Texas Death Row: Cameron Todd Willingham Deserves Posthumous Pardon

November 17, 2012

fire.jpgIn the early morning hours of December 23, 1991, a fire quickly spread through the Texas home of Cameron Todd Willingham and Stacy Kuykendall. Kuykendall had already left the house to run errands. Willingham was able to escape moments before flames completely engulfed the house. Their three daughters did not survive. The fire was ruled an arson and Willingham was tried for murder and sentenced to the death penalty in August 1992. He was executed February 17, 2004. Willingham maintained he was innocent and now his family is seeking a posthumous pardon.

Surviving relatives Eugenia Willingham and Patricia Willingham Cox are petitioning Texas to exonerate Willingham based on new evidence and new scientific procedures that have developed since 2004. At the trial, the Willingham's conviction was based largely on the testimonies of the fire investigators and Willingham's cellmate. Jailhouse informant Johnny Webb stated that Willingham admitted that he had set the fire on purpose. Webb was subsequently released from prison early. Years later, Webb recanted his testimony and declared that Willingham was innocent. Assistant Fire Chief Fogg and Fire Marshall Vasquez testified that the fire was started by an accelerant. But, in the trial, both men acknowledged that the fire could have been caused by other means than accelerants.

Since the time of the trial, new science has emerged that refutes the testimonies of the police investigators. Studies and reports by leading arson experts have cast serious doubts on the validity of the evidence used to convict Willingham. In 2004, independent expert Gerald Hurst reviewed the evidence and determined that faulty forensic evidence was used. An expert panel of five arson scientists stated that the indicators used by the State's experts have been proven to be scientifically invalid. In 2009 the State of Texas ordered that Willingham's case be re-examined. In that same year, a report issued by Dr. Craig Beyler, stated that "a finding of arson could not be sustained". Dr. Beyler discredited the testimony from a fire marshal at Willingham's trial stating that the testimony was "hardly consistent with a scientific mind-set and is more characteristic of mystics or psychics". In addition, the Texas Forensic Science Commission stated in 2011 that there is a lack of science education amongst fire investigators.

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San Antonio, Texas: Bexar County Prosecutor Will Be Missed

November 7, 2012

The Bexar County legal community is still reeling from the loss of Assistant District Attorney Charles 'Chip" Rich III. He passed away on Monday, November 5, 2012. Colleagues remember him as outstanding, caring, professional, courteous, top-notch, and an integral part of the District Attorney's office. He was the type of prosecutor who took time out of his day to assist younger prosecutors and despite working in an adversarial system, he genuinely cared about the personal lives of his colleagues, including defense attorneys.

Rich studied at the University of Denver-Strum College of Law and began his career in the Denver area in 1993. He joined the Bexar County District Attorney's office in 2002. He became chairman of the DWI Task Force in 2011.

Rich was involved in many community programs. Recently he was a guest speaker at the Shattered Dreams program at Saint Mary's Hall Upper School campus. This program was developed to teach students and families the consequences of underage drinking.
Services will be held Friday, November 9, 2012, at 11:00 A.M. at Concordia Lutheran Church which is located at 16801 Huebner Road. The family requests that in lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, 110 Broadway 442, San Antonio, Texas 78205, Animal Care Services, 4710 Texas 151, San Antonio, Texas 78227, or a charity of your choice.

The Law Office of Dayna L. Jones wish to express our deepest condolences to the family of Charles 'Chip' Rich III. He will be missed.

Supreme Court to Hear "Dog Sniff" Cases

October 30, 2012

k-9.jpgThe Supreme Court of the United States is now in session. Two cases are to be heard on Wednesday, October 31. They are both from Florida and both involve the use of police dogs in the gathering of evidence in regards to illegal narcotics. The court will decide if such use violates the Fourth Amendment. That amendment states, "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

Currently, the Bexar County Sheriff's Office maintains a Canine Unit consisting of five handler officers and seven dogs. Some of the dogs are patrol dogs, some are bomb detection dogs, and some are narcotics detection dogs. Canines trained for the narcotics division are used to detect the scent of marijuana, heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine. According to the Sherriff's Office, the dogs can locate drugs in houses, cars, and even buried underground.

