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:
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)
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
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
County judge does not have to be an attorney and most are not. Deals with validity of wills, guardianship proceedings, mental competency
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
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.
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
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!
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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. .
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)
Folke Ryden (Swedish Reporter/Documentary) High School Picture
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)
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..
7 years; 15 million dollars (daycare/sexual abuse case) in California/McMartin Case turned out to be a mistrial Charles Manson (7 month trial)
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)
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)
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…