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Leading Off (8/22/14)

Another Shooting by a Dallas Cop. It’s the fourth involving the city’s police force in the last two weeks. Dallas officers have shot 10 people so far this year, and seven have died — one of those was unarmed. (Compare that number to 12 in all of 2013.) Thursday night’s incident took place near the Dallas VA Medical Center. The man who was shot reportedly had himself shot a woman in the jaw.

State Allows Waste Control Specialists to Bury More Radioactive Waste. Dallas’ most evil genius may no longer be in charge of the company, but his vision for bringing byproducts of nuclear power plants to a site in West Texas lives on. The Texas Commission of Environmental Quality has approved changes that will allow WCS to accept triple the amount they could previously.

TCEQ Cites XTO For Stealing Water. The state agency says the company, which is owned by Exxon Mobil, took almost 1.4 million gallons of water to which it was not entitled, which it used for fracking.

Cowboys Linebacker Suffers Career-Ending Injury. DeVonte Holloman left Saturday’s preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens with a spinal injury, and doctors are advising that he never again play football.

Cowboys to Break Ground on Frisco HQ. Construction will kick off Friday, and the team expects to officially move from Valley Ranch to its new home for the 2016 season.

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Brendan Higgins Fired From Channel 11

Word comes that CBS Channel 11 has fired its morning anchor for his terrible, horrible, no good, very bad night in Aspen. Gotta say, though, not a bad mugshot.

Update (4:32) Here is the official statement from Higgins.

If my email inbox is any indication, many of you are wondering about a recent incident in Aspen, Colo., that resulted in my arrest. Sorry it took so long to issue a post as I’ve been dealing with the related matters. First, I need to apologize for the negative attention this incident has brought to my wife and our family, our friends and the many wonderful people I’ve worked with over the years. I’m also sorry to the authorities in Aspen, who do a great job every day. I simply put myself and others in a bad situation, which will not happen again. My plan is to answer the legal charges against me. Thanks to all of you who have sent your support.

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The Barrett Brown Review of Arts and Letters and Jail: We’ll Take the Hole SHU-bang

I was released back into the relative freedom of the jail unit the other day after spending a month and a half in the hole, or “SHU,” where I had been confined due to an accusation by a wacky guard that I had instigated a “semi-disturbance.” A lengthy investigation by the prison administration having eventually concluded that there was no evidence that I had instigated anything at all and thus ought not to be punished for such an offense, I was finally let out of the, er, punishment cell. But I did participate in the “semi-disturbance” in question, along with some 30 other inmates, and so I was charged with “Engaging in a Group Demonstration,” pleaded guilty, and had my family visits and phone call privileges taken away for three months. It’s probably worth mentioning that the semi-disturbance/group demonstration which it turns out I didn’t instigate was directed toward the same wacky guard mentioned above, whose wackiness we simply wanted to bring to wider attention. I’ll go into all the wacky details at some later date when I’m out of this wacky prison’s wacky clutches, but in the meantime I have another story from the SHU that I will be kind enough to relate to you now.

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Dallas Cop: ‘The Ideal Police Response to a Protest Is No Response at All’

The sad events in Ferguson, Missouri, are echoing all over Dallas today. The DMN offers an editorial criticizing the actions of the police there. Our own police chief has written an op-ed wherein he talks about how he handled a similar police shooting in 2012. You should read it. And then you should read this Washington Post story written by Radley Balko. Balko is the expert on the militarization of our nation’s police. Eric talked to Balko for a story he wrote for us in January about North Texas’ SWAT teams. Here’s the most interesting, most Dallas-centric part of Balko’s WaPo story:

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Leading Off (8/15/14)

DA’s Office Paid Secret Settlement Following Car Crash. In February 2013, Dallas County district attorney Craig Watkins was driving up the Dallas North Tollway “reading information” on his cell phone when he ran into the back of a truck. Watkins was in a county-owned vehicle at the time but failed to follow the proper reporting procedures. Eventually the DA’s office paid the man that Watkins hit more than $50,000 and had him sign a settlement stating that he would not talk to the press. The settlement money also came from asset forfeiture funds, which seems to be questionable legally, especially since the spending never went before the county commissioners court for approval.

DA’s Office to Investigate Police Shootings. In the wake of the recent string of officer-involved incidents in Dallas, and the events playing out in Ferguson, Mo., this week, Craig Watkins announced his plan to create an investigative unit to look into any shootings involving cops. “I think it would be somewhat irresponsible if we didn’t address the fact that there is a lack of trust with the police,” Watkins said.

Cheating School’s Test Scores Plunge. An investigation last fall determined that students at Dallas ISD’s Umphrey Lee Elementary were being fed exam answers. So what happened after five teachers and an instructional coach were forced out? STAAR passing rates fell significantly during the last school year.

Cowboys Erect Party Tent Outside Stadium. The Corral, which was a feature at Texas Stadium back in the team’s 1990s heyday, is being resurrected starting with this weekend’s preseason game. Because JerryWorld isn’t big enough, I guess.

Corinth Doesn’t Want Beaver Nuggets. A crowd packed the Corinth City Council meeting last night before a hearing on granting incentives to bring a Buc-ee’s truck stop to Interstate 35E. Neighbors were concerned by the amount of traffic it would attract. At about 1 a.m. this morning, the council voted against Buc-ee’s.

Future Serial Killer in Lewisville. Hard not to reach that conclusion after reading this creepy story about 20 rabbits found killed in a “ritualistic” manner in the Castle Hills neighborhood.

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Shirt Connects Man to 31-Year-Old Denton Murder

This is strange. A Minnesota TV station reports that 53-year-old Robert Otteson was arrested in Lakeville, Minnesota, for a 1983 murder in Denton. How was he connected to the crime?