In the case of Florida v Jardines, (Oral Argument Transcripts) the defendant maintains that a warrantless "sniff test" by a dog at his home with live plants inside violated his right against unreasonable searches. Was a trained narcotics canine sniffing at a front door to a private residence a search under the Fourth Amendment and therefore a violation of privacy? The defense argues that the "sniff test" should have been conducted after there was evidence of a crime.

In the case of Florida v Harris, (Oral Argument Transcripts) a valid traffic stop for driving with an expired registration tag resulted in a warrantless search of the defendant's truck. The police officer had his dog, Aldo, sniff the outside of the truck. Aldo "alerted" at the door handle and the officer searched the vehicle's interior. The officer admitted at the trial that the dog can pick up lingering "residual odors". Does an "alert" from an odor that could have been lingering for an unknown amount of time result in probable cause for a subsequent search?

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The Case of the "San Antonio Four" Receives New Media Attention as Complainant Recants Sexual Abuse Allegations

October 17, 2012

Thumbnail image for handcuffs.jpg In 1994, four young women in San Antonio, Texas were accused of sexually assaulting two sisters who were aged 7 and 9 years old at the time. All four women were convicted of aggravated sexual assault of a child and indecency with a child. Three women were sentenced to 15 year in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, while the girls' aunt received a 37.5 year sentence. One of the girls (now 25 years old) has recanted her story and has declared that the crime never happened.

In the summer of 1994, the two sisters were staying with their aunt, Elizabeth Ramirez, in San Antonio, Texas. Two months later Ramirez was shocked to learn that her nieces had told their father that Ramirez and three other women sexually assaulted them and their friends. Ramirez, Kristie Mayhugh, Cassandra Rivera, and Anna Vasquez have stated over and over again that they are innocent. All four women refused to take plea bargains. Ramirez was tried in 1997, while Mayhugh, Rivera, and Vasquez were tried together in 1998.
The trials themselves were a witch hunt full of junk science and homophobia. In the 1980s and 1990s the United States was gripped by a rash of claims sexual abuse and satanic rituals performed on children. All across the country people were accused of horrific acts against minors. Many were convicted on nothing more than the testimony of the alleged young victims. Over the years, it has been proved that many of the accusations were false and many innocent people paid for crimes they never committed.

All four women in this case are lesbians. In the trials of Ramirez and her friends, the prosecution fed into the false stereotype of homosexuals as sexual deviants. Anti-gay views of the jury at the Ramirez trial were made clear by the foreman, a minister, who stated that homosexuality was a sin. Despite the lack of any physical evidence, the Bexar County District Attorney's Office who prosecuted the case painted these young women as monsters to the jury.

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Did Texas Violate the Eighth Amendment When it Exectuted Marvin Wilson?

August 13, 2012

texas-flag.jpgTexas' execution of Marvin Wilson raises the issue of whether this state violated the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. In the United States of America it is illegal and immoral to execute a child. But, the line between right and wrong blurs when the execution of a man with the intelligence of a child is in question. The execution of Marvin Wilson, whose mental capabilities was that of a seven-year-old, is a gross miscarriage of justice. The Eighth Amendment of the US Constitution states that "excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted." Texas has effectively slapped the Eighth Amendment in the face.

Marvin Wilson, 54, was executed in Huntsville, TX, on Tuesday, August 7, 2012. Wilson was convicted in 1992 for the shooting of 21-year-old Jerry Robert Williams in Beaumont, TX. Wilson was sentenced to death for the murder of Williams, even though the prosecution had no forensic evidence and failed to find any eyewitnesses to the actual shooting. Wilson was tried in the District Court of Jefferson County and entered death row on May 9, 1992. Wilson filed on March 3, 2006, with the US Court of Appeals Fifth Circuit.

Williams was a police informant when he was killed on November 10, 1992. Wilson had been arrested for drug possession and out on bond when Williams was murdered. Andrew Lewis was Wilson's accomplice, and witnesses claimed they saw Wilson and Lewis drive away from a gas station with Williams in the car. Williams was later found with gun shots in his head.

