Crime & Justice

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

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Travis County is re-examining its system of fines and fees with the goal of producing a more equitable system to better collect court debt and consider the impact on poor defendants.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott shakes hands with Jack Wilson, who was awarded the Governor's Medal of Courage after shooting a gunman at the West Freeway Church in White Settlement last month.
Governor's Office

Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday gave Texas' highest civilian honor to a 71-year-old man who shot and killed an armed attacker at a church in December.

Marijuana and a pipe on a Texas flag
KUT

As Texas law enforcement grapples with how to determine if something is marijuana after lawmakers legalized hemp last year, one city’s officials are putting forward their own solution: effectively decriminalize possession of small amounts of pot altogether.

Austin police officers huddle during a briefing before the start of the ACL festival in 2019.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Austin police officers will start attending more mandatory classes on mental health this month after audits found problems with how officers react to people experiencing mental health crises.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Twice last year, Gov. Greg Abbott drew ire from Austin city officials when he suggested that crimes were the result of the city's new approach to homelessness, in which it has relaxed ordinances prohibiting camping or otherwise posting up in public spaces.

Hemp plants grown and researched in campus greenhouses.
Stephen Ward / Oregon State University

It’s been more than six months since Texas lawmakers legalized hemp and unintentionally disrupted marijuana prosecution across the state.

A protester holds a sign that says "Stop All Executions Now!"
Julia Reihs / KUT

Texas led the U.S. in the number of executions in 2019, carrying out nine of the 22 that occurred nationwide. A new report reveals Texas is more on par with national trends, however, when it comes to the use of the death penalty.

Julia Reihs / KUT

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to a ruling that found a ban against camping in public in Boise, Idaho, is unconstitutional. 

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo
Austin Price / The Texas Tribune

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo called out prominent Texas Republicans on Monday for opposing gun restriction legislation to close the so-called "boyfriend loophole" after one of his officers was killed over the weekend responding to a domestic violence call.

Sarah Jasmine for KUT

The Texas agency that investigates judicial misconduct issued a public warning to a justice of the peace in Waco who has refused to perform same-sex marriages while continuing to marry straight couples.

Commentary: Why Support For The Death Penalty Is Higher Among White Americans

Nov 30, 2019
Protesters hold signs proclaiming Rodney Reed's innocence.
Julia Reihs / KUT

Sentencing a person to die is the ultimate punishment. There is no coming back from the permanence of the death penalty.

In the U.S., the death penalty is currently authorized by the federal government, the military and 29 states. The primary rationale for using the death penalty is deterrence.

A memorial made up of 22 aluminum
Courtesy of Walmart

A memorial was unveiled Saturday honoring the 22 people who were killed in the Aug. 3 mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso.

Travis County Justice of the Peace for Precinct 5 Judge Nick Chu
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Texas is chasing its tail when it comes to collecting court fees and fines, a new study says. And that inefficiency wastes courts' time and money – and keeps poor defendants in a cycle of poverty.

Defense Distributed founder Cody Wilson
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Cody Wilson, the self-described anarchist and figurehead of the 3D-printed gun movement, led investigators on an international manhunt last year before being arrested and charged with having sex with a minor. In August, he struck a deal with Travis County prosecutors, pleading guilty to a lesser charge of injury to a child, which is a felony.

Hundreds protest the execution of Rodney Reed
Julia Reihs / KUT

Texas’ top appeals court on Friday halted the scheduled execution of inmate Rodney Reed, whose conviction is being questioned by new evidence that his supporters say raises serious doubt about his guilt.

Defense Distributed had been in a years-long legal battle in federal court in Austin over the legality of publishing the plans online.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

A federal judge in Washington state is overturning a settlement between the federal government and Austin-based Defense Distributed that allowed the company to publish plans for 3D-printable guns online last year. 

Martin do Nascimento for KUT

The City of Austin hired a third-party investigator to look into allegations of racism against former Austin Police Assistant Chief Justin Newsom, who abruptly retired from the department last week after 23 years with APD.

Rodrick Reed talks to supporters last month about efforts to get a new trial for his brother
DaLyah Jones / KUT

As Rodney Reed’s lawyers scramble to get the 21-year-old case reexamined before his Nov. 20 execution date, a new witness has stepped forward accusing a former police officer of the murder of Stacey Stites.

The 21-year-old white man accused of driving more than 11 hours through Texas to kill Hispanics at an El Paso Walmart in August pleaded not guilty to capital murder charges on Thursday, contradicting a confession he made following the shooting, according to police documents.

In his first public court appearance, Patrick Crusius remained calm, speaking only twice in response to the judge's questions. The hearing lasted for three minutes.

The backs of three Austin police officers
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

An independent review of how Austin police investigate sexual assault cases won't be completed until February 2022, the Austin Public Safety Commission said. 

Updated at 9:26 p.m. ET

Amber Guyger, a former Dallas police officer who killed her unarmed black neighbor after stepping into his apartment and mistaking it for her own, has been sentenced to 10 years in state prison by the same jury that convicted her of murder.

"Your sentence will begin today," Judge Tammy Kemp told Guyger.

Armando Morales

Eighty-one percent of Latino voters in Texas are concerned about racism-motivated gun violence and that the Latino community might be targeted again in attacks similar to the mass shooting in El Paso, according to a survey sponsored by the gun control group Giffords and the progressive group Latino Victory Project.

A Dallas police officer testified Friday that after entering what she thought was her apartment last year, she shot the silhouetted figure inside because he was advancing on her in the dark and she feared for her life.

Rodrick Reed talks to supporters
DaLyah Jones / KUT

As Rodney Reed's execution date fast approaches, more than 70 people packed into a community center in Bastrop on Saturday to apply pressure on state officials to reconsider his case.

San Marcos' new interim police chief, Bob Klett, addresses City Council on Tuesday.
DaLyah Jones / KUT

Bob Klett, San Marcos’ new interim police chief, said the department “stands behind its citizens," after concerns over how often police arrest people for offenses where they could issue citations instead.

Officials Release Indictment Filed Against Suspect In El Paso Shooting

Sep 18, 2019
A woman leaves a message at a memorial for victims of the El Paso shooting
Armando Morales

Officials in Texas on Wednesday released the grand jury indictment filed last week against a man accused of killing 22 people at an El Paso Walmart last month.

Crystal Mason
Leslie Boorhem-Stephenson for The Texas Tribune

FORT WORTH — When Crystal Mason got out of federal prison, she said, she “got out running.”

By Nov. 8, 2016, when she’d been out for months but was still on supervised release, she was working full-time at Santander Bank in downtown Dallas and enrolled in night classes at Ogle Beauty School, trying, she said, to show her children that a “bump in the road doesn’t determine your future.”

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / KUT

There’s been a lot of confusion about the difference between marijuana and hemp since Texas legalized the production and sale of hemp in June.

The short? Marijuana is still very much illegal at the state and national level. But the new law created a distinction that’s left some prosecutors in a bit of a pickle.

Margaret Moore, the Travis County District Attorney, at a Travis County press briefing in 2017.
Martin do Nascimento / KUT

A lawsuit filed in federal court in Austin on Wednesday claims  Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore and an employee in her office lied to the public about a sexual assault victim.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

The founder of a Texas company that sells plans for making untraceable 3D printed guns has been sentenced to seven years of probation for having sex with an underage girl.

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