Jolie McCullough / Texas Tribune | KERA News

Jolie McCullough / Texas Tribune

Jolie McCullough develops data interactives and news apps and reports on criminal justice issues for the Texas Tribune. She came to the Tribune in early 2015 from the Albuquerque Journal, where her work as a web designer and developer earned her national recognition. She was at the Journal for four years and specialized in interactive maps and data-driven special projects. She is a graduate of Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication; while there, she interned as a reporter and online producer at the Arizona Republic and served as the web editor of the student-run newspaper, the State Press.

Telford prison in New Boston, Texas.
Shelby Knowles for The Texas Tribune

Starting July 1, the Texas prison system will again accept inmates from county jails on a limited basis after halting intake three months ago due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Reynolds Stefani/CNP/ABACA / Reuters

The U.S. Supreme Court has again ruled against Texas’ top criminal court in a death penalty case, the latest in the high court’s repeated dismissals of Texas decisions against death row inmates.

State troopers stand guard at the state Capitol grounds to prevent demonstrators from entering during a protest over the death of George Floyd.
Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / The Texas Tribune

When George Floyd died at the hands of Minneapolis police last month, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott labeled the incident a “horrific act of police brutality” and has since repeatedly said that Texas can’t let such a tragedy happen.

Austin police officers stand near an overpass on Interstate 35 to prevent protesters from blocking traffic during a rally at Austin police headquarters.
Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / The Texas Tribune

After Sandra Bland's death in a rural Texas jail drew outrage across the nation, two Texas lawmakers filed a comprehensive bill to address racial profiling during traffic stops, ban police from stopping drivers on a traffic violation as a pretext to investigate other potential crimes, limit police searches of vehicles and other jail and policing reforms.

Police fire tear gas and rubber bullets at several demonstrators in Austin on May 31, 2020.
Jordan Vonderhaar / For The Texas Tribune

As tens of thousands of Texans took to the streets this week to protest police brutality against black people following the death of George Floyd, police departments in the state’s largest cities brought varying levels of force to bear on the protesters.

Shelby Knowles / The Texas Tribune

Texas is spending $45 million on 300,000 new coronavirus tests to largely be used in the infected state prison system, according to a Texas Department of Emergency Management purchase order.

The exterior of Huntsville Unit, a prison in Huntsville, Texas on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019.
Sergio Flores / The Texas Tribune

Within the walls of Texas prisons overrun with the new coronavirus, information on its spread is still scarce, and the people locked up and working inside are terrified.

Prisoners work outdoors at the Dr. Lane Murray Unit, a women's prison that's part of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
Bob Daemmrich for The Texas Tribune

The Texas parole board had decided: Stephen Shane Smith was going to get out of prison.

The 40-year-old was less than a year into a five-year sentence for a drug conviction when he was approved for early release in January. The only thing standing between him and his freedom was completing an in-prison life skills program.

William G. McConnell Unit
Jennifer Whitney / For The Texas Tribune

Starting Monday, the Texas prison system is no longer taking new inmates from county jails, according to an agency letter obtained by The Texas Tribune.

Bryan Collier, the executive director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, said in a letter to county sheriffs Saturday that he recognized the move would put an additional strain on counties, but he said the action is necessary. 

Inmates at the Harris County Jail in Houston.
Michael Stravato / The Texas Tribune

A state district judge in Travis County has temporarily blocked enforcement of Gov. Greg Abbott's order to limit jail releases during the new coronavirus pandemic. She cited unconstitutional provisions and overreach of executive power in the gubernatorial order.

Inmates on a cell block in the Harris County jail.
Caleb Bryant Miller for The Texas Tribune

As the new coronavirus continues to spread in Texas’ two biggest county jails, Gov. Greg Abbott has made it harder for thousands of inmates to get out of local lockups.

Jennifer Whitney / The Texas Tribune

The first Texas prisoner has tested positive for the new coronavirus.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice said Tuesday the 37-year-old man, who has a preexisting respiratory condition, is being treated at the prison system’s hospital in Galveston and has been there for three days. 

An attorney approaches a Travis County courtroom for bail reduction hearings in Austin.
Callie Richmond for The Texas Tribune

Steven Hopwood, a 61-year-old man with a history of pneumonia and scarring on his lungs, was all but set to get out of jail this week. He planned to plead guilty to bail jumping charges at his scheduled court hearing on Thursday in Lavaca County, and his attorneys expected he’d be able to go home and get probation.

Shelby Knowles / The Texas Tribune

Following a declining inmate population and dangerous understaffing in Texas prisons, the state is closing two of its more than 100 lockups.