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San Antonio, Texas Man Convicted of Sexual Assault Now a Fugitive

August 7, 2012

handcuffs.jpg After Anselmo Rodriguez was found guilty of sexual abuse on two young sisters by a jury in the 186th State District Court in San Antonio, Texas the convicted sex offender Anselmo Rodriguez, 31, who was facing a minimum of 25 years in prison was allowed to leave court that evening and sentencing would begin the following morning. But, Rodriguez skipped out on his bond and cut off his ankle monitoring bracelet on Monday, July 23. The next day the same jury decided in less than 15 minutes to sentence him to life in prison without the possibility of parole. On Tuesday, Judge Maria Herr read the sentence without Rodriguez present in the courtroom. Both Defense Attorney Libby Wiedermann and Prosecutor Catherine Hayes were in attendance.

Following the verdict on that Monday, Rodriguez was allowed to leave the courthouse. Normally a judge revoked a defendant's bond once they are convicted, however for unknown reasons Judge Herr failed to do so and the Assistant Bexar County District Attorney failed to request that his bond be revoked. Less than an hour after he reached his house the Bexar County's Pre-Trial House Arrest Program, the company that maintains the bracelets, was notified that a tamper alert was activated. A search of his house revealed that Rodriguez had fled, but the bracelet that he cut off was recovered. A warrant was issued and a task force was put in charge of finding and apprehending the fugitive. The manhunt has been widened to include all of Texas and Mexico.

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San Antonio, Texas: Two Bexar County Sheriff Canines Died After Being Left in Vehicle

August 1, 2012

k-9.jpgAn ongoing investigation into the death of two Bexar County Sheriff's Department canines has left San Antonio with many questions. How did could this have happened? What could have been done to prevent the tragedy? And will criminal charges be brought?

On Tuesday, July 24th, Sheriff's Deputy Steve Benoy took the dogs in a county-owned Chevrolet Tahoe with dog kennels to his home in Adkins, TX. This routine is standard for officers who work with K-9s and Benoy had done this several times before. On this particular day, though, Benoy did not follow his regular routine and left the dogs locked in the SUV with the windows rolled up at about 2 PM. It is still unclear why. He then left town for an overnight trip.

When he returned on Wednesday, almost 30 hours later, the two Belgian Malinois police dogs were dead. It is believed that they died of heat exhaustion, but animal care services will be conducting a necropsy to determine the official cause of death.

Benoy has 23 years of service, 13 of which have been as a K-9 handler. He has been placed on leave for 10 days while an investigation into animal cruelty and administration purposes is conducted. It is estimated that the total cost of a police canine is around $40,000. This includes the initial cost, the training, and the care of the animal.
The interior of a parked car can reach scorching temperatures within minutes, especially during the summer. According to PETA's website, temperatures inside a car can reach upwards of 160 degrees on a 78 degree day. Cracking the windows has minimal to no effect on reducing the temperature. On the Tuesday and Wednesday in question, temperatures in San Antonio were 96 degrees.

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How Does U.S. Supreme Court Case Padilla v. Kentucky Effect San Antonio, Texas Residents

supreme court.jpgIn San Antonio and other courts throughout Texas, many Mexican citizens take plea deals every day. Before 2010 the only requirement for non-U.S. citizens taking pleas was that the defendants must be warned that they may face deportation, removal from the country or denial of U.S. citizenship. However, on March 31, 2010, the United States Supreme Court filed its decision in Padilla v. Kentucky, 130 S. Ct. 1473 (2010) holding that "counsel must inform her client whether his plea carries a risk of deportation." Padilla at 1486. "When the law is not succinct and straightforward...a criminal defense attorney need do no more than advise a noncitizen client that pending criminal charges may carry a risk of adverse immigration consequences. But when the deportation consequence is truly clear, as it was in this case, the duty to give correct advice is equally clear." Padilla at 1483. This means that a defense attorney must adequately advise a non-U.S. citizen of how the plea may affect his or her status in this country.

The U.S. Supreme Court went on to explain: "Our longstanding Sixth Amendment precedents, the seriousness of deportation as a consequence of a criminal plea, and the concomitant impact of deportation on families living lawfully in this country demand no less." Id.

But a big debate throughout Texas is whether Padilla announced a new rule of law that bars it from being applied retroactively. Or does Padilla just clarify a longstanding rule of law, allowing it to apply to cases that were final prior to the Padilla opinion?

