News Roundup: Texas No. 2 For Exonerations In 2018, Partly Because Of Wrongful Drug Convictions

Our daily look at Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelApril 10, 2019 1:05 pm

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

Texas tied New York for the state with the second-highest number of exonerations last year, at 16 apiece. Illinois had the most, by far, with 49. That’s according to a new report from the National Registry of Exonerations.

Barbara O’Brien is the registry editor and a professor of law at Michigan State University College of Law. She says in recent years, Texas has actually led the nation in exonerations. That was due in large part to Harris County’s efforts to clear a backlog of drug possession cases.

“They had discovered that many people there had plead[ed] guilty to possession of controlled substances. And it turns out when the alleged controlled substances were tested in a lab, they weren’t actually illegal,” O’Brien says.

While some question the expense of reforms like investing in public defense or more police accountability, O’Brien says wrongful imprisonment also comes at a cost.

“Even if you just boil it down to dollars and don’t take into account the human cost, that’s a very expensive thing to do,” O’Brien says.

Nationwide, there were 151 exonerations in 2018, and 107 of those cases involved official misconduct such as concealing evidence.

The state legislature is honoring Texas country music legend Gary P. Nunn Wednesday. One of his most famous songs is “London Homesick Blues.”

State Sen. Dawn Buckingham and State Rep. Kyle Kacal had each introduced resolutions honoring Nunn.

“Everyone knows Gary; he doesn’t really need an introduction. But what you may not know about Gary is that he originally came to Austin to become a pharmacist, somehow got sidetracked and became a bass player of some of our favorite people: Willie Nelson, Michael Murphy, Jerry Jeff Walker, and truly is the cosmic cowboy,” Buckingham said.

“His extraordinary gifts as a prolific songwriter and performer have not only earned him the respect of his peers, but admiration of countless fans around the state of Texas and around the world,” Kacal said.

Nunn, who is 73 years old, thanked lawmakers for the recognition during a press conference Wednesday.

“I’ve had the pleasure to play the historic dance halls of Texas, and have seen the really true greats of country music. And I take seriously my role to preserve the tradition of country music and Texas history and culture,” Nunn said.

Nunn has released 17 albums and written over 200 songs.

Airbnb is walking back a policy that got it blacklisted by the state of Texas. The short-term rental company says it will not move forward with a policy to remove listings in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. The policy had landed Airbnb on the Texas Comptroller’s list of companies the state considers to be boycotting Israel. State law requires contractors to pledge never to boycott Israel in order to do business with Texas. Airbnb says it plans to donate all profits from listings in the West Bank to humanitarian causes. Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar said in a statement that the company might not be removed from his office’s ‘anti-Israel’ list immediately. “We are already in communication with Airbnb to begin that process,” Hegar said.