Interim Update: August 2015

          Our long nightmare is almost over. High school football has begun and college football starts in earnest this weekend. Oh, and Blue Bell is selling non-lethal ice cream again. Welcome back, Texas civilization!

 

DNA ALERT: IMMEDIATE ACTION REQUIRED

            If you have a pending case involving a DNA mixture, you need to request confirmation that the combined probability of inclusion (CPI) was calculated by the lab using current and proper mixture interpretation protocols. If the lab is unable to confirm this you, should request a re-analysis of CPI. Let us explain why.

            You may have seen our notice about six weeks ago that the FBI was recalculating its DNA population statistics to correct some minor errors. (If you haven’t, the original letter from DPS can be viewed here.) That should be no big deal, but if you have a pending DNA case, the test results should be recalculated to get the correct numbers before you go to trial (unless you get a kick out of post-conviction litigation, because you will invite it by not retesting).

            A second, larger issue is looming, however. It appears that scientists have recently changed how they calculate inclusion and exclusion statistics in DNA mixtures. The Forensic Science Commission recently published a two-page explanation that can be viewed here, along with a link to a PowerPoint (also on that webpage) made available to us at a Forensic Science Commission briefing last week. Judging from some of the initial recalculations that prosecutors have recently received, the change in results can be drastic. Therefore, it is important that you seek re-analysis of the DNA results in any pending case, but it is imperative that you do so if the case involves a DNA mixture.

            We are in the early stages of evaluating this problem, but it is possible that crime labs may have to recalculate their statistics on every past DNA mixture case that resulted in a conviction (and that’s just for starters—the impact on unsolved cold cases will have to be dealt with afterwards). This will be a huge undertaking and will require more discussion and planning, but first things first: Take care of the cases on your desk so that the problem is not compounded.

            We intend to alter the agenda of the Annual Criminal and Civil Law Update in Corpus Christi in three weeks to include a major briefing on this issue that Wednesday afternoon, September 23rd. We will continue to post updates on our website between now and then, but if you have any questions or input, please contact Rob at (w) 512/474-2436 or [email protected]. And if you have had any recent experience with this issue that you think is helpful, we would love to hear about it.    

 

DADS guardianship training

            Here’s another dollop of bad news for those of you who represent DADS. This past session, the Legislature passed HB 39 (effective September 1, 2015) to require an attorney representing a guardianship applicant to take a 4-hour CLE course that was previously only required of attorneys ad litem or private attorneys representing proposed wards. The people at DADS notified us a few weeks ago that they believe HB 39 extends this requirement to any county or district attorneys handling cases on behalf of DADS—which was a surprise to us, because they hadn’t said a peep about it during the session and we did not read the bill that way. In fact, there was absolutely no discussion during the session of the application of this new training requirement to prosecutors who represent DADS, but that’s all water under the bridge now.

            So, what’s the end result? According to DADS, a prosecutor who does not complete the training may be kicked off their guardianship cases if another lawyer in the proceeding raises that objection, leaving DADS to rely on their own in-house lawyers. Whether you think that is a likely (or even a bad) outcome is for you to decide, but we’re always of the opinion that knowledge is good, so if you want to take the course, the State Bar offers “Guardianship Law 2015 (for attorney ad litem certification)” in a DVD format ($80 each for two or more participants) or online for $160 per person. However, you can get that online price cut in half if you contact Laura Angle with TexasBar CLE, who has arranged a bulk discount for district and county attorney employees. (TexasBarCLE also offers a scholarship program which you can ask about if you wish.) For more information or to register using that discount, please contact Ms. Angle at 512/263-2802 or [email protected].

 

Legislative Updates

            Our 2015 Legislative Update Tour has been a huge success! We are on pace to train more than 2,500 people on the new legal changes going into effect this fall, and the reception for our unique spin on current events has been flattering. If you were unable to catch our show when we were in your region, don’t forget that we have our penultimate update scheduled for this Friday at the DPS HQ Auditorium in Austin, and the final update will be held the Tuesday before the Annual Update in Corpus Christi. Register online here for either course to save yourself a seat (and keep an extra $25 in your pocket). To date, we have more than 200 people pre-registered for the Corpus show and more are signing up every day, so sign up soon!

 

Have you registered for the Annual Update yet?

