Crime & Justice

Courts, trials and crime coverage for Austin and the Central Texas region.

Austin Police say four people were shot this morning as they drove along I-35 in North Austin. The suspected shooter is in custody, but his name has not been released. One child was among the injured and remains in critical condition.

The Supreme Court has taken two cases involving President Trump's controversial travel ban off its calendar, after the White House issued a revised and expanded ban. The justices ordered both sides to file new briefs over whether parts of the issue are now moot.

"The cases are removed from the oral argument calendar, pending further order of the Court," the justices wrote in an order issued Monday.

Parties in the two cases — Trump v. International Refugee Assistance Project and Trump v. Hawaii — have until next Thursday, Oct. 5, to file their briefs.

Austin Monitor

Black inmates in the Travis County Jail were locked up for longer periods of time in 2015 than white inmates charged with same-level offenses, according to a new study from the nonprofit Grassroots Leadership.

Martin do Nascimento / KUT

Drunken driving. Property theft. Possession of a controlled substance.

These are some of the crimes for which the Travis County Sheriff’s Office did not honor requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain suspected undocumented immigrants past their sentences or dispositions.

ErikaWittlieb/Pixabay (CC0)

From Texas Standard:

Texas is one of six states that tries 17-year-olds as adults. But a new bill wants Texas to follow the national trend of raising the age of criminal responsibility from 17 to 18.

House Bill 122, authored by Reps. Harold Dutton Jr. (D-Houston) and Gene Wu (D-Houston), passed the House last week and could be on its way to the Senate.


Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

As the City of Austin moves forward with the renegotiation of its public safety contracts, activists are asking for several changes to the city’s contract with the local police union. The contract, which is negotiated every couple years, dictates pay, discipline and the legal rights of officers.

Martin do Nascimento / KUT

The Travis County District Attorney’s Office will no longer bring all police shooting cases before a grand jury. Flanked by representatives of the local NAACP, police union and the Austin Police Department, District Attorney Margaret Moore announced the changes – effective immediately.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. for KUT

A Facebook video of an arrest in Hyde Park this week has some Austinites criticizing the Austin Police Department’s use of Taser devices.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez / KUT

“[A] dangerous game of political Russian roulette.” That’s how Texas Gov. Greg Abbott described Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez’s immigration policy, which was released Friday. And, this morning, Abbott told Fox News that he's directing lawmakers to draft a bill that would penalize similar policies and threatened to remove Hernandez from office.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. for KUT

This month, voters elected the second woman in history to serve as Travis County sheriff. Now, the department is working to recruit more female deputies and corrections officers to its ranks.

Jon Shapley for KUT

In the year since Texas lawmakers mandated random selection of grand jurors in place of the controversial “key man” system, grand juries in Travis County have become less racially diverse.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

Decades ago, the area around the intersection of 12th and Chicon streets was a central corridor in historically black East Austin, but over the years, drugs became a presence at the corner. Prostitution and other illegal activity happened in broad daylight there, and in 2012, Austin police took a new approach to the problem – what’s called a drug market intervention.


The Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday in the case of Duane Buck, a convicted Texas murderer sentenced to die after a psychologist testified that he was more likely to commit violent crimes in the future because he is black.

Buck shot and killed his ex-girlfriend in front of her three children while she begged for her life. He killed the man he thought she was sleeping with and he shot his own stepsister, Phyllis Taylor, who survived the horrific night.

Jennifer Whitney for Texas Tribune

From the Texas Tribune: More than a year after state lawmakers told it to stop incarcerating so many teenagers, the Texas Juvenile Justice Department has diverted 52 juvenile offenders to local programs for help and rehabilitation instead of shipping them to state lockups.

University of Michigan School of Natural Resources & Environment via Flickr

From the Austin Monitor: The Public Safety Commission upped the ante Tuesday, calling for an additional $5.6 million to tackle a backlog of DNA cases that continue to accumulate while the city’s lab remains shuttered.

Callie Richmond/Texas Tribune

Thirty years ago, a Williamson County murder set in motion a shoddy prosecution — one in which ignored witness accounts and withheld evidence led to the conviction of an innocent man.

Michael Morton spent 25 years in prison for his wife's bludgeoning death before DNA analysis finally freed him, a miscarriage in justice that still reverberates through the state's criminal cases.

