Christopher Connelly | KERA News

Christopher Connelly

Fort Worth Reporter

Christopher Connelly is a KERA reporter based in Fort Worth. He specializes in politics and criminal justice, and his reporting is regularly picked up by national shows including Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Marketplace.

Christopher’s a supremely versatile reporter. He profiled Opal Lee, the 89-year-old who walked many miles between Fort Worth and Washington, D.C., to make her pitch for a national Juneteenth holiday. A story about a reclusive state Board of Education candidate in East Texas who’d called then-President Obama a gay prostitute earned Christopher a Lone Star Award from the Houston Press Club.

His coverage of policing after five Dallas officers were gunned down on July 7, 2016 was key to KERA winning “overall excellence” honors among the biggest radio stations, public and commercial, in Texas and Oklahoma in the regional Edward R. Murrow Awards.

Last year, Christopher deployed to Houston to cover the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. He heard harrowing stories of evacuees and the first slow, heart-breaking steps of a family beginning to recover.

Christopher came to Texas from WYPR in Baltimore, where he was state legislative reporter. He also dodged tear-gas canisters (and lost a microphone) while covering the the unrest after the death of Freddie Gray, an African-American who died while in police custody.

He cut his public-radio teeth as a Joan B. Kroc Fellow at NPR – that’s a prestigious one-year post-graduate fellowship that allowed him to train as a reporter, show producer and digital producer at network HQ in Washington, D.C.

Christopher is a graduate of Antioch College in Ohio, and he earned a master’s in journalism from the University of California at Berkeley. He was born in Ohio, but his Texas roots run deep: He spent summers visiting family in Fort Worth.

Ways to Connect

Family members of workers inside CVE Technology in Allen, Texas, took concerned phone calls, sent worried texts and waited for updates throughout the afternoon while ICE conducted raid operations.
Anthony Cave / KERA News

Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Wednesday arrested 284 employees at a technology repair company in a Dallas suburb on charges of working in the United States illegally. Officials say it's the largest worksite raid in the country in 10 years.

Michelle R. Smith / AP

The 2020 census is still a year away but the nationwide head count is already on the minds of lawmakers in Austin. There are big political and policy implications for states in the once-a-decade headcount, so there's an incentive in Austin and other state capitols to help ensure that every Texan is counted.

Ashley Franks lives with her son, Cashton, at the Union Gospel Mission in Fort Worth.
Christopher Connelly / KERA News

When Ashley Franks got pregnant with her son, her grandfather kicked her out of the house. She didn’t know where to go. So she lived out of her car throughout the pregnancy.

“Daily life [when living in the car] is trying to find a place to take a shower, make sure that your hygiene is kept up, make sure that your vehicle is running properly, because that’s all you have,” Franks says.

Sherizon Scott, her two-year-old son Hezekiah, and four-year-old daughter Zuri spent six months in a homeless shelter in 2017 before Scott found an affordable place to live.
Christopher Connelly / KERA News

Sherizon Scott says her life is on the right track, but it’s been a struggle to get there. 

For years, Scott and her husband teetered on the edge of financial instability. They could take care of their growing family’s needs on their own, but only so long as everything went right, she says.

Thorne Anderson for KERA

Lawmakers in Austin who oversee the state’s sprawling prison system are concerned about state jails. These middle-tier facilities, which are for low-level felons with crimes related to underlying issues, were set up with the idea that they’d provide an array of rehabilitative services that would prevent future crime.

Bail bondsmen are opposing state legislation that would overhaul Texas' bail laws.
ROY LUCK / FLICKR

Most people in Texas jails are legally innocent. They’ve been arrested but are awaiting trial. They haven’t been convicted of a crime.

Advocates across the political spectrum say that’s because whether a defendant is stuck in jail before trial depends way too much on how wealthy they happen to be, and lawmakers have introduced bills to overhaul the state’s bail laws.

LoneStarMike via Wikimedia

When Mia Greer went to prison, she says she wasn’t the only one who was punished. Her kids suffered too.

“They started failing in school, my son started lashing out,” Greer, a registered nurse from Austin, told lawmakers on the House Corrections committee on Thursday.

If the compromise had failed, state lawmakers in Austin would have had to step in to fix the fund.
Shutterstock

After years of work to solve its pension problems, Fort Worth will make changes to shore up the Fort Worth Employees Retirement Fund. City workers, voting over the past few weeks, gave their approval to a series of changes aimed at keeping the fund solvent.

Shutterstock

With the legislature at work in Austin, constituencies of all kinds are working to make their wants and needs clear. The Texas Municipal Police Association’s executive editor, Kevin Lawrence, says his wish list focused less on what he wants from lawmakers, but what he hopes they won’t do.

Christopher Connelly / KERA News

An urban farm is growing on the banks of the Trinity River in Fort Worth. Opal’s Farm is named for 92-year-old Opal Lee, a retired educator and longtime community advocate who has for years nurtured the vision of a farm to feed Fort Worth’s food deserts.

via flickr user Drriss & Marrionn

Members of the Dallas City Council’s public safety committee on Wednesday heard a proposal from the police department to strengthen a board charged with reviewing the way the department handles allegations of officer misconduct and misbehavior. For more than a year, community activist groups have been working with the Dallas police chief and board members give the Dallas Citizens Police Review Board more teeth to fulfill its oversight role.

Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht hears a case on Nov. 2, 2015, in Austin, Texas.
Associated Press

The top judge on the Texas Supreme Court gave lawmakers a big wish list during his State of the Judiciary speech in Austin today. Chief Justice Nathan Hecht’s list includes some new spending, some savings and fundamentally rethinking business-as-usual in Texas courts.

Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Downtown Dallas
Shutterstock

Across Texas, Catholic dioceses are releasing lists of priests and laity suspected of sexual abuse since 1950. It's being done with the goal of restoring trust to a Catholic Church that has been rocked for years, in Texas and around the world, by allegations of sexual misconduct and cover-ups.


Christopher Connelly / KERA News

A Fort Worth police officer is getting his job back after being fired for ordering excessive force against an unarmed woman who’d called 911 for help. 

Christopher Connelly / KERA News

Texas ranks second in the nation for human trafficking cases, and Texas Sen. John Cornyn was in Dallas Tuesday to highlight a new federal law he co-wrote to provide resources and funding to fight traffickers and support victims. It’s called the Abolish Human Trafficking Act, though Cornyn acknowledges there’s still a lot of work to be done to end what he calls “modern-day slavery.”

Under the Texas Capitol dome in the Rotunda.
State of Texas

Texas lawmakers are expected to look at a range of criminal justice issues during the 2019 legislative session. Criminal justice reforms have been a bipartisan bright spot for a decade in Austin, as conservative and liberal lawmakers have sought to reduce the number of people behind bars, increase public safety and cut costs.

MICHAEL COGHLAN / FLICKR

Brick-and-mortar debtors’ prisons were once common in the United States, locked institutions where people were sent to work off unpaid debts. 

Allison V. Smith / KERA News Special Contributor

When John Creuzot takes office in January as Dallas County district attorney, he promises to usher in a new era of prosecution.

Christopher Connelly / KERA News

The Fort Worth City Council voted Tuesday night to approve changes to shore up its ailing employee retirement fund. The pension plan for police, firefighters and workers across city government faces a $1.6 billion shortfall. The council vote is just one step toward filling that gap.

Christopher Connelly

For the last year and a half, Fort Worth’s Task Force on Race and Culture has been studying racial disparities in the city, and working on a plan to make the city more inclusive and equitable. On Tuesday, the task force presented 22 recommendations to the city council aimed at closing racial gaps in all aspects of city life from housing and health to education, transportation and economic development.

Facebook/Kaufman County Sheriff's Office via AP

A former Dallas police officer who fatally shot her upstairs neighbor in his apartment in September will be tried for murder.

Andy Jacobsohn / AP

Democrats are now in control of the House of Representatives — and North Texas Democrat Colin Allred will be joining them to form the new majority.

Sessions: J. Scott Applewhite, AP; Allred: Chris Connelly, KERA News

In North Texas’ most heated congressional race, health care has become the dominant issue. Longtime Republican Rep. Pete Sessions is facing his toughest political challenge in years from Democrat and civil rights lawyer Colin Allred for his North Dallas seat. And the two candidates and their supporters are spending millions of dollars on ads to paint the other guy as a bad choice.

So where do the two stand?

Christopher Connelly / KERA News

In a nondescript West Dallas office complex, David Villalobos is on a roll, talking to about three dozen men and women – mostly black and Latino – all in matching teal shirts. They are canvassers for the Texas Organizing Project, preparing to hit the streets and knock on doors. Villalobos is answering a question about getting people to talk about the election when they’re not very interested in voting.

Christopher Connelly / KERA News

Elections for local prosecutors are traditionally pretty sleepy affairs, and historically, candidates have competed to show how tough they are on crime. But this year, the race to become Dallas County district attorney is bucking those trends as both candidates seek to portray themselves as changemakers working to make the criminal justice system fairer, rather than tougher.

Daxis / Flickr Creative Commons

Dallas County is a major battleground this election season, from a marquee congressional race between longtime Republican Pete Sessions and civil rights lawyer Colin Allred to a tough fight over a state Senate seat that stretches from Irving to Rowlett.

But perhaps the most overlooked races are for the Texas House: More than half of Dallas County’s 14 state House districts are seen as competitive this year.

Vice President Mike Pence, right, stumped for Rep. Pete Sessions, left, in Dallas on October 8, 2018.
Christopher Connelly / KERA News

The race for Texas’ 32nd Congressional district is drawing a lot of national attention, and a lot of money. 

Joyce Marshall / Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Tarrant County voters will soon decide whether to approve the largest bond package in the county’s history.

The $800 million bond proposal is for the county’s public hospital system, known as the John Peter Smith Health network.

Christopher Connelly / KERA News

A man who spent almost 19 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit was declared innocent in a Tarrant County courtroom on Wednesday.

John Nolley, now 44, was wrongfully convicted in 1998 of murdering a Bedford woman based largely on the testimony of a lying jailhouse informant. Two decades later, his good name has been restored, and his case helped spur changes in Texas law.

Kaufman County Sheriff's Office via AP, File

When Officer Amber Guyger fatally shot Botham Jean in his apartment, she was off duty, coming home after working a long shift. But was she acting as a Dallas police officer when she pulled the trigger? Lawyers say she might have been, and that could have big legal implications.

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