Perry's Nonsensical Vetoes -

Friday, June 26, 2009

I am still trying to recover after learning that Governor Perry vetoed some of the only good criminal justice bills that made it through the legislative gauntlet this session (after hundreds of bills died in the House due to the controversy surrounding voter ID). Few, if any, lawmakers voted against the bills that Perry killed and it is beyond frustrating that one person has this much power: I echo the sentiments of Senator Wentworth's vent:

"There's no check on the governor's power to veto bills that have been through an entire process," said Sen. Jeff Wentworth, a Republican from San Antonio who represents part of southern Travis County. "When senators and representatives from all 254 counties overwhelmingly — in some instances, nearly unanimously — pass legislation that's been through a really tortuous path to get to his desk, for the governor to veto it seems a bit unusual," Wentworth said.

So much for the democratic process.

The bills I am most upset about are the expunction bill and the sex offender de-registration bill.

The expunction bill would have made it easier to for those who have had their cases dismissed, or were arrested but were not charged with a crime, to expunge their records. This would have been an amazing opportunity for people who have had their cases dismissed (or not filed!) to move on with their lives without having a criminal record following them around.

Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, along with many other groups, proposed the change because current law imposes lengthy time limitations (and in some case, no time limitations) on being able to file for an expunction after a case has been dismissed. For example, I have two clients that were falsely accused of sexual assault that are unable to have their records expunged under current law because there is no statute of limitations for that offense. Sorry, looks like those false sexual assault charges are going to have to follow two innocent men around at least two more years until next session! And sorry to the thousands of innocent Texans who are going to continue to be harmed with a criminal record that will make it even harder for them in these tough economic times to find jobs, housing, etc.

And Governor Perry's official veto statement as to why he vetoed a bill that had bi-partisan support and passed unanimously out of the House and Senate is nonsensical: "Expunction statutes should not be used as a means of discovery or as a means to force a prosecutor to rush to file formal charges prematurely." What??? Expunction statutes have never and would never be used as a means of discovery - what we want when we are seeking to expunge records is a destruction of those records, not a request to get offense reports. In addition, prosecutors must only have probable cause to file formal charges against someone - and every defense attorney knows how difficult a time a prosecutor has persuading a grand jury on that!

The sex offender de-registration bill was a very narrowly tailored bill that would have offered some relief to young "offenders" who could petition the court for an exemption from life-time sex offender registration for consensual sexual activities if they were within four years of the "victim." Under current law, a 17 1/2-year old who has consensual sex with his 14-year old girlfriend (or a 19 year old with a 15 year old or a 20 year old with a 16 year old) is guilty of sexual assault. That person, if convicted, has to register as a sex offender for life just the same as someone who commits rape or makes child pornography.

What we are talking about here under this bill would have been to allow those teenagers in "Romeo and Juilet" situations to petition the court (and this would have been permissive - not mandatory) to excuse them from a lifetime of sex offender registration for consensual sex as long as they were within four years of the "victim". (And as long as the "victim" was 14 or older.)

And Perry's reason for the veto: "I believe the bill fails to adequately protect young victims." First, the "young victims" Perry refers to are the teenagers who had consensual sex with partners four years older than they were - how does not making those "offenders" register for life in the same way that dangerous predators do "fail to adequately protect" them? Got me. And more importantly, what about the "young victims" out there that will be harmed because our limited public safety resources will be diverted and wasted on monitoring thousands of people on the sex offender registry that pose absolutely no public safety threat? (Not to mention those "young victims" - the "offenders" - who now have no relief from a life-time of living publicly as a sex offender.)

You can probably guess that I am not normally a huge Republican backer, but here's to Kay Bailey Hutchison (or really, anyone but Perry... ANYONE - Kinky Friedman? Leslie Cochrane? Kermit the Frog?) for 2010.

(Flickr images via bludgeoner86, d. jones photo, stuck in customs, faster panda kill kill, lovebrkthru)

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posted by Kristin Etter   permalink   2 Comments


At August 11, 2009 9:04 AM , Blogger What! said...

HONEST OPINION: Texas needs to save it's children from PREDATOR Perry, PREDATOR law makers, Predator prosecutors and Predator Judges!