Until now, only a sketch existed of a potential suspect. A source told Fox 9 that Otteson’s home was searched this past winter and a shirt was found in the garbage. DNA on the shirt connected Otteson to the murder.

This can’t be accurate, can it? You get away with murder for 30 years but you’ve been holding on to an incriminating shirt all these years?

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D Magazine’s 40 Greatest Stories: Barrett Brown and Anonymous

Considering his future plans, Barrett Brown told Tim Rogers in early 2011: “I might move to New York or L.A. I might stay here. Or I might be in jail.”

Frequent readers of this blog know already which of those relocations came to pass, because Brown has lately been our Seagoville Federal Correctional Institution correspondent. He was arrested in September 2012 after posting a video online — following an earlier FBI raid on his apartment — in which he threatened to kill federal agents. He got some good news in March, when the government dropped most of its charges against him. He no longer faces the prospect of a 105-year prison sentence, but he still awaits sentencing (on Oct. 6) for obstruction of justice and those death threats he made.

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Leading Off (8/11/14)

Fatal Shooting in Oak Cliff Involves Off-Duty Officer. A man, believed to be unarmed, was shot by an off-duty Dallas police officer at West Twelfth Street and South Rosemont Avenue on Sunday evening. The officer, wearing a uniform and driving a marked vehicle, responded to a 911 call about the man, who had been harassing women on the street, as part of the DPD’s Extended Neighborhood Patrol program. According to police, the officer shot the man after he refused to comply with orders and moved toward the officer in a “dangerous” manner.

Rangers Win. A bearded player named Nick Martinez appears to have had a good game on Sunday. It would also appear that this win ended a seven-game losing streak to the Houston Astros. By now, you can tell that I am a baseball expert and I can stop typing.

Supermoon Mutes Meteor Showers. Unless the people you follow on Instagram really let you down, you know that the full moon was 30 percent brighter and 14 percent bigger last night. In addition to making Remus Lupin 14 percent more testy than usual, that brightness upstaged the Perseid meteor shower.

It Rained Yesterday. And it might very well rain today.

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Leading Off (8/8/14)

Why Businesses Aren’t Charged With Bribing John Wiley Price.  News 8′s Brett Shipp investigated why the companies named in the indictment of the county commissioner aren’t themselves having to facing possible punishment for their parts in the alleged crimes. And it turns out, well, maybe the federal prosecutors didn’t have enough evidence to charge the companies? Or maybe they just focused on the bigger target, a government official? Or somehow Bradley Cooper fouled the whole thing up by falling hard for one of his informants? Hard to say.

Cowboys Lose Meaningless Game. Quarterback Tony Romo didn’t play, so feel free to blame him for the 27-7 loss to the San Diego Chargers in the team’s preseason opener.

Family Sues DirecTV For Sending Sex Offender to Their Home. Wahren Scott Massey didn’t work for DirecTV, nor for the subcontractor sent to respond to a service call at a home in Murphy. But he did tag along with an installer in August 2012 and was caught taking photos of the family’s 12-year-old daughter while she was stretching. Massey has been a registered sex offender since 1998. The family believes DirecTV should be held accountable, while the company denies responsibility since Massey didn’t work for them and should never have been along on the call with the installer.

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D Magazine’s 40 Greatest Stories: The Black Widow

When I’ve mentioned to people that this year we’re revisiting the 40 greatest stories ever published in the pages of D Magazine, it’s “The Black Widow” that’s been brought up most often in response.

In May 1987, Eric Miller and Skip Hollandsworth pieced together the sordid tale of Sandra Bridewell. Her first husband’s death was ruled a suicide, though there were those who raised questions about that finding. Her second husband died of cancer, but Bridewell didn’t appear terribly attentive to his needs in his final weeks. Her third husband was found shot to death in his vehicle in Oklahoma not long after he was supposed to have met with Bridewell (at that point, they were estranged.) And then there’s the case of her friend Betsy, the wife of the cancer doctor who treated Bridewell’s second husband. Betsy was found dead of a gunshot wound in her car in a Love Field parking lot. That too was ruled a suicide, though the circumstances were suspicious.

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New Reasons to Think Texas Executed an Innocent Man

Yesterday a new nonprofit news organization focused on reporting on the criminal justice system published its first story, and it centers on the case of Cameron Todd Willingham, the Corsicana man who was executed for setting fire to his house to kill his three young children in 1991. We’ve discussed the case before, which received long-form treatment several years back from the New Yorker, as well as episodes of Nightline and FrontlineYou’ll also likely remember how Gov. Rick Perry replaced members of the Texas Forensic Science Commission before they could consider new evidence that cast doubt on the science that was used at the time of Willingham’s trial to determine that arson was the cause of the fire.

Well, the news in the Marshall Project piece is that a jailhouse informant, Johnny E. Webb, has recanted his testimony and that there’s evidence — despite what the prosecutor has insisted for 20 years — that a deal was made to lessen the informant’s jail time in exchange for saying that Willingham had confessed to him:

In taped interviews, Webb, who has previously both recanted and affirmed his testimony, gives his first detailed account of how he lied on the witness stand in return for efforts by the former prosecutor, John H. Jackson, to reduce Webb’s prison sentence for robbery and to arrange thousands of dollars in support from a wealthy Corsicana rancher. Newly uncovered letters and court files show that Jackson worked diligently to intercede for Webb after his testimony and to coordinate with the rancher, Charles S. Pearce Jr., to keep the mercurial informer in line.

The Innocence Project filed a grievance against Jackson with the State Bar of Texas, saying that he violated his ethical and constitutional obligations.

Willingham was executed in 2004.

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