Texas Set to Kill Intellectually Disabled Man on Thursday

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Texas Department of Criminal Justice
Texas' lethal injection gurney.
Barring any last minute action by the United States Supreme Court, Robert Ladd will be executed Thursday night by the state of Texas. Ladd, convicted for the 1996 murder of Vicki Ann Garner, will be the second inmate on Texas' death row killed in 2015.

Texas' highest criminal court, the Court of Criminal Appeals, denied Ladd's final request for a stay of execution Tuesday, despite his long-documented history of intellectual disability. In a 2005 U.S. District Court hearing held to determine whether Ladd met Texas' statutory definition of "mentally retarded," a defense expert testified that Ladd's IQ was 67 and that Ladd had significant functional deficits in areas like work, money, social and communication skills. The state's expert at the hearing agreed with the defense about Ladd's functional problems, but blamed them on an anti-social personality disorder rather than an intellectual disability.

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John Wiley Price Wants the Government to Pay for His Lawyer. That's not as Crazy as It Sounds.

Categories: Legal Battles

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Sam Merten
JWP in happier times.
Showing what The Dallas Morning News' Rudy Bush derisively called "moxie," Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price says that, despite his $141,000 salary, he is unable to pay for his defense as he faces a bevy of federal corruption charges. Bush, among others, thinks this is ridiculous, that Price is just running one more game on the residents of Dallas County. What's actually going on isn't as clear, but let's take a look at some of the factors at play.

Price claims that many of the assets he could have used to pay his lawyers are tied up in the forfeiture case related to his corruption charges. He does have $60,000 in a campaign fund that he could use, but his longtime attorney Billy Ravkind says that amount isn't nearly enough.

"I don't think if the Lord himself walked in here he could get a lawyer to handle the discovery and the trial of this case for anywhere near $60,000," Ravkind told the paper.

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Craig Watkins Wins Late Victory in Al Hill Case

Categories: Legal Battles

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Sam Merten
Going out with a victorious whimper.
It's hollow succor, to be sure, but 5th Texas Court of Appeals ruled Monday that a judge made an improper ruling in the case that ended in outgoing Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins being charged with contempt of court.

Watkins secured an indictment in 2011 that accused Al Hill III and his wife of making a false statement to obtain property or credit -- in this case a $500,000 home-equity loan. Before the case went to trial, the charges against Hill's wife were dropped. Soon after, Hill sought to have his charges dismissed as well, claiming that his prosecution by Watkins was politically motivated.

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Jaguars Strip Club Says Dallas Can't Shut it Down Because Free Speech

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Google Maps
Jaguars: Drug-filled strip club, bastion of free expression or all of the above?
Let's set aside for a moment the niceties of due process and innocent-until-proven-guilty and take Dallas police at their word. We'll take without further cross-examination the claim that they conducted a five-month investigation of Eternal Eden, a regular, all-night rave at Northwest Dallas' Jaguars strip club, and that undercover officers made no fewer than 51 purchases of meth, Ecstasy, Molly and other illegal drugs. We'll also accept at face value the assertion that the four dozen drug buys, and the 15 indictments that followed (mostly of club employees and VIP patrons), prove that Eternal Eden -- again, this is an all-night rave at an all-nude strip club -- was, in fact, chock-full of illegal drugs and that some of those drugs caused the overdose deaths of at least two teenagers.

Assuming all of the above is true, the question now is this: Does the city have the authority to shut Jaguars down?

Dallas sued the strip club two weeks ago seeking to have it declared a "common nuisance" under state law -- i.e. "a place to which persons habitually go for the delivery, possession, manufacture or use of controlled substances" -- and shut down for one year.

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What to Expect as 5th Circuit Hears Final Arguments in Same-Sex Marriage Case

Categories: Legal Battles

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Ernst Vikne
The Case:
DeLeon vs. Perry features two sets of plaintiffs fighting for two distinct rights. Cleopatra DeLeon and Nicole Dimetman are already married. The couple seeks to force the state of Texas to recognize their Massachusetts union and grant them the rights afforded to opposite-sex married couples from other states. Victor Holmes and Mark Phariss seek the right to marry each other in their home state, Texas. The state argues that Proposition 2 -- a referendum passed in 2005 that defines marriage in the state as only the union of one man and one woman -- is constitutionally affirmed by the 10th Amendment.

See also: What to Expect as the 5th Circuit Hears Final Arguments in the Texas Abortion Case

In February, U.S. District Court Judge Orlando Garcia ruled Texas' same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional, saying he could find no rational reason for the state to restrict marriage. Arguing for the state, Assistant Texas Solicitor General Mike Murphy said that the law wasn't meant to discriminate against gay people, but to "promote responsible procreation." Garcia immediately stayed his ruling pending appeal. Oral arguments will be heard by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on January 9.