Texas Courts have been applying Padilla retroactively to cases that were final before the opinion was rendered. In Ex parte Tanklevskaya, 2011 WL 2132722 (Tex. App.--Hous. [1Dist.] 2011), the Court of Appeals denied the State's claim that "Padilla announced a 'new constitutional rule of criminal procedure' that should not be applied retroactively to cases on collateral review." Id. at *4; citing Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288, 310 (1989). That Court, agreeing with other Courts in Texas and around the country, held that Padilla does not apply new rule of criminal procedure but is an extension of the rule in Strickland v. Washington and therefore applies retroactively. Id. at *7.

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Nueces County, Texas: Emotional Testimony in Hannah Overton's Writ Hearing Concludes

overton.jpgIn the first part of our Hannah Overton blog, we reviewed the facts of her 2007 capital murder trial and the procedural aspects of the case that placed her back in court. She was found guilty by omission in the poisoning death of 4-year-old Andrew Burd and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

While it is true that Overton was tried in a court of law by her peers, there is a question of whether a miscarriage of justice occurred. In February of this year the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals decided that a hearing needed to be held to determine if Overton got a fair trial. On Monday, April 23, an evidentiary hearing began to determine if there is enough evidence to grant Overton a new trial, to allow her to go free, or if the decision stands. Her criminal defense lawyers are arguing key points: the prosecutors failed to turn over favorable evidence to the defense, she had ineffective counsel during the trial and that she was not convicted on reliable science. Judge Jose Longoria of the 214th State District heard statements for six days and now has one month to send his recommendation to the Court of Criminal Appeals.

There were many people who were called to testify during the hearing. Attorney David Jones told the court that he was sorry for the way he handled the original trial. During questioning in the hearing he broke down in tears and stated that there was more that he could have done for his client. Jones stated that he did not review a videotaped deposition of the world's leading expert on sodium intoxication before the defense decided not to use the video before the jury. He said that this video proves that Hannah was innocent.

Former lead prosecutor Sandra Eastwood admitted that she had been taking diet pills and was drinking alcoholic during the trial. She testified that she was an alcoholic. During the hearing she said that she cannot recall certain details of the trial, but she was adamant that she did not withhold evidence. Eastwood was fired in April 2010 from the district attorney's office on charges unrelated to the Overton trial. In addition, Anna Jimenez, who was appointed as District Attorney of Nueces County after the Overton trial and who sat second chair during the trial, claimed that Overton should not have been tried for capital murder and she recounted how she repeatedly went to her bosses during the trial to complain of Eastwood's unethical behavior.

Dr. Ray Fernandez, the Nueces County Medical Examiner, also took the stand last week. Fernandez had been the person who ruled the death a homicide. He has said that he will review any and all new evidence, and may change the cause of death if it is warranted.
Local pediatrician Dr. Edgar Cortes saw Andrew twice in the months before Andrew's death. He testified that he had told Eastwood that he believed the boy's death was an accident. He also had information that this child was not a normal child and that he had cognitive delays and other problems. The state during the trial painted young Andrew as a normal, healthy child.

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Hannah Overton back in Nueces County, Texas for Post-Conviction Writ of Habeas Corpus Hearing

April 23, 2012

handcuffs.jpgHannah Overton, who is currently serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole, is back in the 214th District Court in Nueces County, Texas for a hearing on her application for a writ of habeas corpus with her writ lawyers lead by Cynthia Orr and assisted by Gerry Goldstein, John Raley and Dayna Jones. In 2007 Hannah was tried in the 214th District Court, Nueces County, Texas. She was found guilty of capital murder by omission in the poisoning death of 4 year old Andrew Burd.

In a rather uncommonly strict remand order, the Court of Criminal Appeals ordered on February 8, 2012 that the trial court must hold a hearing with live testimony within 90 days of the order and that all supplemental findings and conclusions of law must be returned to the Court of Criminal Appeals within 120 days of the order. Justice Cochran, joined by Justices Price and Johnson, issued a statement concerning the remand order. In that statement, Justice Cochran gave direction to the parties and the trial court on what needs to be decided in this matter. "The judiciary must be ever vigilant to ensure that verdicts in criminal cases are based solely upon reliable, relevant scientific evidence--scientific evidence that will hold under later scrutiny." Justice Cochran went on to say: "The problem in this case...is not that the science itself has evolved, but that it is alleged that the scientific testimony at the original trial was not fully informed and did not take into account all of the scientific evidence now available." Justice Cochran concluded by stating: "These are not easy issues, but fairness both to the applicant who is serving a sentence of life without parole and to the State and the memory of the child victim, demands that our verdicts will withstand the test of time such that the guilty are punished and the innocent are not. Further, public support of the American criminal justice system depends upon its confidence that the courts reach accurate verdicts based upon reliable scientific evidence."

