Move over, Walker, Texas Ranger. Chuck Norris, the legendary international karate champion turned action movie star, will now be sharing Texas with another martial arts master, Steven Seagal. The Associated Press is reporting that Seagal has been sworn in as a deputy sheriff in Hudspeth County, the sparsely populated border county just east of El Paso. Hudspeth County has had its share of notoriety recently, with a few famous folks being arrested for drug offenses at the border checkpoint near the county seat of Sierra Blanca. Celebrities such as actor Armie Hammer, rapper Snoop Dogg, and singer Willie Nelson got to visit the Hudspeth County Jail when busted for drugs at the checkpoint.
The AP reports that Seagal will help train local law enforcement in martial arts. It is probably a relief to the district attorney and county attorney, Jaime Esparza and Kit Bramblett, respectively, that Seagal won’t be making cases that will require him to testify in court. Hey, we’ve seen his TV show and some of his 22 B-movies. He may be an aikido master, but I’d be worried about his performance on the stand.
TDCAA committees for 2012
Your TDCAA President Lee Hon (CDA in Polk County) has appointed the committees for 2012 (see the full list below). TDCAA is a truly member-driven organization, and the work of the committees is vital to the association.
- The Training and Civil Committees, for example, do the heavy lifting to design our annual seminars.
- The Editorial Committee assists Sarah Wolf, our communications director, in developing timely and relevant content for this journal.
- The Publications Committee advises Diane Beckham, senior staff counsel and editor of an impressive library of TDCAA publications, on the content and topics of publications.
- The Nominations Committee works to identify emerging leaders of the association and folks who should be recognized for their work with awards such as the Prosecutor of the Year, Lone Star Prosecutor, and Oscar Sherrell awards.
- The Diversity, Recruitment, and Retention Committee has the task of designing training to encourage a dialogue on racial issues within our profession and to develop initiatives to raise the visibility of our profession at law schools and in the community at large.
- The Appellate Advisory Committee guides the work of our Senior Appellate Attorney, John Stride.
- The Finance Committee oversees the budgeting of TDCAA’s various grant funds and fiscal operations, which continues to get more complicated as we provide more services to our members.
Finally, for 2012 Lee has appointed a Training Subcommittee on Emerging Issues to help hone TDCAA training on some of the topics of particular interest in our profession today, such as forensic science, eyewitness identification, DNA, and Brady. This committee will spend some time evaluating the issues and developing core training that will assist prosecutors in performing their duty to protect the public and do justice.
Thanks to all of those who will put in valuable work this year. If you have ideas in any of these areas, you can contact us here at the association or the committee chairs or members directly. Got ideas for leadership or award nominations? The committee would love to have them. Want to serve? Just give me or Lee a call!
Diversity, Recruitment, and Retention
Efrain De La Fuente
Keith D. Harris
Kevin S. Harris
Matthew D. Powell
Kebharu H. Smith
David P. Weeks
Deanna L. Belknap
Rene M. Peña
Jaime E. Esparza
Randall C. Sims
Michael E. Fouts
Dan K. Joiner
Todd L. Smith
Lisa B. Smith
Thomas L. Bridges
H. Wallace Hatch
Jo Ann Linzer
Joe Shannon Jr.
Edward “Chip” Wilkinson
LEMIT offers draft eyewitness protocol
Last year, the Texas Legislature tasked Sam Houston State University’s Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas (LEMIT) with drafting a model eyewitness identification policy. The purpose was to create a model policy that could be useful to law enforcement agencies, which must adopt their own eyewitness identification policy by September 1, 2012. The statute governing this policy is Article 38.20, Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.
You can review the LEMIT model policy here: www.lemitonline .org/publications/ewid.html. In ad-dition, at that website LEMIT offers a Frequently Asked Questions page as a summary of the model policy. The key elements are a sequential presentation of photographs and a blind or “blinded” administration in which the presenter either does not know if a suspect’s photo is in the presentation or the presenter cannot see or track which photo is presented to the witness. The policy has sample SOPs for the administration of photo lineups, live lineups, and show-ups, along with suggested instructions to the witnesses. Finally, the model policy outlines steps that should be taken to document the identification procedures used.
Obviously, prosecutors should meet with their local law enforcement departments this spring to see what policies they will implement come September 1. You will need to know those policies when you present an identification in court. Keep in mind that the failure to adopt a policy or to follow an adopted policy will not make an identification inadmissible, but it will certainly subject the administrator of the ID procedure to cross-examination concerning ID procedures.
Retirement of the “gentleman judge”
Congratulations to Billy John Edwards on his retirement December 31 from his post as the 259th Judicial District Attorney serving Jones and Shackelford Counties. Judge Edwards spent 20 years on the bench in Taylor County before returning to his home county as the district attorney. Judge Edwards represented the gold standard of judicial demeanor and continued to impress folks as the district attorney. Thanks for your 40 years of service! The good news is that the governor has already appointed the new DA for the 259th, Joe Edd Boaz of Anson. Joe Edd, an experienced criminal lawyer, has hit the ground running.
Technology and police work
If you keep up with the law through our weekly case summary emails, you read some excellent commentary January 27 on the recent Supreme Court decision of United States v. Jones. (Read a more in-depth article on our front cover.)
In Jones, federal agents tracked the movements of a car registered to a drug dealer’s wife with a GPS device. The agents had a warrant for some period of time, but much of the 28 days of tracking was not covered in the warrant. The district court allowed evidence produced as a result of the tracking device when the car was in a public place, reasoning that there is no expectation of privacy when the car is on the streets. The appellate court reversed, and in a 4-1-4 opinion, the Supreme Court of the United States announced that the use of the tracking device constituted a search. As the TDCAA commentary pointed out, you likely heard a thud after the decision was issued—a pile of questions landing on your desk: Do you need a warrant or not for a GPS device? Based on probable cause or reasonable suspicion? Does any of this apply to laptops and cell phones?
As you might recall, it was not too long ago that the Supreme Court rebuffed law enforcement’s warrantless use of thermal imaging technology in investigating a marijuana growing operation in a residence. (Apparently, with that technology a house concealing hundreds of growing lamps will light up like a Christmas tree.) But that was also declared a search in Kyllo v. United States, 533 U.S. 27 (2001).
So how many years will it take for the court to firm up the law on technology and searches? Once again, it has validated my theory that the line between great police work and unconstitutional conduct is razor thin.