Crime & Justice

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

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

The founder of an Austin-based company that sells plans for making untraceable 3D-printed guns pleaded guilty Friday to injury to a child under a plea deal with prosecutors.

Galveston Police Chief Apologizes After Mounted Officers Lead Man By Rope

Aug 6, 2019
Adrienne Bell via Facebook

Galveston’s police chief is apologizing after two of his officers, mounted on horseback, led a handcuffed suspect by a rope through downtown streets.

The El Paso community attends a vigil for Javier Amir Rodriguez
Carlos Morales / Marfa Public Radio

Updated on Aug. 7 at 2 p.m. CST

Community members gathered for a vigil in El Paso on Monday night to honor the youngest victim of the mass shooting at a Walmart store on Saturday.

Facebook Live screengrab

The reward has been raised to $110,000 for information identifying the person who started a fire last summer at the Iconic Village Apartments near the Texas State University campus in San Marcos. The fire killed five people and injured many more.

Texas State Trooper car
Shelby Knowles for The Texas Tribune

Texas’ largest law enforcement agency is moving away from arresting people for low-level marijuana offenses. It’s the latest development in the chaos that has surrounded pot prosecution after state lawmakers legalized hemp this year.

The Travis County Courthouse in downtown Austin
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Travis County Commissioners voted 4-1 Tuesday to approve a revised plan to set up a grant-funded office to provide legal services to low-income defendants.

A man cuts a marijuana plant.
Marjorie Kamys Cotera for The Texas Tribune

Months before Texas district attorneys started dropping or delaying low-level marijuana cases, state lawmakers were told that a well-liked bill to legalize hemp was going to complicate pot prosecutions.

The warnings fell flat.

Margaret Moore, the Travis County District Attorney, at a Travis County press briefing concerning the adoption of new regulations when reviewing investigations of officer-involved shootings and other incidents of force on Apr. 12, 2017.
Martin do Nascimento / KUT

Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore resigned from the state’s Sexual Assault Survivors’ Task Force on Friday. Her appointment was cut short after critics, including survivors suing over Moore’s record of handling sexual assaults, expressed concern

Updated at 4:55 p.m. ET

The U.S. government is poised to carry out the death penalty for the first time in nearly two decades, the Justice Department announced Thursday.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr has instructed the Federal Bureau of Prisons to change the federal execution protocol to include capital punishment, the Justice Department said.

Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore has been appointed to the Sexual Assault Survivors' Task Force inside the governor's office, despite being sued over her office's alleged mishandling of rape cases

Marijuana
Katherine Hitt via Flickr

The state's top leaders are reminding prosecutors that marijuana is still illegal in Texas.

The letter from Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen and Attorney General Ken Paxton comes after district attorneys in major cities said they have effectively stopped prosecuting low-level marijuana possession cases since House Bill 1325 went into effect on June 10.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Travis County is one step closer to finalizing its formation of a public defender office for low-income defendants charged with certain felonies and misdemeanors. The Travis County Commissioners Court today OK’d the structure of the office’s seven-member oversight board, which will include attorneys, criminal justice advocates and former judges.

62 Border Patrol Employees Under Investigation For Posts In Facebook Group

Jul 15, 2019
Border Patrol trucks
Eddie Gaspar for KUT

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials said Monday that 62 current and eight former Border Patrol employees are under internal investigation following revelations of a secret Facebook group that mocked lawmakers and migrants.

U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson of Houston
The Texas Tribune

U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee met with faith leaders in Houston on Saturday to invite undocumented immigrants to seek refuge in churches, mosques and synagogues and call on religious organizations to open their doors ahead of Sunday’s anticipated deportation roundup by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers.

Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore
Julia Reihs / KUT

Things have changed in the past year or so in how Travis County approaches some cases involving particular types and amounts of drugs. District Attorney Margaret Moore says the "criminal justice system is a very poor tool to use to address drug usage or substance abuse of any kind."

David Schexnaydre via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

A federal appeals court has ordered Texas to make significant changes to improve its foster care system.

A three-judge panel at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling Monday in the long-running class action lawsuit that revolved around the treatment of children in permanent managing conservatorship. These are children who are neither reunited with their biological families nor adopted out of the system. Instead, they remain in the state’s custody until they age out of foster care.  

Nine-Twenty via Flickr

Dallas police officials say more than two-dozen officers face disciplinary measures after they were found to have posted bigoted or other offensive material to Facebook – including mocking protesters who were pepper-sprayed – in violation of the department's code of conduct.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore said Wednesday her office is dismissing 32 felony cases involving possession or delivery of marijuana or THC, pending further investigation, as the result of a new Texas law legalizing hemp.

KUT

A new law that legalized hemp in Texas is creating a haze of confusion for authorities as most crime labs around the state can't do the testing to tell the difference between the cannabis plant and its illegal cousin, marijuana.

The Stonewall Inn is a sacred place for many in the LGBTQ community. Fifty years ago, a raid and series of riots outside the New York City bar helped launch a civil rights movement.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton
Marjorie Kamys Cotera for The Texas Tribune

After mulling the question for nearly six months, the nine Republican judges on Texas’ highest criminal court will not reconsider their 2018 ruling that threatens to imperil the criminal case against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

Austin Price for KUT

June 19 marks Juneteenth, a celebration of the de facto end of slavery in the United States.

For hundreds of thousands of African-Americans stuck in pretrial detention – accused but not convicted of a crime, and unable to leave because of bail – that promise remains unfulfilled. And coming immediately after Father’s Day, it’s also a reminder of the loss associated with the forced separation of families.

DPS agents
Bob Daemmrich / The Texas Tribune

Gov. Greg Abbott announced Friday that he has directed the Texas Department of Public Safety to send officers to Dallas to help the city's police respond to a recent spike in violent crime.

A child's bedroom.
Amy Gizienski via Flickr (CC by 2.0)

More than 1,800 children and youth in foster care in Texas were reported missing during fiscal year 2018, according to a new report from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. DFPS was responsible for more than 52,000 kids during that period.

A Prairie View street has been renamed after Sandra Bland.
Marjorie Kamys Cotera for The Texas Tribune

Tensions over the arrest and death of Sandra Bland boiled over during a Capitol committee hearing Friday morning in which lawmakers and state officials argued over whether the state intentionally withheld newly-released footage of the incident, shot with Bland’s cellphone, from lawyers for Bland’s family and lawmakers.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Travis County – the largest jurisdiction in the United States without a public defender office – is getting a public defender office.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Update:Travis County is one step closer to creating a public defender office that would handle felony and misdemeanor cases of low-income defendants who can’t afford a lawyer.

More Than 500,000 Bees In Texas Killed In Act Of Vandalism

May 2, 2019
Mengwen Cao for KUT

Investigators south of Houston are trying to determine who killed more than 500,000 bees by setting hives on fire, toppling some over and tossing others into a pond.

Elizabeth Trovall / Houston Public Media

More low-level misdemeanor offenders will be sent to Harris County’s Judge Ed Emmett Mental Health Diversion Center instead of jail, local officials announced Wednesday.

Eddie Gaspar for KUT

An immigrant teenager from Guatemala died in Texas on Tuesday while in federal custody, according to the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement.

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