In addition to wading through the scientific evidence, Judge Longoria will also hear testimony concerning whether the state withheld Brady evidence, whether trial counsel were ineffective and whether Hannah is innocent based on newly discovered evidence.

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Trayvon Martin Case Raises Questions: When Can San Antonio, Texas Residents Use Deadly Force?

April 12, 2012

trayvon.jpgStand Your Ground Law, Shoot First Law, Castle Doctrine, Make My Day Law, Defense of Habitation Law - There are many names across the United States used to describe the approved use of deadly force by a person who feels threatened. In the wake of the shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, emotions on both sides of the proverbial fence have been running high. George Zimmerman, the man who fired the fatal shot that killed 17-year-old Martin, is being charged for second degree murder. The outcome of the trial remains to be seen, but the events surrounding both Martin and Zimmerman have many people asking the same question, what is a self-defense law? In Texas, the law is found under Chapter 9 of the Texas Penal Code.

In March 2007 Governor Rick Perry signed Senate Bill 378, a law which allows Texans to use deadly force when they are threatened in their homes, cars, and public areas. The bill took effect September 1, 2007. This bill amended the previous law that had been in place. The biggest change to the law was the removal of a person's "duty to retreat". This means that Texans no longer have to make an attempt to leave a potentially dangerous situation before using deadly force in self-defense.

Chapter 9 of the Texas Penal Code clearly states when, where, and why force may be used by a person to defend themselves or others. In addition to protecting one's own self from harm, the law states:
1. A person is justified in using deadly force against another to protect a third person
2. A person is justified in using force, but not deadly force, against another when the force is immediately necessary to prevent the other from committing suicide or inflicting serious bodily injury to himself
3. A person is justified in using force against another when the force is immediately necessary to prevent or terminate the other's trespass on the land or unlawful interference with the property

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Two Intoxication Manslaughter Cases in San Antonio, Texas With Two Very Different Sentences

dwi.jpgTwo intoxication manslaughter trials in San Antonio had many commonalities, but wildly different outcomes. Sandra Briggs had a blood alcohol level of 0.14 and Jenny Ann Ybarra had a blood alcohol level of 0.13. Both accidents occurred on Loop 410, Assistant District Attorney Charles "Chip" Rich was a prosecutor in both trials, and both were sentenced to prison. But, Ybarra was sentenced to 2 years while Briggs was sentenced to 45 years. It seems that, when it comes to punishment, irregularity and inconsistency play a large role during DWI trials in San Antonio. The difference between the two cases - Ybarra's victim was a young woman and Briggs' was a San Antonio Police Officer.

Briggs, 59, was arrested in October 2010 and she was convicted of a first degree felony on January 20, 2012. She admitted to drinking at Bunratty Pub and stated that she had five drinks in about four hours. On her way home she hit a disabled pickup truck that was stopped near the Military Drive exit of Loop 410. She then ran to into Sergio Antillon, 25, an off duty rookie police officer, who was standing about 10 feet from the truck. He was pinned between Briggs' car and the guardrail. He died two weeks later when he was taken off life support. She stated that there were no flares on the road and the pickup truck was partially in the right hand lane.

Briggs pleaded no contest to intoxication manslaughter and the trial, which was held at the 186th state District Courtroom, was a punishment only jury trial. Criminal Defense Attorney Edward Piker argued that there were more than just the drinks that played a factor in the wreck, including the darkened roadway and the fact that the disabled truck was blocking part of the lane. The Bexar County jury deliberated for about four and a half hours before handing down the punishment. She has to serve at least half her sentence and is eligible for parole at the age of 81.

Ybarra, 32, was sentenced to a second degree felony on February 15th, 2012, for the early morning accident in December 2007 that claimed the life of Erica Nicole Smith, 23. She had been out with friends that night and had not been driving. She had planned to stay the night at a friend's house, but decided to drive home at about 3 AM so she could be there in the morning when her daughter woke up. Ybarra unknowingly drove the wrong way on Loop 410 and had a head-on collision with the car that Smith was riding in. While, on the surface, it seems that this was a very cut and dry case, there were several factors that contributed to the accident.

