Criss & Rousseau Legal Issues Blog

Study reveals police tunnel vision in high-profile cases

A pair of criminologists from Texas State University believe that people who are accused of committing highly publicized crimes are often wrongly convicted because some police officers develop tunnel vision when they decide they have identified the perpetrator. The researchers came to this conclusion after studying the investigative missteps that led to 50 wrongful convictions. Several of the cases were investigated by detectives who either coerced confessions or changed their theory of the crime after being presented with exculpatory evidence.

One such case involved a man who was released from prison after spending 16 years behind bars when DNA evidence proved his innocence. Police investigating the murder of a 15-year-old girl quickly focused their investigation on obtaining a confession from one of the slain girl's classmates, and they changed their theory of the crime instead of pursuing other leads when forensic evidence exonerated him. The man was eventually convicted based largely on a confession that he claimed was coerced and he later retracted.

Even confident eyewitness testimony may be unreliable

Juries in Texas and around the country generally find eyewitness testimony extremely convincing, and witnesses who identify a criminal suspect with a great deal of confidence are especially compelling. However, questions about the way police officers conduct suspect lineups and research into the workings of the human brain have raised doubts about the validity of even confident eyewitness identifications.

Research into the area suggests that accuracy is closely correlated to the speed with which an eyewitness identification is made and the confidence of the identifier. The problem is that witnesses tend to become more confident after making their choices due to confirmation bias and the encouragement they receive from police officers. This means that a witness who was hesitant or unsure during a lineup may appear far more confident when testifying in court.

Trusts can be a key estate tool for parents

Having children may prompt many people in Texas to think more about planning for the future, especially because they want to ensure that their kids will be taken care of in case of a tragedy. However, this can also be a reason to do more with an estate plan than simply creating a will. Simple wills are appealing to many because they are straightforward and can be completed quickly. However, they are less appropriate for passing on assets to minor children. People who want to make a bequest to their young children may wish to consider a trust in addition to a will.

Trusts can enable people to create a mechanism to provide for their children under the age of 18. In addition, many people do not want their children to inherit their entire estate as soon as they become legal adults. A trust can help to make sure that the children are provided for and that they receive the full benefit of the estate when they are better able to manage their finances. By having a trustee manage the funds, parents can make sure that a responsible person is looking out for the future interests of their children.

Are Breathalyzer test results always accurate?

Building a defense against drunk driving charges requires examining all the evidence against a suspected drunk driver, typically including the results of a Breathalyzer test. Many people assume that failing a Breathalyzer test is a one-way-ticket to a drunk driving conviction, but this is not always true.

Breathalyzers and other similar devices may produce inaccurate results in many circumstances, depending on the calibration and condition of the device used, as well as the conduct of the officer who administers the test. If you recently failed a Breathalyzer test and received drunk driving charges, it is wise to look at any factors that may have affected the device your arresting officer used. You may find that the case against you is not as airtight as you expect, and you may even find valid reasons for dismissing the charges altogether.

Bill expands benefits for Navy veterans of Vietnam War

Texas veterans of the Blue Water Navy can now receive veterans' disability benefits for illnesses caused by Agent Orange exposure after a bill was signed into law. On June 25, President Donald Trump signed the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019. The bill allows veteran of the U.S. Navy who served off the Vietnamese coast during the Vietnam War to receive disability benefits for these types of medical problems. While veterans who directly served inside Vietnam between 1962 and 1975 are presumed to need coverage for illnesses linked to the use of the toxic herbicide, Navy veterans who served off the coast were previously often denied benefits.

Under the Agent Orange Act of 1991, Navy veterans who served in the waterways of Vietnam were covered for cancer treatment, Parkinson's disease, diabetes and other illnesses and disabilities tied to Agent Orange. This bill, H.R. 299, extends those benefits to all members of the military who served at sea within 12 nautical miles of the Vietnamese coast. These veterans will be eligible for disability benefits for conditions presumed to be caused by exposure to herbicide. The adoption of the law will help veterans whose benefits had been denied or placed into a pending status.

Texas has a strict exculpatory evidence law

Prosecutors in Texas and around the country are required to turn what is known as exculpatory evidence over to criminal defendants and the attorneys representing them. Exculpatory evidence is evidence that would exonerate defendants or help to establish their innocence. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the 1963 case Brady v. Maryland that prosecutors must turn over material that is pertinent to guilt or innocence before a trial begins, but Texas law goes even further.

The Michael Morton Act, which was signed into law by then-Gov. Rick Perry in 2013, requires prosecutors in the Lone Star State to turn over all police reports and witness statements even if they are not material to guilt or innocence. The law is named after a man who spent 25 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted of killing his wife. Prosecutors who fail to meet their duty to disclose exculpatory evidence can face professional sanctions and even be sent to jail.

Patients may be misdiagnosed with Alzheimer's

Individuals in Texas and elsewhere who experience mental decline may be generally diagnosed with dementia. In many cases, individuals have Alzheimer's disease, but this is not always true. In fact, research has discovered that thousands of people diagnosed with the condition don't actually have it. Instead, they could have a condition called limbic-predominant age-related TDP-43 encephalopathy (LATE). It is caused by deposits of TDP-43 in the brain as opposed to the buildup of plaques.

Those who have LATE may have misfolded TDP-43 that was caused by a genetic mutation in their DNA. It is estimated that roughly 25% of people over the age of 85 have memory issues because of too much misfolded TDP-43. While it is not the same thing as Alzheimer's, LATE can cause many of the same symptoms. However, it is worth understanding the differences between the two when searching for a cure.

Entitlement to Service Connection Granted for the Cause of the Vietnam Veteran's Death - Compensation Awarded to Surviving Spouse

Veteran served in the Republic of Vietnam and received the Vietnam Service Medal with two Bronze Service Stars, the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, Combat Infantry Badge, and the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation and he was exposed to Agent Orange. Following his death in 2014, the VA denied service connection for his death and denied Dependency & Indemnity Compensation (DIC) to his surviving spouse. Over the course of three years, Colonel (Retired) Rick Rousseau argued the case before the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA) and submitted several written briefs in support of the case. On May 21, 2019, the BVA finally granted entitlement to service connection for the cause of the Veteran's death and the surviving spouse will now receive DIC retroactive to the date of the death of her husband in 2014. If the VA has denied your VA benefits claim, you are entitled to an attorney to assist you. Attorney Colonel (Retired) Rick Rousseau is accredited by the VA to provide representation services to claimants before the VA. Call 254-699-9999; 409-515-6176; email: [email protected]

Over 100 arrested at latest Jeep "Go Topless" event

Between May 15 and 19, over 100 people were arrested on a variety of charges at the Jeep "Go Topless" event in Crystal Beach, Texas. The charges included everything from resisting arrest to burglary.

According to the Galveston County Sheriff's Office, a total of 113 people were taken into custody at the annual car event, which takes its name from the removable top on Jeep Wranglers. While over a dozen people were arrested for drunk driving, most defendants were charged with misdemeanor offenses like being minor in possession of alcohol or driving without a seat belt.

How do Texas wrongful death lawsuits work?

There is a lot of misinformation out there about the modern legal system. For those who have recently lost a loved one, they may have heard about wrongful death lawsuits but may not know enough to feel confident on the topic.

Don't miss out on connecting with support your family needs because of a lack of information. Familiarizing yourself with wrongful death lawsuits can help determine if your family might be able to file one and how such an action could benefit you.

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