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Local Energy Economy In Good Health, Tracking Sexual Assault Kits In Houston, And Man Charged In Killing Of Jazmine Barnes Released On Bond

These are some of the stories Houston Public Media is covering.

Monday, July 8, 2019

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Aerial view of Toyota Center and downtown Houston.
Gail Delaughter/Houston Public Media
Aerial view of downtown Houston.

Local Energy Economy In Good Health Despite Moderate Oil Prices

A couple of years removed from one of the worst oil downturns in Texas history, Houston's oil economy is doing well.

But Ed Hirs, an energy economist at the University of Houston, said at the same time, more oil companies are merging and that may have a negative impact on jobs. As an example, Hirs pointed to Occidental's acquisition of Anadarko.

A continued dilemma for the industry is the record output by U.S. producers, which is contributing to keeping oil prices relatively low.

Hirs also said he is worried the effects of President Trump's steel tariffs may hurt the oil economy next year if they continue – and even lead to another recession.

A Texas sexual assault kit.
Alvaro 'Al' Ortiz/Houston Public Media
A Texas sexual assault kit.

Tracking Sexual Assault Kits In Houston

Houston is one of several Texas cities participating in the pilot phase of an online tool that allows survivors of sexual assault to track their sexual assault evidence kits. Experts are confident the new technology will help investigators maintain an up-to-date statewide inventory of sexual assault kits once the current backlog is cleared.

As of June 28, there were 3,144 sexual assault kits considered backlogged in the statewide inventory, according to data provided to News 88.7 by the Texas Department of Public Safety. On June 4, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a new state law, H.B. 8, that aims to clear the backlog.

The software that is being tested in Houston is manufactured by Delaware-based STACS DNA. The software is called Track Kit and it has been in use in Houston since June. During the pilot phase, Harris Health System and the Memorial Hermann hospital system are using the software, which entails labeling the kits with bar codes that are entered in a database used to track them.

Survivors can access their kits through an online portal upon receiving credentials at the hospital where their exam is conducted.

Harris County Sheriff's Office homicide investigators have filed a capital murder charge against Eric Black Jr., 20, for the Dec. 30 shooting death of 7-year-old Jazmine Barnes.
Harris County Sheriff's Office
Eric Black Jr.

Man Charged In Killing Of Jazmine Barnes Released On Bond

One of two men facing capital murder charges in the drive-by shooting death of 7-year-old Jazmine Barnes is out on bond.

The Houston Chronicle reported Saturday that court records show 20-year-old Eric Black Jr. was released June 25 after his attorneys successfully argued his $500,000 bond should be lowered to $150,000.

Prosecutors say Black and 24-year-old Larry D. Woodruffe were in an SUV that opened fire on the car carrying Jazmine Barnes, her sisters and mother on Dec. 30. Black is suspected of driving the SUV. Woodruffe's attorney previously said he wasn't in the SUV.

Prosecutors say Black and Woodruffe thought they were attacking people whom they had fought with at a club hours before Jazmine's death.