Officials in Texas announced on Thursday that State Troopers would no longer be allowed to open fire on suspects from helicopters after the recent killing of two immigrants.
While announcing the new policy, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw insisted that the ban on aerial shootings had nothing to do with the October 2012 death of two Guatemalan immigrants, who were gunned down by troopers in helicopter while they were hiding in the back of a speeding pickup truck near La Joya.
“I’m convinced that now, from a helicopter platform, that we shouldn’t shoot unless being shot at, or unless someone is being shot at,” McCraw told the state House Committee on Appropriations. “Last Friday, after a review of the policy and looking at all of the different things, and this is not a reflection of what happened there, I’m a firm believer they did exactly what they thought they needed to do.”
Texas Rep, Having Failed to Pass Anti-Choice Law, Orders Department of Health to Do His Bidding Anyway
Texas Republican House Representative Bill Zedler couldn’t get the anti-choice amendment he proposed during last year’s special lawmaking session approved by his peers in the legislature—he’d like to gather as much information as possible on women seeking, and doctors performing, abortions—so he’s asked the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) to do it for him. And at a meeting held last week in Austin, it became clear the DSHS brass is happy to help him out.
The Texas DSHS called the abortion provider stakeholders meeting one afternoon last week to begin the process of getting public comment on “updated reporting requirements” instituted at the behest of Rep. Zedler.
It confirms the worst fears of abortion providers who suspected, when they were notified a week before about the meeting, “that the truth the state is hiding is that it now means to implement by regulation what it has failed for the past several years to accomplish through legislation.”
DSHS Health Care Quality Section Director Renee Clack told a group of about twenty abortion providers, pro-choice activists and clinical workers that the “primary reason” for the meeting was to address implementation of two laws passed last year that require mandatory transvaginal sonograms and exclude Planned Parenthood from participating in Texas’ Medicaid Women’s Health Program, and also to address “some amendments the department has included that specifically relate to a request by Representative Zedler.”
Even though lawmakers did not approve these new rules because Zedler’s amendment—and others like it—have repeatedly been shot down in legislative session or languished in committee hearings, the DSHS says it has the “authority” to initiate them anyway, so that’s what they’re going to do.
The DSHS’ willingness to take up new requirements that, by their own admission, they were not seeking to institute before Rep. Zedler’s request raises disturbing questions: Can individual lawmakers simply bypass the legislative process and “request” that state departments do their bidding? Why should lawmakers bother trying to pass laws with the consent of their fellow democratically-elected legislators when they can just “request” state departments do their bidding later on?
Texas executed a convicted murderer by lethal injection on Thursday, administering the ultimate punishment to a man who had been paroled for an assault in Michigan when his DNA linked him to a years-old murder in San Antonio.
Rodrigo Hernandez, 38, was convicted of sexually assaulting and strangling Susan Verstegen in 1994, leaving her body in a San Antonio trash can.
The execution, which a spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said was carried out at a prison in Huntsville, was the second in the United States this year after Oklahoma executed Gary Welch on January 5 for stabbing a man to death during a drug dispute.
Hernandez’s victim was a 38-year-old Frito-Lay worker who was stocking snacks at a grocery store when she was attacked in 1994, according to the Texas Attorney General’s Office.
Hernandez’s DNA wasn’t matched to the crime until 2002, when Michigan officials took a sample from him as he was paroled for a separate crime and put it into a national database.
Hernandez was the first person executed this year in Texas, which executed 13 people in 2011 and has put to death more than four times as many people as any other state since the United States reinstated capital punishment in 1976, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
Hernandez told the San Antonio Express-News in an interview published this month he didn’t kill Verstegen and will “take that to the grave.”
But Verstegen’s mother, Anna Verstegen of San Antonio, said this week she hopes Hernandez will, before he dies, feel sorry for what he did to her daughter, who left behind a 15-year-old son.
Texas prison officials have found polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs guilty of “a major disciplinary infraction” following an investigation into whether he violated policy by — among other things — preaching a Christmas day sermon from prison, a state spokeswoman said Monday.
Jeffs’ phone privileges have been suspended for 90 days, added Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokeswoman Michelle Lyons.
While refusing to elaborate on the content of the conversations, Lyons said that Jeffs was found guilty of making conference calls on several occasions. “It was obvious to us he was talking to a group of people,” she said.
The leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Jeffs is serving a life-plus-20-year term in Texas for sexual assault. He was convicted last August of the aggravated sexual assaults of a 12-year-old girl and a 15-year-old girl that Jeffs claimed were his “spiritual wives.”
The state criminal justice department announced in late December that it had initiated an investigation into allegations that Jeffs used a prison phone to preach to his congregation on Christmas.
Records show that Jeffs made two phone calls on December 25, said Jason Clark, a Criminal Justice Department spokesman.