Sabrina Shaner, the driver of the car that Smith was a passenger in, was also intoxicated at the time of the accident. In addition, it was found that the paramedics delayed help to the victim. EMS left Smith untreated for more than two hours because they assumed she was already dead. Smith would die of massive head trauma. The three San Antonio paramedics had their certifications suspended in 2008 because they did not immediately check on Smith.

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San Antonio Criminal Defense Community Has Lost One of its Greatest Fighters

February 25, 2012

JimmyParks2012.jpgFamily, friends, and the San Antonio criminal defense community recently said goodbye to attorney James "Jimmy" Parks, Jr. He was an accomplished criminal defense lawyer, with over 25 years of criminal law experience.

Parks attended Saint Mary's School of Law and went on to establish himself as one of the best defense lawyers in the country. His clientele included boxer Tony Ayala, Jr., ex-Spur Alvin Robertson, and South San Antonio Independent School District Superintendent Ron Durbin.
He received several distinctions, including: Best Lawyers in America; Scene in SA Best Lawyers in San Antonio; Texas Monthly - Top Attorneys; and Texas Super Lawyers - The Top Attorneys in Texas. He also authored the DVD Series "Winning in the Courtroom."

In addition to his impressive legal career, Parks also was a local radio personality. He was a high school football sideline broadcaster for San Antonio radio, appeared in Star 810 AM, and was a guest on KTSA's "Gang of Four Show".

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Federal Definition of "Rape" is Updated

February 8, 2012

After 85 years, the federal definition of rape is being updated. On December 6, 2011, a Federal Bureau of Investigation advisory board voted to expand the definition and Director Robert Mueller accepted the recommendation. The former definition was established in 1927 and can be found under the FBI's Uniform Crime Report. The old definition stated that rape was "The carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will." The old definition excluded oral and anal penetration, the rape of males, the penetration of the vagina or anus with an object or body part other than the penis, the rape of females by females, the rape of children, and non-forcible rape.

The new federal definition of rape can be found on the FBI Uniform Crime Report website. Society has long acknowledged that rape can happen to women, men, and children. The new definition takes out the word "forcible" and includes men and children. It expands to include any nonconsensual penetration, regardless of the gender of the attacker or the victim. It also includes those who are mentally or physically incapable of giving consent.

The women's rights community has claimed this as a victory for victims of sexual violence. Vice President Joe Biden, who authored the Violence Against Women Act when he was a senator stated that victims have suffered long enough.

Even though 84,767 rapes were reported in 2010, many experts claim that the sexual assault numbers are too low. The underreporting of rape affects the federal funding for resources. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that 1-in-71 men and 1-in-5 women will be raped in their lifetime. For expanded information on sexual violence, refer to the CDC website .

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FLDS Leader Warren Jeffs Still Making News Inside Texas Prison

January 7, 2012

WarrenJeffsMug.jpgWarren Jeffs has made the news again, this time from inside a Texas prison. His phone privileges have been cut off for 90 days, which started on January 6, 2012 following an investigation by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. They looked into whether or not he abused his phone privileges. Though his phone privileges have been revoked, he is still allowed to receive visitors.

According to prison officials, calls Jeffs made out to people on his approved call list were put on a speaker by the person who received the call so he could preach to members of his church. Putting a phone call on speaker violates the rules of the Offender Telephone System. It is believed that Jeffs violated the phone rules several times, with at least two violations on Christmas Day. While the rules do not bar an offender from preaching from prison, officials state that an offender is not to talk to a group - they are limited to speaking to the one individual who is approved to receive the phone call.

According to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice website, the rules for the Offender Telephone System are as follows: available from 7 AM-10 PM, 15 minute time limit, and each offender has 240 minutes a month to use. All calls are subject to monitoring and recording, except for those calls between the offender and their lawyer. No calls are allowed to cell phones, internet services, 800 numbers, businesses, pay phones, or international numbers. The owner of the telephone number must be listed on offender's Visitor's List. Visitors can register their number by internet (texasprisonphone.com) or by telephone (866-806-7804). The person who receives the phone call from the offender must agree to not forward calls or make 3-way calls. It is interesting to note that the rules do not specially list putting a call on speaker phone as a violation.

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