Amanda Culberson, former supervisor of the Houston Police Department crime lab, testified in a driving-while-intoxicated case that she resigned her job “because she could not trust the accuracy of breath alcohol tests from the department's testing vans” when the equipment overheated during hot months, reports the Houston Chronicle. The story says during the testimony, “the courtroom was filled with defense lawyers who specialize in DWI cases” including one who told the newspaper his firm has at least 20 cases that could be affected. According to the article, “HPD officials said there were no problems with the integrity of test results because the machines will not function if they are too hot.” According to the article, the Harris County District Attorney plans an investigation.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals stayed the execution of Larry Swearingen, who “was convicted of the 1998 rape and murder of 19-year-old Melissa Trotter,” reports The Texas Tribune. Swearingen’s lawyers have argued he couldn’t have committed the crimes, because he was jailed on traffic warrants just after the woman disappeared. Forensic experts who examined the victim said her body “showed only enough decomposition to have been in the woods for a few days to, and at most, two weeks. That means her murder would have happened after Swearingen was jailed,” the story says. But prosecutors in Montgomery County are confident in Swearingen’s conviction. The story notes, "Among the key pieces of evidence in the prosecution’s case was a pair of pantyhose. One leg of the lingerie was found around Trotter’s neck. Police said the other was found in Swearingen’s home."
Consolidating a redistricting suit that was filed in Austin with three other suits already filed in San Antonio may hurt the chances of re-election for U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Austin, reports the Austin American-Statesman. The story explains, “A quick resolution of the case would give Doggett a better chance of redrawing his district lines before the primary election,” but consolidating the suits may slow the resolution.
“Warren Jeffs' sexual assault trial got off to a frenzied start, largely because the polygamist sect leader insisted on representing himself, then sat mute and seemingly oblivious to everything going on in court,” says an Associated Press story in the San Antonio Express-News. The story says U.S. District Judge Barbara Walther urged Jeffs not to proceed without a lawyer, but denied Jeffs’ request to delay the trial.
“John Grisham's The Confession, a novel that chronicles the gut-wrenching politics of a last-ditch death penalty appeal in Texas, has been named the winner of the inaugural Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction,” reports the ABA Journal. The price will be awarded annually for a fictional book “that best exemplifies the role of lawyers in society.”
-- Angela Morris