Thursday, May 26, 2011

In Harris County, Texas, Over 100 Killers Convicted of Murder Have Received Only Probation; "Tough," Proposed Texas Law Will Have No Effect


Wrecker Driver's Death Spurs Murder Law:
Wrecker Driver's Death Spurs Murder Law
Updated: Wednesday, 25 May 2011, 9:53 PM CDT
Published : Wednesday, 25 May 2011, 9:53 PM CDT
By Ned Hibberd

HOUSTON - No more “getting away with murder” in the Lone Star State: that’s the message from the Texas Legislature.

The state Senate passed a bill on Wednesday - one previously approved by the House - that would take probation off the table for defendants convicted of first degree murder.

The result: automatic prison time. No probation.

This change in the law was inspired by the case of Steven Hardin, a wrecker driver shot dead by the man whose truck he was towing from a disputed parking spot.

The killer, Barry Crawford, was found guilty. But the jury punished him with ten years’ deferred adjudication, which is a form of probation.

To Hardin’s mother, that was a miscarriage of justice.

And for 13 years, she has pushed for this change, saying it’s what Steven would have wanted.

“There's been times that I wanted to just throw up my hands and quit,” says Carolyn Hardin. “And I'd feel that little nudge: ‘Mama, you're not a quitter.’”

If the bill is signed into law by the Governor, it will take effect September 1.

The law is not retroactive, however. It will only apply to murders committed on or after that date.

* * *

Unfortunately, this law, as described by Hibberd, does not appear to be any sort of solution. It only applies to first-degree murder, thus letting off anyone convicted of second-degree murder or manslaughter, from the get-go. And on top of that, in the spirit of the times, in which blacks and Hispanics—who commit the overwhelming majority of murders, and not just in Harris County—are routinely undercharged and underpunished, Texas authorities can in practice nullify the law simply by charging black and Hispanic killers guilty of first-degree murder with second-degree murder. Thus, the new Texas law, if enacted, is nothing but PR.

My original headline was “In Harris County, Texas, Over 100 Convicted Murderers Have Received Only Probation,” but then I realized that that was inaccurate. Many murderers are convicted only of manslaughter or even less than that.

My thanks go out to Nivius Vir.

Nicholas Stix

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