Horns Up, Horns Down for April 24


Horns Down: Perry potentially violated criminal law

According to The Texas Tribune on Tuesday, emissaries of Gov. Rick Perry offered to restore funding to the office of embattled Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg if she resigned, even after his veto of the office’s funding was carried out. This, as The Texas Observer points out, clearly strengthens the case against the governor that is currently being considered by a grand jury. Last April, Lehmberg was arrested for drunk driving. After her arrest and subsequent guilty plea that resulted in a 45-day jail sentence — an extremely harsh punishment for a first-time offender — Perry threatened to veto funding to Lehmberg’s Public Integrity Unit, an agency that prosecutes public corruption cases, if Lehmberg didn’t step down. Somewhat ironically, Perry is now under investigation by a grand jury for having potentially violated the criminal statute against “Bribery and Corrupt Influence.” The veto itself, according to Perry’s accusers, may not have violated law, but the fact that he threatened the veto very well could have. And now that reports have surfaced that Perry’s people may have offered to restore funding if Lehmberg resigns, the possibility that the governor may have violated the law is even stronger. While we certainly don’t condone Lehmberg’s drunk driving, horns down to a situation that is looking increasingly like an abuse of official power to achieve a political end.

Horns Up: UT clinic brings attention to prisoner’s rights

On Tuesday, the UT Human Rights Clinic released a report which identified high summer temperatures inside Texas prisons as a both a human rights violation and a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. Currently, 79 of the state’s 109 prisons lack air conditioning, and, although there have been no studies analyzing the potential cost, officials claim that retrofitting the facilities with central air would be extremely expensive — which in no way excuses our prisons’ lack of this crucial utility. Prisoners’ rights are far too often ignored in our discourse, so horns up to the clinic for bringing much-needed attention to this issue.

Horns Down: even more problems for juvenile justice

Another blow was dealt to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department on Wednesday when it was announced that the agency was set to get its third director in a month. As The Texas Tribune reported, Linda Brooke, the agency’s current interim executive director, is leaving for a job in Fort Worth. Brooke could be replaced by David Riley, chief juvenile probation officer for Bexar County. Last month, State Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, blasted the agency for its inefficient spending, high re-arrest and re-incarceration rates and a failure to sufficiently segregate violent offenders from nonviolent offenders. Given those problems, the agency is as in need of a strong and consistent leader as ever, making it even more of a disappointment that it doesn’t seem likely to get one anytime soon. Horns down to the revolving door of juvenile justice department directors.