Criminal Justice

Capital Tonight: Should the justice system treat 17-year-olds as adults?

A former teen criminal, a judge and a UT researcher were just three of the people who testified before a meeting of the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee Tuesday, all in an effort to answer one question: What’s the appropriate age to treat teens as adults when they commit crimes in Texas?

In Tuesday’s Capital Tonight, we heard the evidence lawmakers are considering, including testimony from one young man who has seen the system firsthand

BEHIND THE RESEARCH

UT Senior Lecturer Michele Deitch was one of the experts asked to testify at Tuesday’s hearing. She joined us in-studio to talk about her research on juvenile offenders, teenage brain development and the potential upfront costs of raising the age a person enters the adult justice system from 17 to 18.

Our Capital Commentators, Harold Cook and Ted Delisi, also weighed in on the issue from a political standpoint.

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM FIGHT

The fight over faith and federal mandates has made it all the way to the Supreme Court, in a case that pits the arts-and-crafts store Hobby Lobby against the federal government and the Affordable Care Act. We checked in on the latest from Washington on a case that could define religious freedom for years to come.

Intern Showcase: The Prison of Drugs

In this short documentary TWC News Intern Matthew Bogard explores the interconnected relationship between drug policy and imprisonment rates. By examining previous political initiatives and prison statistics, this investigative report aims to determine what kind of narcotic penal system is the most effective. Additionally, this report focuses on the institutional incentives of private and state-run prisons to provide a comprehensive look at America’s prisons and drug laws.

Click the image below to watch.

Capital Tonight: Abbott pushes for pre-trial DNA testing

A bill limiting statewide officials to two consecutive terms passed out of the Senate Tuesday. If approved by the House, the bill would go to voters in November.

A joint committee is looking into the relationship between the University of Texas Board of Regents and UT President Bill Powers. The committee asked for a year’s worth of communication between the Board of Regents and all University of Texas staff.

Attorney General Greg Abbott discussed a recently proposed bill to ensure DNA testing of evidence is done before cases that involve the death penalty begin.

Abbott described the bipartisan bill as a way to streamline the criminal justice process.

“We need to get all that [DNA testing] done upfront, to make sure that we convict the right person, or if the DNA evidence shows the person was innocent, they are released,” Abbott said.

Paul Brown also spoke to Abbott about the Second Amendment and gun-control efforts in Washington.

Harold Cook and Ted Delisi sat down with Paul Brown to discuss a statement Gov. Rick Perry made to a Florida political blog. In an interview with The Shark Tank, Perry said he’ll likely make an announcement about a possible 2016 presidential run later this year.


Senate honors wrongfully convicted Texan

The Texas Senate honored wrongfully convicted Texan Michael Morton Wednesday.

Senate Resolution 477 recognizes Morton’s “courage and grace” during the more than two decades he was inprisoned for the death of his wife, Christine. DNA evidence recently exonerated Morton.

Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston), who chairs the board for the Innocence Project, led the chamber during the recognition.

“Mr. President, members, today I have the honor of introducing an incredible man with a story of courage and perseverance most of us cannot even comprehend,” Ellis said.

He echoed the sentiments of the Dallas Morning News, which selected Morton as one of its 2012 Texans of the Year.

“Members, Mr. Morton could have harbored incredible bitterness and simply tried to rebuild his own life outside of the spotlight, concentrating on himself and his future,” Ellis told senators assembled. “That would be understandable. Instead, he is using the stature he has gained as a living testimony of the flaws of our criminal justice system to enact real change and prevent other Texans from sharing his fate.”

Sen. Ellis and Sen. Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock) recently filed comprehensive discovery reform legislation which they say would create a fairer, more reliable and transparent Texas’ justice system.