Courts & Criminal Justice | KERA News

Courts & Criminal Justice

Five Nigerian nationals living all across Texas were indicted for using false documents to open bank accounts and laundering millions gained through cyber crimes.

Four men were arrested Thursday and another is being sought for the scheme that dates back to Nov. 2016. Two additional men pleaded guilty in recent months for the crimes.

Christopher Connelly / KERA News

Four years after Sandra Bland died in a Waller County jail, her name is still reverberating in the Texas legislature.

More guns are being stolen out of cars in America, particularly in states that have made it easier for people to carry firearms on the road.

There are no reliable national numbers, but an NPR survey of a sampling of police departments reveals steady increases in reports of guns stolen from vehicles.

In Atlanta, the number rose to 1,021 in 2018 from 439 in 2009.

In St. Louis, it increased to 597 from 200 in the same period.

Eugene Keahey died by suicide in connection with a suspicious house fire that killed his wife and two daughters. Their deaths have been ruled homicides.
Courtney Collins / KERA news

The people who live in the unincorporated Dallas County community of Sandbranch don't have running water. Pastor Eugene Keahey was working to change that, until a suspicious house fire in February. 

Last week, Keahey's death was ruled a "suicide by gunshot" — his wife and two daughters were declared victims of homicide. Now, a fellow pastor is struggling to reconcile Keahey's legacy.

For the eight-and-a-half years she spent in prison, Kristan Kerr looked forward to one thing every month: a visit from her daughter, Chloe. Visit by visit, she watched Chloe grow from a toddler to nearly a teenager.

"I just watched her grow all the way up," Kerr says. "One visit, she couldn't read, and then the next visit she was reading something to me."

Convicted for aggravated robbery in 2011 – she was the driver — Kerr says she wasn't making good choices back then, and it meant missing out on a lot.

Many women have a hard time admitting — even to themselves — that they're being abused by their husband or partner. Suzanne Dubus' first husband hit her, but still, she didn't initially identify herself as a victim of abuse.

"I attributed it to alcohol," Dubus says. "I knew that his father abused his mother. And I thought, 'Well, this is just poor learning, and I can help him with this.' "

A hallway at the 24-hour Courtney's SAFE Place clinic at Turning Point rape crisis center in Plano, Texas. The clinic was designed to help patients feel calm and supported.
Courtesy Courtney's SAFE Place

The Turning Point rape crisis center in Plano is designed to be a place where survivors of sexual assault feel safe.

Los Angeles' city attorney is suing tax-preparation software companies H&R Block and TurboTax-maker Intuit, alleging that they "defrauded the lowest earning 70 percent of American taxpayers" by impeding public access to an IRS program. The IRS Free File program is intended to help people who make less than $66,000 a year file their taxes free using commercial services.

The Driver Responsibility Program is widely unpopular, but legislative attempts to repeal it have largely failed because it pays for nearly half of the state's emergency trauma care system.
Rachel Zein for The Texas Tribune

The Texas House unanimously moved Thursday to repeal the tough-to-kill Driver Responsibility Program, which critics say traps low-income drivers in a cycle of debt.

Chuck Burton / Associated Press

On Tuesday, April 30, a gunman killed two students and injured four others at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced Wednesday that his office filed a brief with the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional.

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.

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

May 2, 2019

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.

Across the country, one in four cities reported being attacked by cybercriminals every hour.  That’s according to a 2016 survey, but attacks against cities have since risen. 

Oscar Stewart was following his Saturday routine. He observed the Sabbath at the Chabad of Poway synagogue, where the sound of Torah reading usually gives him solitude and peace.

“And I hear gunshots,” Stewart said. “And having been in Iraq, I know what shots sound like.”

Stewart said his first instinct was to run for safety. He got to the exit door but then something happened.

Rodney Robinson is this year's National Teacher of the Year, and this week he was honored at a White House ceremony. Robinson has been teaching for 19 years, most recently at a juvenile detention center in Richmond, Va.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice will no longer share the last written words of death row inmates after criticism from a Houston lawmaker.

