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June 23rd, 2006:

Sanctuary

So according to this story, one of the motivating factors in the petition drive to force a vote on HPD’s policy on checking immigration status is the meaning of the phrase “sanctuary city”. I think the whole thing is a stunt being pushed by people who need something to do now that gay marriage can’t be made any more illegal, but you can read the story and decide for yourself. I just want to note this:

Many localities don’t have a written policy at all.

That’s the case in Katy, where police are forbidden from enforcing immigration laws but do not have a written policy to follow, according to Assistant Police Chief Bill Hastings. The policy was mandated by a court in 1994 after a federal lawsuit was filed when police picked up day laborers.

So. When will the petition drive to change the city charter of Katy begin? That’s even more hands-off than Houston. Where’s the outrage over that?

I was sent a statement by City Council member Carol Alvarado about this, which I’ve got beneath the fold. Click on for more.

(more…)

The Yates 2.0 jury

I found this story about the voir dire for Andrea Yates retrial jury fascinating.

The seven women and eight men chosen for the new jury Thursday each had to agree they could set aside what they previously heard or learned about the case so they can give Yates a fair and impartial hearing.

“You’d have to be living in a cave not to have heard of this case,” defense attorney Wendell Odom said outside the courthouse after the jury had been seated. “We’ve got a good mix of people – a diverse group with a lot of independent thinkers on it. And they’re intelligent.”

[…]

Attorneys asked the 120 panelists questions including their views of the insanity defense and their opinions of police officers and psychiatrists, as well as how they felt about not being able to assess Yates’ punishment. A key difference for the new jury is that Yates automatically faces a life sentence if she is convicted of capital murder. The death penalty cannot be considered since jurors rejected that option in her last trial.

As we discussed before, the exclusion of the death penalty tends to make jury pools more amenable to the defense. Every jury is different, of course, and you never know what can happen. But it’s a potential factor, so let’s keep it in mind.

About one-fourth – 37 people – told [Judge Belinda] Hill they had already reached a conclusion on Yates’ guilt or innocence because of pretrial publicity and suspected that would influence their verdict. Many of those on the panel openly discussed prejudices or viewpoints as attorneys tried to assess whether those would hinder their ability to be fair and impartial jurors.

“I just don’t understand why a mother kills her babies when they’re her blood,” said one man, as Yates stared down at the table in front of her. “Maybe one – but five?”

“Mainly, it’s that I don’t understand – not why (it happened), but how could she?” a woman asked the attorneys.

Several panelists said they do not consider the insanity argument to be a credible and valid defense. One of them referred to it as a “defense of convenience.” But others said they would consider any mother who killed her children to be insane, regardless of what evidence might be presented.

[…]

Defense attorneys said they found the jury panel’s lively discussion refreshing.

“I can’t remember a time when people discussed mental illness in voir dire,” [defense attorney George] Parnham said. “Five years ago, we would’ve been laughed out of the courtroom.”

I don’t know if this will have any effect in the end on Yates, but it does look like the defense team is pretty optimistic going into the trial. We’ll see.

Strayhorn and Kinky Yes, Stockman No

I’m not at all surprised that Carole Keeton Strayhorn and Kinky Friedman qualified for the ballot. Given the number of signatures they collected, the only question was how many of those sigs would be validated. What is a surprise is this:

In other races, former congressman Steve Stockman failed to qualify as an independent candidate for the 22nd Congressional District seat vacated by former U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay of Sugar Land. Stockman turned in about 600 signatures but fewer than the 500 valid signatures that he needed, Haywood said.

I always knew Steve Stockman was an idiot, but good grief. Has he never heard the rule of thumb that you need twice as many sigs as the minimum to be reasonably sure of getting enough valid ones? And how hard is it to get five hundred signatures in five weeks? What a maroon.

So. Governor’s race, complicated. CD22, simple. That’s about it.

Straight ticket Texan

If you haven’t done so already, please go to the Forward Together PAC Map Changers page and give your support to the straight Texan ticket. Right now, Chris Bell is #2, and rumor has it that John Courage is just outside the top five. We can do better than that, right? Please go vote to bring $25K to Texas. Thanks!