Crime & Justice

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

Updated at 10:50 a.m. ET

In a blow to organized labor, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that government workers who choose not to join a union cannot be charged for the cost of collective bargaining.

The vote was a predictable 5-4. Justice Samuel Alito wrote the majority opinion with the court's conservatives joining him.

Lynda Gonzalez for KUT

State representatives on Monday will begin discussing whether a "red flag" law giving courts the ability to remove guns from a person considered dangerous would work in Texas.

Shelby Knowles for The Texas Tribune

Texas stands to gain hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue after the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that states may force online retailers to collect sales tax even when they have no physical presence in the state.

John Jordan / The Texas Tribune

A new mobile app launched after a southeast Texas high school shooting last month will allow Texans to report on suspicious activity happening in their own communities and schools. 

Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott started a series of roundtable discussions today, aimed at coming up with ways to address school shootings.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Austin is one step closer to getting a new police chief.

City Manager Spencer Cronk says Brian Manley is the sole candidate to take over the reins at the Austin Police Department. Manley served as the longtime second-in-command to his predecessor, Art Acevedo, and was tapped to serve as interim chief after Acevedo’s departure in November 2016. 

Austin Price for KUT

Incarcerated women in Texas have access to fewer educational and vocational programs compared to incarcerated men, a new study finds.

The study, released Tuesday by the local nonprofit Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, is the second of a two-part study that looks into the increasing numbers of incarcerated women.

https://flic.kr/p/9o9F2o

People caught with less than 2 ounces of marijuana in Travis County may qualify to take a $45 four-hour class and avoid all charges under a proposal unanimously adopted by the Travis County Commissioners Court. The class would be available only to people who are "cited and released" by law enforcement, not to those arrested and booked into jail. 

"We had a practice that was marking people for life,” Commissioner Brigid Shea said before voting for the program Tuesday. She said it was particularly hard for people who couldn't afford to have their records expunged and were labeled criminals.

Martin do Nascimento / KUT

Vanessa Bissereth learned of her cousin’s death in the newspaper.

“Of course it made headlines – ‘Teenager Killed’ – but there was no name,” she said. Her aunt had been calling her for five days to tell her what happened, but Vanessa hadn’t answered.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Attorneys arguing the case of Senate Bill 4 – Texas’ so-called sanctuary cities law –head back to federal court today. Judges of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans will consider a temporary block placed on most of the law in August, which was partially lifted in September.

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.


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