Travis County Sheriff's Department

The death of Travis County Sheriff’s Office Sergeant Craig Hutchinson has been ruled a case of suicide.

Williamson County Justice of the Peace Bill Gravell made the announcement a short time ago, suggesting that the investigation had collected “all pertinent evidence."

Rob Crow via Texas Tribune

Almost 7,000 individuals in Texas have died while in police custody or behind bars over the past 10 years, according to an online report released Wednesday by a University of Texas at Austin research institute. Nearly 2,000 people who died had not been convicted of a crime, Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis data shows.

KUT News

The violent arrest of an elementary school teacher after a traffic stop is being investigated by Austin police. There are questions about the arrest itself, and the way police officers’ supervisors handled the incident.

The arrest of 26-year-old Breaion King, an African American woman, happened last summer. But it was not until this week that Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo saw the police car video of the arrest.

Jorge Sanhueza Lyon / KUT News

For weeks now, hordes of the young and young-at-heart have been wandering the streets looking for Pokémon. Some have wandered onto private property, raising concerns about what is legal and illegal in the new world of augmented reality.


Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / KUT News

Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo spoke with KUT's Kate McGee this morning, saying that the department will assist the Dallas Police Department in any necessary capacity and that APD will remain on high-staffing levels for the remainder of the summer. At a press availability this afternoon, he reiterated that staffing plan, but also denounced comments from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick that blamed the Black Lives Matter movement for Thursday night’s shootings.


Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / KUT

After delaying a vote for several meetings, Public Safety Commissioners Monday supported a resolution asking for more racial profiling data from the Austin Police Department and a more rigorous analysis of it by the Office of the Police Monitor.

Commissioner Mike Levy took a minute to congratulate fellow commissioners after a unanimous vote.


http://kutne.ws/1WUk9Hq

Austin Police say they are considering closing the lower deck of I-35 at some times of night, after a string of more than 80 incidents involving large rocks being thrown at cars along highways in Austin.

APD gave an update on their efforts to address the rock throwing Wednesday after several more incidents over the weekend.

Miguel Guitierrez Jr./KUT

UPDATE 8:30 p.m.: The Austin Police Association, the union representing APD officers, issued this statement on Facebook tonight:

EARLIER: The Austin Police officer who fatally shot a teenager in North Austin in February will not be indicted by a grand jury, says the Travis County District Attorney's office. Freeman shot and killed 17-year-old David Joseph after the teenager reportedly charged at the officer. 

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. for KUT

From the Texas Tribune: Urban crime rates are at historic lows across the country, and in Texas they are still dropping, according to an analysis of crime rates in the 30 largest U.S cities.

Between 2014 and 2015, the five largest cities in Texas saw an average drop of 6.5 percent in the overall crime rate per 100,000 residents, according to the analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. 

Jorge Sanhueza Lyon/KUT

Maria Orozco sits on a brown vinyl couch in her mobile home in Austin. Her big purse is splayed out on her lap as she digs around for her wallet, which holds her Texas driver’s license and a red, white and blue Employment Authorization Card. “When I got my license, oh my God, I was super happy," she says.


Michael Stravato for the Texas Tribune

From the Texas Tribune: Former Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Brian Encinia walked solemnly before a state district court judge Tuesday afternoon, and a few minutes later was out the door after pleading not guilty to a perjury charge stemming from his arrest of Sandra Bland last year.

Nathan Bernier for KUT News

The largest law enforcement union in Texas will appeal Austin Police's firing of Officer Geoffrey Freeman, the union said Monday afternoon in a statement. Austin Chief of Police Art Acevedo confirmed that the department has indefinitely suspended, or fired, Freeman, a ten-year department veteran, over his use of deadly force against a naked unarmed teenager, David Joseph, in February in North Austin. 

Perla Arellano for KUT News

The ability to send an anonymous tip to Austin police is now available right at your fingertips. The Austin Police Department unveiled a new free smartphone app Monday that they say will streamline the process of sending information to police.

Ben Philpott for KUT News

The president of Austin’s police officers union said that incidents like the fatal officer-involved shooting of unarmed teenager David Joseph last week stem from chronic understaffing within the department.


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