Texas Teen Sentenced To Sixty Years in Prison For Consensual Sex (Brandon 17)
Monday, 11 May 2009 03:17

I will never forget that day in June when I heard Judge Banales say, “You are hereby sentenced to 60 years in the Texas Department of Corrections”. My legs felt like spaghetti, my hands went cold. I had no moisture in my mouth. I was numb all over. I wanted to throw up. I could hear my mother’s horrific cries in the background. I turned to see her and I saw my father holding her and my grandmother tightly. He was so scared, I could tell. There were other ladies that were also crying. They felt for my mom, and possibly for me. The judge told my dad if he didn’t quiet my mother, he would have her arrested. My mother had a look of fury in her eyes when they met with mine. I knew right there and then that her love and commitment as a mother would induce a fight for justice. The bailiff was so nice to me. He kept asking me if I needed some water. I couldn’t talk. All I could hear was my mother’s cry, over and over. I couldn’t even hug her goodbye.

When I was 17 years old, I made a mistake, a mistake that will haunt me and my family for the rest of our lives. I had consensual sex with a girl whom I believed to be much older. I was young and immature, drinking and smoking pot like many other teens at our school. I never intended to hurt anyone. I am not a dangerous predator or a violent rapist. I am a young man who has been given a punishment far beyond what is reasonable and just.
story here:

At August 11, 2009 9:05 AM , Blogger What! said...

There is a "BIG" problem here and it must get fixed!
Children, teens and young adults, all across this grand country are being ripped from their homes, people are forced out of their homes and away from their loved ones, homeless, unemployed and treated worse then animals! And youths from consensual acts are being imprisoned across our nation! Even in spite of the Supreme Courts opinion in Roper v. Simmon , it's noted, Youths are not mentally mature or culpable when committing murder and deserve rehabilitation and a second chance. But, Sex Offender Laws overrides all reasoning for juvenile protection, in this country a consensual sex act equals culpability, extreme punishment, lifetime registration, tracking humiliation and exiled, way worse then an adult gets for murder? These laws are out of whack and Laws are being broken, the constitution is ignored, human rights are violated and this government isn't willing to stop it, fix it or enforce justice. It is shocking and disgusting that the Government acts as the "Head Hunter"! Of course to "Save the vulnerable children" ! If YOU smacked your own kid in the face, YOU are a child abuser and this government would not care why, you did what YOU did. You would be prosecuted, punished and the division of human services would be all over you your child would be PROTECTED from YOU? This government entity sits and watches the LOSER (Lifetime On Sex Offender Registry) struggle and suffer and they say and do NOTHING! This is Acceptable abuse, it's their law! If ANYONE in this country devised a "HIT LIST" subjecting "anyone" to harm, they would be held responsible, accountable and prosecuted under law. But, when a registered sex offenders is murdered, commits suicide or suffers from vigilante attacks by dangerous people or this government, because of they are listed on the governments GRAND "HIT LIST" it's acceptable? As my government plays "VIGILANTE", I advocate for all the THOUSANDS upon THOUSANDS of our "FREE" American citizens marked and TARGETED for harmful vigilante antics and destruction!
I "DO NOT" trust this government's practices of what they like to call law or opinion of who is dangerous or not! A kid touching a breast is now a predator, youths having a loving relationship are now heinous criminals, sexting teens are child pornographers, as far as the these law makers are concerned! What's even more unbelievable is that many people in our society are rooting for these laws! They can't be paying attention or are unaware of the real facts, statistic or true understanding of our constitution and abuse of government? As billions of dollars are wasted on mythical and misguided policy's? This entire Government, the dept. of justice, corrections, public safety, legislators, all reap from our taxes, with grand benefits and pension plans. They certainly would NOT want to change and fix this mess? John Walsh, with all the multi million dollar grants to hunt down our children for life, he certainly wouldn't want change! Who will stand up, little old ME?
Being a witness of politician gaining favoritism and wealth on the backs of these poor vulnerable children is my biggest "pet peeve."
I ask America for "HELP" on behalf of our children, caught up in the "LIE"


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