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Laws, Courts, and Justice.  Texas has one of the largest judicial systems in the country.  Texas laws/statutes are found in Vernon’s Codes where laws.

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Presentation on theme: "Laws, Courts, and Justice.  Texas has one of the largest judicial systems in the country.  Texas laws/statutes are found in Vernon’s Codes where laws."— Presentation transcript:

1 Laws, Courts, and Justice

2  Texas has one of the largest judicial systems in the country.  Texas laws/statutes are found in Vernon’s Codes where laws are divided into specific topics.  Law books are constantly changing (attorneys have to purchase/upgrade law books)

3  Municipal Courts  judges not required to be licensed attorneys  City council determines number of judges and sets salaries  Their jurisdiction deals primarily with violations of city ordinances  Class C Misdemeanors

4  Justice of the Peace Courts/Small claims court  JP, is elected by voters in his/her precinct (precincts are created by the county court)  You do not have to be an attorney nor have legal experience  They have to receive a 40 hour course  They perform marriages  Declare people dead (and cause of death if the county does not have a coroner  Constable (peace officer for the precinct) serve supeonas; are elected to four year terms

5  County judge does not have to be an attorney and most are not.  Deals with validity of wills, guardianship proceedings, mental competency

6  County Courts at Law  Mostly limited to misdemeanors  Civil: up to 100,000 dollars  State Trial Courts  District Courts: judge is elected at large; try both civil and criminal cases  Drug Courts: focus on rehab and court monitoring of nonviolent drug offenders

7  In Texas, there are 14 courts of appeals plus the Supreme Court of Texas and the Court of Criminal Appeals  Court of Criminal Appeals (a 9 judge court) they are elected. All members are Republicans and no Hispanics or African Americans.

8  To practice, you must pass the State Bar of Texas  Law School (four year degree plus three years of law school)  Only 11 percent of all attorneys in Texas are African American or Hispanic  Attorneys are appointed to cases if the defendant is unable to afford an attorney

9  Grand Jury: twelve citizens who may be chosen at random or selected by a judge from a county  Grand Jury meets anywhere from three to six months (every other week for a day)  Grand Jury listens to testimony brought to them by the District Attorney or Asst. D. A.s as well as testimony from police officers.  Based on testimony, Grand Jury decides to indict an individual.  Grand Juries can initiate their own investigation!

10  Also known as a petit jury  May have 6 or 12 members  Names are randomly selected from a list provided by the Secretary of State’s Office: registered voters, licensed drivers, persons with i.d. cards from DPS  If chosen, attorneys question jurors (voir dire) to see who is fair and impartial  Attorneys are allowed to “strike out” jurors if they feel that juror is biased  Jurors get paid 6 dollars (first day) and subsequent days 40 dollars.

11  Sue for damages (economic) hospital bills, wages, etc…  Noneconomic damages: mental anguish, loss of life, disfigurement, emotional distress  Punitive damages (intended to punish defendant)  Recently, legislature has set caps on dollar claims for damages

12  Based on the Texas Penal Code  Capital Felonies (death)  First Degree Felony  Second Degree Felony  Third Degree Felony  Fourth Degree Felony (also known as a state jail felony) may involve county jail sentence for lesser offenses

13  Highly controversial issue nationwide  In Texas: from 1819 through 1923 hanging was a means of execution  1923: Electric Chair..old sparky is in the prison museum in Huntsville, Texas  Up until 1923, counties were responsible for their own executions  1924: five electrocuted in one day  Total electrocuted in Texas: 361  1964: last offender to be electrocuted in Texas




17  In 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the death penalty as a violation of the 8 th amendment (no cruel and unusual punishment)  52 men on death row in Texas were consequently commuted to life  Strict constructionists vs. Loose constructionists  By 1974, states were allowed to decide for themselves..and in Texas executions resumed.  1977: Texas changed from electric chair to lethal injection.

18  Cost per execution: $86.08  Cost for a death penalty case: 2.3 million (3 times the cost for imprisoning someone for 40 years)  Avg. time on death row before being executed: 10.26 years  Shortest time on death row: (Joe Gonzales/248 days)  Longest time: Excell White (24 years)  Average age of executed: 39  Youngest executed (Jay Pinkerton/24, Jesse De la Rosa/24/from San Antonio)  Oldest executed: Willie Chappell/age 66

19  2008: 18 executions  Unfortunately, court appointed attorneys are not the best (sleeping lawyer syndrome)  130 innocent people have walked off death row after spending an average of 33 years; proven innocent based on DNA  In 2001 the governor vetoed a bill that would have banned the execution of the mentally retarded; U.S. Supreme Court in 2002 ruled that executing mentally retarded was unconstitutional.

20  Two death row cases  Roy Hernandez (escaping from county jail and killing “Curly Herrera” a deputy  Hernandez died of cancer while on death row prior to his execution  Miguel Angel Martinez (1991/controversial case of a triple ax murder by three males; Miguel Angel Venegas (16 at the time); Miguel Angel Martinez (17 at the time); Manuel “Milo” Flores (17 at the time) and the 49 th district court’s son  Milo turned evidence against the others and he was granted immunity; Venegas escaped from juvenile detention facility; Martinez was two days from execution but was eventually commuted to life in 2002. .

21  All three were United High School students (seniors) /Jan. 1991  Evidence was tainted (ax used belonged to judge)  Fred Zain (lost license for committing perjury for the state: hired by district atty. Joe Rubio )  Ax was used to chop a christmas tree..  Finger prints were lost by police dept. (missing from evidence room)  Law of Parties: if you are at the scene of the crime but don’t commit the crime, you are just as guilty. (Texas Law)

22 Folke Ryden (Swedish Reporter/Documentary) High School Picture

23  Pretrial Actions:  At point of arrest, must be read Miranda warning  May be taken to jail and processed  Assigned a hearing with a jp or judge  You might be released on personal recognizance (promise to report on a certain date) or released on bail by posting personal money or from a bail bond service…or you may be denied bail and jailed (flight risk/dangerous)  Trial jury (begins with state/prosecutor introducing evidence, etc..) second, defense presents it’s case (both sides can object to the other)

24  Closing arguments by both sides to the jury  As a defendant, not required to testify against self. (Plea the 5 th )  Jury deliberates for as long as they have to…they must reach a unanimous decision of guilty or not guilty  If they don’t reach a unanimous decision, the judge declares it a mistrial (a new trial is scheduled)  Sentence is usually determined by judge (separate hearing is held for sentencing phase) It is here where defense brings in character witnesses…and state brings in prior record, etc..

25  7 years; 15 million dollars (daycare/sexual abuse case) in California/McMartin Case turned out to be a mistrial  Charles Manson (7 month trial)

26  Texas Department of Criminal Justice  See map (pg. 412) for locations in Texas  Minimum, Medium, Maximum (Supermax)  Average number per prison (2,800)  70% have less than high school educ.  1/3 are functionally illiterate  7% have below 70 I.Q. (mentally retarded)

27 Male94 % Female6 % African American39 % White31 % Hispanic30 % Violent Offenders54 % Drugs17%







34  Do inmates change? A high percentage of recidivism due to lack of support/mentorship once they come out…  What is offered in prison: Vocational Classes: furniture, upholstery, sew uniforms, agriculture, etc…  Prisons are self-sufficient in growing much of what they eat.  G.E.D. (paid by inmate/family)  College Classes (paid by inmate/family)

35  7 Parole Board members appointed by the governor  Inmates may be granted parole or set off dates for new reviews  Levels of parole vary: electronic monitoring, substance abuse counseling/treatment, probation officer randomly checks for drugs, work, living environment stability…

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