            This year’s Annual Criminal & Civil Law Update is being held September 23–25, 2015, at the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi. For information on classes, hotels, and how to register, go to http://www.tdcaa.com/training/annual-criminal-civil-law-update. We’re already getting excited about Thursday night’s reception on board the USS Lexington, so don’t miss out, register today!

 

Protective order training

            Attend our FREE Protective Order seminar to receive training on the differences between types of protective orders (including final protective orders, emergency orders, and temporary ex parte orders); jurisdiction for each of these types of orders; additional measures of protections for victims, such as safety planning, community resources, conditions of bond; working with other stakeholders—including local law enforcement, state agencies, and nonprofits—for victim safety and restoration; and prosecuting violations of protective order and bond cases. All attendees will receive a free protective order manual that includes sample forms and documents on a CD.

            This course is limited to prosecutor-office employees only. It will be held September 22, 2015, from 1:00–3:00 p.m., at the Omni Bayfront Hotel in Corpus Christi, but it is technically separate from the rest of the Annual Criminal & Civil Law Update. If you wish to attend, check the appropriate box on the online registration page for the Annual Criminal & Civil Law Update so that we know you are coming and can ensure we have enough manuals for all attendees.

 

Victim Service Board elections

            Elections for the 2016 TDCAA Victim Services Board (Regions 2, 4, 6, and 8) will be held on Thursday, September 24, 2015, at 1:15 p.m. during our Annual Update in Corpus Christi. The Victim Services Board assists in preparing and developing operational procedures, standards, training, and educational programs for victim assistance coordinators throughout the state. Regional representatives serve as a point of contact for their regions. To be eligible, each candidate must have the permission of his or her elected prosecutor, attend the election at the annual seminar, and be a dues-paying member of TDCAA. The bylaws for the board and a map of the regions are posted at http://www.tdcaa.com/victim-services.

 

Suzanne McDaniel Award

            We are now accepting nominations for the Suzanne McDaniel Award. The person selected for this award should exemplify the qualities that were so evident in Suzanne herself: advocacy, empathy, and the constant recognition of the rights of victims. To be eligible, a person must be employed by a County Attorney, District Attorney, or Criminal District Attorney’s Office; at least a portion of the individual’s job duties must involve working directly with victims; and the person must have demonstrated impeccable service to TDCAA, victim services, and prosecution.

            Should you wish to nominate someone for this award, please note that the person does not have to work in your office or even in your TDCAA region as long as he or she meets the award criteria. To nominate someone, please provide the nominee’s name, office of employment, phone number, and a description no longer than 100 words of why you believe this person deserves the award. This information (or any related questions) should be emailed to Jalayne Robinson at TDCAA no later than 5:00 pm on Tuesday, September 8.

 

Free Transportation Code books

            In early September, we will ship Transportation Code (2015–2017) books to all prosecutors in Texas, courtesy of a grant through the Texas Department of Transportation. TDCAA uses its membership records to determine the number of books to send to each office, but if that information is out of date and we do not ship a sufficient number to your office, contact TDCAA Sales Manager Jordan Kazmann ([email protected]) to request additional books.

 

Quotes of the week 

“Actually, the law was passed to stop exactly what Waco did two weeks ago. I don't think we’ve heard the last of that.”
            —Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston), chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee and sponsor of HB 2150, the bill that eliminated the use of grand jury commissioners—echoing the same point we made in our summer legislative update about the lack of judgment used by the Waco judge who selected a peace officer to be foreman for the grand jury investigating the Twin Peaks biker/cop shoot-out.

 

“Someday you’ll meet a man and he’ll sweep you off your feet and he’ll promise you the world. You just punch that lying bastard as hard as you can and run, baby!”
            —Facebook post by Valerie Jackson, the Houston woman who was recently killed (along with her current husband and six children) by David Ray Conley, her ex-boyfriend who is now charged with capital murder.

 

“It only takes one.”
            —“Juror 17,” explaining how one holdout on the jury deciding Aurora, Colorado theater shooter James Holmes’ punishment spared him from death row.

 

 “When police officers kill a dog, we get more calls to my office than when police officers kill a person.”
            —Margo Frasier, Austin Police Monitor (and former Travis County Sheriff), speaking at a local forum on race relations (as quoted by a reporter on Twitter).

 

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