Houston Matters

Understanding the Many Factors that Determine Prison Sentences

Posted on · On July 18, 2016, former St. Louis Cardinals scouting director Chris Correa was sentenced  to 46 months in prison for repeatedly illegally logging into the Houston Astros’ computer database. When the news broke reaction was swift – and surprising. As the scandal was already well documented, many skipped taking Correa rightly to task for what he […]

Houston Matters

Convict Cowboys: The Untold History of the Texas Prison Rodeo

Posted on · In 1931, officials at the Texas State Penitentiary in Huntsville started a rodeo for inmates. Intended simply as entertainment for prisoners and employees, it eventually grew to become the largest sporting event in the state of Texas, drawing crowds as large as a hundred thousand in some years. A new book called Convict Cowboys: The […]

Houston Matters

District Attorney Anderson & Chief Public Defender Discuss Criminal Justice Issues

Posted on · We continue our exploration of criminal justice in Harris County with the help of two guests: District Attorney Devon Anderson and Chief Public Defender Alex Bunin. First, Edel Howlin asks Bunin about some of the changes he’d like to see in our criminal justice system. Then, we welcome DA Anderson in studio to share her […]

Houston Matters

Defense Attorneys from ‘Making a Murderer’ to Speak in Houston

Posted on · (UPDATE: Dean Strang and Jerry Buting’s speaking engagement in Houston — originally scheduled for May 21 — has been cancelled. A spokeswoman says the attorneys are working to determine if and when a new date in Houston might be rescheduled.) The Netflix documentary series Making a Murderer made a lot of headlines around the holidays (released Dec. 18, […]

Houston Matters

Report: Expanding Drug Diversion Programs Would Improve Safety and Save Tax Dollars

Posted on · A new report from the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition suggests there are economic and social benefits to expanding Harris County’s drug diversion programs. To explain, we talk with one of the authors of that report, Jay Jenkins. He’s the coalition’s project attorney for Harris County. The Harris County DA’s office is implementing a “First Chance Intervention Program” […]

Houston Matters

Does Texas’ New Grand Jury Law Go Far Enough?

Posted on · Last month, Gov. Greg Abbott signed a new law changing how grand juries are selected in Texas. Previously, judge-appointed commissioners picked grand jurors in a system sometimes referred to as “pick-a-pal.” Critics said the commissioners tended to select jurors who share their backgrounds, making it less likely grand juries would reflect the diversity of their […]

Houston Matters

Michael Morton: An Innocent Man’s 25-Year Journey from Prison to Peace

Posted on · In 1986, Michael Morton’s wife, Christine, was murdered in their home just outside Austin, while he was away at work. Morton quickly became the prime suspect in the case and was eventually convicted of the murder, despite not much physical evidence. He was sentenced to life in prison. Nearly 25 years later, after attorneys from […]

Houston Matters

How Overworked are Texas Court-Appointed Attorneys?

Posted on · You’ve heard this part of the Miranda rights before (if not in person, then at least on TV crime dramas): “You have a right to an attorney. If you cannot afford one, one will be provided for you…” Well, a lot of defendants can’t afford attorneys. That’s where public defenders come in, and sometimes private […]

Houston Matters

The Life of a Public Defender in Houston

Posted on · It’s the job of a public defender to represent Houstonians who can’t afford to hire their own attorney. In other cities, it is often an under-resourced role. But the Harris County Public Defender’s Office was created in conjunction with the Texas Indigent Defense Commission, and until recently was funded by that commission. We talk with three […]