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What to Expect as the 5th Circuit Hears Final Arguments in the Texas Abortion Case

Categories: Legal Battles

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Stephen Young
A South Dallas Planned Parenthood clinic that's going to stay open no matter what the 5th Circuit says.
The new year will ring in with two major skirmishes in the nation's culture wars, as the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is set to hear oral arguments in one case challenging Texas' restrictive new abortion law and another seeking to overturn the state's ban on same-sex marriage. The three-judge panels that will hear arguments are set, and first up on January 6 is Whole Women's Health vs. Lakey (the case challenging House Bill 2's abortion regulations). Then, on January 9, the court tackles DeLeon vs. Perry and gay marriage. Let's take a look at what's likely to happen with the HB2 case first. A review of the gay-marriage case will be posted shortly.

The Case
Whole Women's Health vs. Lakey is the second case arising from Texas' draconian HB2. The first, decided in March, ended with the court affirming HB2's requirement that doctors performing abortions must have admitting privileges at a hospital located within 30 miles of the clinic where the abortion took place. The first suit also challenged changes made in HB2 to the protocols allowed in the administering of medication-induced abortions.

The suit being heard next week alleges that HB2's requirement that any health clinic where abortions are performed be a certified ambulatory surgical center places an undue burden on Texas women seeking the procedure. Once effective, the requirements would close all but eight abortion providers in the state. Much of South and West Texas wouldn't be anywhere close to an abortion provider. Any woman in Midland seeking an abortion would face at least a 300-mile drive to get a constitutionally protected medical procedure. The state contends that the requirements increase safety. Even if they don't, the state has argued, the requirements are legal because the travel requirements created are not an undue burden on a "large fraction" of Texas women. Seventeen percent of reproductive-aged women in Texas would live 150 miles or more from the closest abortion provider were HB2 to take effect.

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Jaguars Agrees to Pay $2.3 Million to Strippers Who Say They Were Cheated on Pay

Categories: Legal Battles

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Youtube User amysamana
Don't mind her, she's just an independent contractor.
Are strippers employees, or just independent contractors working for tips? A lawsuit filed against Dallas' all-nude Jaguars settled on Wednesday, leaving us no answer, at least in this case.

The plaintiffs in the suit, 182 women who worked for the club's outlets in Texas and Arizona, will divvy up $1.54 million, the chunk of the settlement that will remain after their lawyers get their 33 percent. That's $8,461.54 each, or about 1,167 hours worth of minimum wages. The strippers claimed that they often worked more the 40 hours a week without overtime pay, were required to pay a fee just to dance and forced to tip out to bartenders, DJs and house moms, among others. Each of those conditions, and the fact that they weren't paid a wage at all, would be a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act were the women found to be employees.

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Experian Helped a Dallas Company Wreck People's Credit Scores, Texas Says

Categories: Legal Battles

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Shane Garner, a man of many talents.
Shane Garner's alleged scam was simple: Set up a reputable-sounding company, i.e. the Credit Alliance Group. Flood the Internet with promises that he can help hard-working Americans escape from crushing debt. Convince the people who respond that they need to pay the company up front so it can negotiate down their debt. Use their money instead to buy a new BMW and a $1.2 million home on the fringe of Highland Park.

For five years, the scheme worked well, as Credit Alliance Group never seemed to run out of people desperate and/or gullible enough to give it cash. Inevitably, though, the consumer complaints and lawsuits began piling up, high enough to pique the interest of CBS 11's i-Team and the Texas Attorney General's Office. By the time a Dallas judge handed down a $34 million judgment against CAG earlier this year, both Garner and CAG had filed for bankruptcy.

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Texas' Homegrown Liquor Lobby Tries to Kill Total Wine, Gets Laughed Out of Court

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Luis Tamayo
It was a valiant effort. Earlier this year the Texas Package Stores Association, in an attempt to shield the thousand or so liquor stores it represents from meaningful competition, sought to resuscitate an obscure and transparently stupid provision of Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code barring non-Texans from holding Texas liquor licenses.

The law was overturned by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 1994 because it "discriminates against out-of-staters" -- in that particular case a Florida man and a Tennessee man who wanted to by San Antonio's Baby Dolls topless club -- and thus was a violation of the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

But 1994 was a long time ago, well before Maryland-based Total Wine & More introduced its peculiarly non-seedy brand of liquor emporium to Texas and began siphoning customers with its reasonable prices and fantastic selection. It was also before another federal appeals court, the 8th Circuit, decided that residency requirements for liquor wholesalers were just fine in Missouri.

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Former Sergeant Sues Fort Worth Police Department For Alleged Racism

Categories: Legal Battles

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Fort Worth Police Department
Until 2010, Sergeant Delbert Johnson had a great career at the Fort Worth Police Department. He joined the force in 1990 and had worked his way up to sergeant by 2000. In 2005 he was transferred to the department's day shift traffic division, giving a regular schedule that allowed him to work a second job and spend time with his family.

Things began to change, Johnson says in a lawsuit filed Wednesday, in 2010. That year, he and another officer, James Dunn, saw a photo printed at the traffic division showing one of their fellow officers, Sergeant Ann Gates, holding a noose around a snowman's neck. A complaint was submitted to internal affairs and Gates and the sergeant who took the photo, Mike Cagle, were admonished by the department.

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