Abel Ochoa

Texas is preparing to execute Abel Ochoa on Thursday for fatally shooting his family members in their living room.

In 2002, Ochoa walked out of his Dallas bedroom, high on crack, and shot his 7-year-old and 9-month-old daughters, wife, father-in-law and two sisters-in-law, court records state. The only survivor was one of his wife’s sisters, who ran to a neighbor’s house after being shot.

Austin Police Chief Brian Manley
Associated Press

The day after the Austin City Council approved a resolution to stop arresting or ticketing people for most low-level marijuana possession offenses, the police chief made clear he had no plans to do so.

John Gardner was sentenced to death for the 2005 murder of his estranged wife, Tammy Dawn Gardner.
TDCJ / The Texas Tribune

Texas, the state that has put to death more people than any other by far, is scheduled to carry out the nation’s first execution of the decade Wednesday.

John Gardner is set to be executed for the 2005 Collin County murder of his soon-to-be ex-wife. Tammy Gardner was shot and killed in her home weeks before the couple’s divorce was finalized, according to court records. She had called 911 before she died to say her husband had shot her.

Truck with 3,000 pounds of legal hemp
Texas Department of Public Safety

Last month, a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper arrested a driver who the agency claimed was hauling more than a ton of marijuana through the state near Amarillo. Aneudy Gonzalez was jailed for nearly a month on federal charges, and the plant material was seized. But last week, the 39-year-old was released from jail, his case was dismissed and the cargo is expected to be returned.


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

Thomas Williams-Platt
Angela Piazza / For The Texas Tribune

Before entering the halls of Channing School high atop the Texas Panhandle last year, students were required to roll up their shirt sleeves to show they weren’t sneaking in e-cigarettes. 

Travis Runnels

Texas officials didn't dispute that prosecutors introduced false testimony at Travis Runnels’ 2005 capital murder trial in Amarillo. Instead, they argued the state should still execute him even if they did.

Travis Runnels was sentenced to death for the 2003 murder of prison employee Stanley Wiley.

Texas officials aren’t disputing that prosecutors introduced false testimony at Travis Runnels’ 2005 capital murder trial in Amarillo. Instead, they argue the state should still execute him even if they did.

TPC Group Port Neches facility
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The city of Port Neches and Jefferson County lifted a voluntary evacuation order Thursday afternoon, less than 24 hours after residents who were displaced for days last week amid a fire and multiple explosions at a local chemical plant were again asked to leave their homes Wednesday night.

Rodney Reed was sentenced to death for the 1996 murder of Stacey Stites in Bastrop.
Courtesy KXAN

Texas' highest criminal court Friday afternoon halted Rodney Reed's execution and sent his case back to the trial court to further review his claims of suppressed evidence, false testimony and, biggest of all, that he is innocent of the murder that landed him on death row more than 20 years ago.

Edward Moore wipes his eyes while Rodrick Reed, brother of death row inmate Rodney Reed, rallies supporters outside the Texas governor's mansion in Austin Nov. 9, 2019.
Paul Weber / Associated Press

Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has joined the fast-growing calls from Texas lawmakers and A-list celebrities to take a closer look at the death sentence of Rodney Reed.

Cruz called efforts to halt the execution of Reed “a remarkable bipartisan coalition” on Friday night, the day before hundreds of people rallied outside the Texas Governor’s Mansion in support of Reed.

Illustration by Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / The Texas Tribune

Patrick Murphy's execution was again halted Thursday because Texas death row inmates' final access to spiritual advisors of their faith differs for Christians and Buddhists.

Courtesy KXAN

As the execution date nears for a Texas man whose guilt has long been shrouded in doubt, all eyes are shifting from the courts to the governor’s mansion.

Associated Press

Editor's note: This story contains explicit language.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals halted the execution of Randy Halprin on Friday, less than a week before he was to be put to death.

Halprin, one of the infamous "Texas Seven" — who were convicted in the 2000 murder of a police officer during a month-long prison escape — had recently argued that his trial was biased because his judge was "a racist and anti-Semitic bigot."

Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP

The murder conviction of a white woman who was a police officer when she killed an unarmed black man in his own home — and the 10-year prison sentence a jury gave her Wednesday — each drew different reactions in a city whose history is rife with tensions between law enforcement and communities of color.

Marjorie Kamys Cotera / The Texas Tribune

Tears often filled the eyes of the women in this Texas prison town as they prepared for their upcoming release from the system after years or even decades of incarceration.

The women sometimes wiped them away as they recalled trauma and grief they’d long ignored in a harsh prison environment. But their eyes also welled up when they expressed gratitude for a new program they hope will keep them from ever coming back to this or any other lockup.