This Week: March 03, 2016

The case of Shannon Miles, accused of the murder of Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy Darren Goforth, has officially become a theater of the absurd.  The murder of Deputy Goforth occurred during a string of highly publicized officer killings that played out across the country.  The result was a declaration by law enforcement, including the local elected Sheriff and DA here in Harris County, that there was a “war against the police.”  However, in the months that followed one of the murders in Illinois turned out to be an elaborately staged suicide and Goforth’s murder has proven to be anything but part of a larger scale “war on police.”

Instead the murder case has exposed a dirty, seedy, scandalous underbelly of law enforcement and our criminal justice system.  First, the trial judge in the case recused herself without a motion from either side and without any explanation whatsoever.  Then the defense leveled allegations that Deputy Goforth may not have actually been on duty that night (which the state is required to prove in order to sustain a capital murder charge in this case) because he was meeting with a woman who he was having an affair with.  Next, news broke that that same woman had not only begun a sexual relationship with the lead investigator on the Goforth case, Craig Clopton, but that she also had relationships with two other Harris County Sheriff’s deputies.  And just when you thought you had seen enough with this shit show, making Absinthe at Ceasar’s Palace seem G rated family show, along comes Senator John Whitmire.

Ironically, Senator Whitmire has historically been on the defense side of almost every criminal justice issue in recent memory. However, following the February 9th finding that Miles was mentally incompetent to stand trial Senator Whitmire (who, oh by the way, is the Chair of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee) decided to take it upon himself to try and speed up Miles transfer to the Vernon State Hospital where he will be evaluated to see if his mental competency can be restored.  The Senator’s actions are troubling and have raised a lot of eyebrows across the legal community and have raised serious questions about whether or not his actions violate the separation of powers.

This week on Reasonable Doubt we will discuss the Senator’s actions with our guests, Mike Driver and Joseph Ruiz.  We also will look at why HPD amazingly seems to never declare any officer involved shootings “unjustified,” and debate whether or not emoticons can legally rise to the level of a threat.  Join us this Thursday at 8pm.

This Week: February 25, 2016

Two unexpected weeks off the air and so much has happened. The court ordered “safety zones” in Harris County are back in the news as the District and County Attorney’s offices are seeking a civil injunction to preclude about 100 alleged gang members from entering the Southlawn community. Many community activists and defense lawyers have condemned this practice as a violation of constitutional rights of dozens of black men. On the other side, government leaders have hailed these injunctions as a tremendous success in cleaning up crime ridden areas. We will debate the injunctions and tug of war between protecting constitutional rights of the individuals and the safety of the community.

In that same vein, we examine the battle heating between Apple and the FBI. The government wants Apple to build a back door into its iPhone in order to assist the FBI in getting into the phone of one of the San Bernadino terrorists. Apple’s stance has caused backlash from members of law enforcement who say that Apple, Google and other tech companies are violating their moral duties as a company. The caustic language from those in law enforcement highlight the incredible tension building between privacy and national security.

We will also look at the latest developments in the case of Shannon Miles, the accused murderer of Deputy Darren Goforth; as well as the State Bar taking action against Texas AG Ken Paxton and upholding its disbarment of former Burleson County DA Charles Sebesta. Join us this week with our guests Abigail Anastasio and Paul Morgan.

This Week: February 18, 2016

After a week off there is much to discuss on our upcoming show.  By now everyone has heard of the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.  While most of the national media is focused on the search for his replacement and what it means politically for both parties in an election year, we want to know what his death means for our criminal justice system?  Scalia was without question the most polarizing member of the Court in his time.  People either loved Scalia and his often stinging and witty opinions, or they despised the man.  However, even his critics cannot deny that Scalia was the staunchest defender of the 4th Amendment on the Court and would even side with the liberal justices if it meant protecting our constitutional rights.  His death will have an enormous impact on the Court both in the short and long term and the battle over his replacement could linger into the new administration.  We will get our panel’s thoughts on what the future holds for the Supreme Court in the wake of Scalia’s death.

Also, a federal magistrate judge has ordered Apple to help the FBI hack into the iPhone of one of the San Bernadino shooters.  Apple is challenging the ruling but what is the likelihood of their success?  Plus, Texas AG Ken Paxton can add a State Bar investigation to his list of legal problems; a continuance of the biker trials in Waco; and much more this week on Reasonable Doubt with our guests defense lawyers Franklin Bynum and Mike Russo.  Join us at 8pm this Thursday!

This Week: February 04, 2016

This week on Reasonable Doubt we talk DNA.  The state known for putting more people on death row than the other 49 combined now stands at the front of the line in reviewing mixed sample DNA cases based on a new testing protocol.  That’s right, our great state of Texas is only state that, according to Innocence Project director Barry Scheck, is “systematically trying to correct” cases that may have been adversely affected by the outdated protocol.   The new protocol, which was implemented in 2010, requires that more thresholds be met in before data could be deemed conclusive when calculating the probability that a person’s DNA profile could appear in nature.

While we may not see a wave of convictions being reversed because of the new protocol, it does illustrate that the legal system in Texas recognizes that changes in forensic science testing methods and standards require us to go back and ensure that old cases were not compromised.  For all the ridicule that the criminal justice system in Texas receives, it is refreshing to see that our state is the leading the way in this area.

We will also take a look this week at the sudden and unexpected resignation of Chief Charles McClelland from the Houston Police Department.  What’s next for HPD and what message can Houston’s new mayor send with the first major appointment of his term in office.  Join us this week with our guests Damon Parrish and Ike Okorafor.

This Week: January 28, 2016

The pursuit of justice and the “truth” about what occurred often have little in common on the inside of a courtroom.  While the Supreme Court has held time and again that the presumption of innocence is one of the most fundamental principles of our criminal justice system, that presumption faces an uphill battle before jurors who, more often than not, are predisposed to the belief that if someone is arrested and charged with a crime, they must have done something wrong.   That presumption is even more vulnerable in a high profile case where the media talking heads and political pundits can poison the well against a defendant before his or her lawyer ever even introduces themselves in jury selection.

Research has shown that jurors often abandon the presumption of innocence as soon as the prosecution introduces its evidence.  It is little wonder then that the closer you get to the inside of a courtroom, the less the “truth” has to do with anything.  One only need to look at the numerous high profile exonerations over the last few years across the country such as Michael Morton, Anthony Graves, and “Making a Murderer” subject Steven Avery, to illustrate just how the “truth” means nothing in a criminal case.  These are cases that went to trial and are only the cases that received nationwide attention, there are countless others in every jurisdiction that never get publicized but are still just as egregious miscarriages of justice.  The problem grows even bigger when you start to look at the number of people who plead guilty every day to crimes they did not commit.  Recently, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office discovered that from 2003 to 2015, 425 people pled guilty to drug crimes that eventually lab reports would come to show they did not commit.  These statistics are a black eye on the nation’s criminal justice system.

This week on Reasonable Doubt we ask the question why innocent people plead guilty to crimes they did not commit?  We will also explore the problems with eyewitness testimony; discuss the aftermath of the “Rethinking Criminal Justice” presentation last week; and look at the indictments of two anti-abortion activists in Harris County following a grand jury investigation where Planned Parenthood was cleared of any wrong doing in last year’s controversial undercover video.  Be sure to join us this Thursday at 8pm with our guest former federal prosecutor now defense lawyer Andino Reynal and criminal defense lawyer Joaquin Jimenez.