to remain in custody until their case is resolved.

The criminal justice system is set up to coerce defendants to plead guilty to crimes in an expedient manner and move court dockets. If you, or your family or friends, cannot afford to post your bond, you will sit in jail. After a few days of no sleep and sitting in large holding tank with many of your not so close friends you might decide to just go ahead and plead guilty to a crime you either did not commit or one where perhaps there was no probable cause for your arrest. But after missing a few days of work and lacking any kind of meaningful legal advice, the path of least resistance and a quick release is all too tempting.

Our criminal justice system is in dire need of serious bail reform. The question of who is legally responsible for Sandra Bland’s death will be answered in a federal courtroom in Houston, but shame on Waller County and its lawyers for blaming her family and friends failure to post bond in a system that is obscenely unjust and unfair as the reason for her death. Join us this Thursday at 8pm as we discuss this and much more on Reasonable Doubt.

This Week: November 12, 2015

According to a recent article by Leon Neyfakh with Slate.com, judges and juries both have faulty perceptions about remorse. Assessing the punishment of a defendant is without a doubt the largest function of our criminal justice system. Often times the primary component in imposing a sentence, whether by a judge or a jury, is deciding whether or not the defendant is truly remorseful for their actions. Everyone knows that sentencing a defendant is an imperfect system and how we punish criminal defendants has become one of the most highly debated issues at both the federal and state level. The cost of our prison system has become a drain on our economy and taken a massive toll on our humanity as well. This week we will take a closer look at this and much more with Assistant Harris County Public Defender Scott Pope and former Harris County Probation Officer turned criminal defense lawyer, Jennifer Gaut. I hope you will join us live this Thursday at 8pm on Houston Media Source.

This Week: November 05, 2015

Over 6,000 federal inmates were released over the weekend due to a sentencing policy reform that recently took effect. Following the release, President Obama issued an order for federal agencies to stop asking most prospective employers about their criminal histories. These reforms are some of the most dramatic shifts we have ever seen in the criminal justice system and helping those convicted of crimes get back on their feet.

Back here in Texas, the question raised this week was again about executions. This time it was: So even if the DNA comes back and proves the defendant innocent, the state will still seek execution? The answer is apparently so in Montgomery County. We discuss these issues and much more with Harris County Public Defender Alex Bunin and criminal defense lawyer Pete Justin right here on Reasonable Doubt.

This Week: October 29, 2015

We’re back on the air this week after a short hiatus, and our guests are Dan Gerson and Tucker Graves. Both Dan and Tucker are seasoned veterans of the criminal defense bar who have handled just about every case imaginable in the criminal courthouse. On this week’s show we take a look at the truly head scratching story of how the state of Texas, along with two other states, attempted to illegally import execution drugs for use in carrying out death penalty executions. Also, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy thinks that extreme punishments in the U.S. are an “ongoing injustice of great proportions.” We’ll ask our panel if statements like this by a sitting Supreme Court justice have any impact on lawmakers as both Congress and state legislatures debate the reform of sentencing laws across America. Join us this Thursday at 8pm for these topics and many more including:

FCC finally puts limits on overcharging inmates for phone calls

Federal Judge thinks DOJ should make deferred prosecutions available to individuals and not just corporations

Texas Poised to See New Low in Death Sentences

Rehabilitation: Why Don’t Individuals Get a Second Chance?