File photo provided by the Mesquite Police Department of former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger, taken Friday, Nov. 30, 2018.
Associated Press

The former Dallas police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man in his own home told a 911 dispatcher "I thought it was my apartment" nearly 20 times as she waited for emergency responders to arrive, according to a 911 recording obtained by TV station WFAA.

From Texas Standard:

Texas news outlets often report on death penalty stories, given that the state leads the nation in prisoner executions. But rarely do reports tell the stories of women on death row. Those women are housed in a prison in Gatesville, and as I wait for the guards to bring over inmate Linda Carty, I notice the room is very different from the crammed spaces where I’ve interviewed men on death row. There’s still glass separating us, but this room is spacious and well-lit.

Patrick Murphy was ready to die on March 28, and the State of Texas was ready to kill him. It was the U.S. Supreme Court that stepped in and granted the surprise execution stay. That’s why Murphy is alive today.

When the state of Texas tried to execute Patrick Murphy on March 28, the U.S. Supreme Court stepped in. The high court ruled that the execution was unconstitutional. But it wasn't because of any concerns about due process or the morality of the state taking a life. The issue was religious freedom.

Irving-Based Boy Scouts Of America Could Be Hit With More Sex Abuse Claims

Apr 24, 2019
In this July 31, 2005 file photo, Boy Scouts salute as they recite the Pledge of Allegiance during the Boy Scout Jamboree in Bowling Green, Va. In 2019, financial threats to the Boy Scouts have intensified.
Associated Press

The lawyers' ads on the internet aggressively seeking clients to file sexual abuse lawsuits give a taste of what lies ahead this year for the Boy Scouts of America: potentially the most fateful chapter in its 109-year history.

Christopher Connelly / KERA News

Nearly two weeks after publishing a letter to the residents of Dallas County outlining a broad reform agenda, newly minted District Attorney John Creuzot is still dealing with criticism over a petty theft policy. Despite the attention, though, Creuzot's approach to theft is unlikely to be his most impactful reform. 

Cyber criminals stole $7.45 billion over the last five years — that’s around the same amount as the entire state budget of Iowa. Complaints to the FBI increase each year, and Texas businesses and residents continue to be one of the most frequent victims.

East Texas Town Reflects On James Byrd Jr.'s Dragging Death Ahead Of Last Execution

Apr 23, 2019
Louvon Byrd Harris, 61, and Mylinda Byrd Washington, 66, hold up photographs of their brother James Byrd Jr. in Houston. James Byrd Jr. was the victim of what is considered to be one of the most gruesome hate crimes in recent Texas history.
Associated Press

A technology company was almost ready to bring up to 300 new jobs to Jasper, Texas, but in the final stages of recent negotiations, a potential deal-breaker emerged: the community's history as the place where three white men dragged a black man behind a pickup, killing him.

Texas House Passes Bill To Tackle Backlog Of Rape Kits

Apr 17, 2019

The Texas House unanimously passed a bill Tuesday that aims to tackle the state’s backlog of thousands of untested rape kits. House Bill 8 requires an audit of untested rape kits to determine the number, status and location of all rape kits in the state.

A bill before the Texas Senate would allow felons to seek public office only if they have received a pardon.

Current election code says a candidate who has been convicted of a felony must either be pardoned “or otherwise released from the resulting disabilities” – but it doesn’t define “resulting disabilities.” Senate Bill 466 would remove that clause.

Domestic violence is common among adults, and women are most frequently the victims. In fact, nearly half of women killed by homicide in the United States are killed by their former or current intimate partners.

Now a new study finds that this kind of violence also poses a risk to the lives of adolescent girls.

The study found that of the more than 2,000 adolescents killed between 2003 and 2016, nearly 7 percent — 150 teens — were killed by their current or former intimate partners.

Christopher Connelly / KERA News

If a poor person steals food or diapers or other essential items that they need but can’t afford to pay for, should they be prosecuted? Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot says no.

Texas is one of nine states that picks district court judges with a party ticket vote. And Texas is only one of six states that also selects the justices on its supreme courts and appellate courts with partisan elections. Is there a better way to pick a Texas judge? Some legislators may try to offer new ideas to address that old question.

Pages