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In this Oct. 17, 2018 photo, McLennan County District Attorney Abelino Reyna arrives for a hearing in 54th District Court during a hearing in Waco, Texas. Local leaders say a plea deal allowing a former Baylor University fraternity president to serve no jail times highlights the outsized influence alumni play in shaping the criminal justice system in and around Waco. Jacob Walter Anderson was accused of raping a woman outside a 2016 fraternity party. The plea agreement allows him to avoid jail or being listed as a sex offender. The judge, prosecutor and defense attorney in the case all have degrees from Baylor. (Rod Aydelotte/Waco Tribune-Herald via AP)

Baylor Ties Pervade Rape Case That Sparked Uproar

December 15, 2018
The Associated Press
Categories: 

DALLAS (AP) — The Texas judge who approved a plea deal allowing a former Baylor University student accused of rape to avoid jail time holds three degrees from Baylor. The criminal district attorney overseeing the case holds two. The prosecutor who agreed to the plea agreement graduated from Baylor law school.

Local leaders say those connections to the world's largest Baptist university cast doubt on the handling of the criminal case against ex-Phi Delta Theta president Jacob Walter Anderson, who was accused of repeatedly raping a woman outside a 2016 fraternity party.

Anderson was indicted on sexual assault charges, but the agreement allowed him to plead no contest to unlawful restraint. He must seek counseling and pay a $400 fine but will not have to register as a sex offender. His lawyers say a statement from the woman, which she read in court, is riddled with misrepresentations and distortions. Prosecutors have defended the plea deal.

The case has some similarities to that of ex-Stanford swimmer Brock Turner, who was convicted of sexual assault and sentenced to six months in jail.

While community leaders in Waco said they do not believe or have proof of collusion in the Texas case, they said it shows a failure of the local legal system and reflects a larger culture where preferential treatment is given to people with status in the Baylor community.

"It seems that Waco just shoots itself in the foot just time and time again," said Mary Duty, a lifelong resident of the Waco area and chair of the McLennan County Democratic Party.

Duty said Judge Ralph Strother, who presided in the Anderson case, was known in the community as a nice and decent man. She said the sentencing goes "completely against the grain" of his reputation and left many disappointed.

The unwelcome attention hit Baylor about two years after a sexual assault scandal surrounding the football program engulfed the school, leading to the firing of then-football coach Art Briles, resignation of Athletic Director Ian McCaw and the demotion of the university's president, Ken Starr, who later resigned. Baylor has reached settlements with several women who say they were sexually assaulted by football players and their stories were ignored.

The local legal system also has been tarred by the handling of a 2015 shootout involving rival biker clubs and police in Waco that left nine bikers dead. McLennan County Criminal District Attorney Abel Reyna brought charges against more than a hundred bikers. He was ousted by voters in the Republican primary in March. At that time he had failed to convict anyone for the killings. He will leave office at the end of the year.

The Baylor ties run deep in Waco — a city of about 136,000 people located between Austin and Dallas bolstered by the economic impact of the university. Baylor has more than 20,000 students, faculty and staff in Texas. Nearly one of every five employed people in Waco work in education and health services, according to September figures from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Mark Osler, a former Baylor law professor who left in 2010, said a county with prosecutors and judges from the same background can create a dangerous situation where bias could occur. It's better, he said, to have diversity in background and employ people not tied to Baylor.

Judge Strother completed his undergraduate degree at Baylor in 1965 and received his law degree in 1982. Strother also received a master's degree in political science from the university in 1967.

Criminal District Attorney Reyna holds two degrees from the university and graduated from the law school in 1997.

In an affidavit filed last year, Reyna's former top assistant accused him of giving preferential treatment to political supporters, dismissing criminal cases for friends and major campaign donors.

Prosecutor Hilary LaBorde, who agreed to the plea deal, graduated from the Baylor law school in 2002. LaBorde has faced criticism over an email in which she suggested jurors would take Anderson's side because there was only one alleged victim. Texas prosecutors have recognized LaBorde for her expertise in sex-crime cases and she won sexual assault convictions against two football players during the school's scandal.

LaBorde defended the plea deal in a statement, saying conflicting accounts and evidence made the original accusation difficult to prove "beyond a reasonable doubt."

"As a prosecutor, my goal is no more victims," she said. "I believe that is best accomplished when there is a consequence rather than an acquittal."

Baylor student Paige Hardy, an advocate on campus for survivors of sexual abuse, said the university did the right thing in the Anderson case, expelling him after an investigation and suspending the Phi Delta Theta fraternity. But she said the outcome of the criminal case was "a slap in the face."

"It's like, well what did we even learn from our mistakes? What did we even learn from the football scandals?" she said.

While Baylor has moved forward and improved the reporting process for sexual assault, Baylor's problems stem in part from a "toxic evangelical" narrative, Hardy said, referring to its Baptist roots.

"You have these donors and these administrators who often times don't want to address the fact that students are having sex and students are drinking," she said.

Waco clinical psychologist Emma Wood, who used to work at the Baylor counseling center, said her clients come to her because of the sexual and spiritual trauma they've experienced at the university and at large churches in the area.

"I see a lot of trauma survivors," said Wood, who left the university and reached a settlement with the administration over claims of discrimination and sexism. "In fact, that's the majority of my case load."

___

Associated Press writer Nomaan Merchant in Houston contributed to this report.

AP Editorial Categories: 
Author: ap.content
Posted: December 15, 2018, 10:32 pm

FILE - In this Nov. 6, 2018, file photo, Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-Texas, the 2018 Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Texas, makes his concession speech at his election night party in El Paso, Texas. When it comes to a 2020 presidential run, Beto O'Rourke is still playing hard to get. The Democratic congressman murmured "No decision. No decision on that," when pressed about launching a White House bid during a town hall Friday, Dec. 14 in his native El Paso.
(AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

Beto O'Rourke Still Undecided As 2020 White House Buzz Grows

December 14, 2018
The Associated Press
Categories: 

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — When it comes to a 2020 presidential run, Beto O'Rourke is still playing hard to get — even as the buzz around him intensifies.

The three-term Democratic congressman murmured "No decision. No decision on that," when pressed by an attendee during a town hall Friday in his native El Paso who playfully demanded: "You're going to run for president, right?"

A onetime punk rocker, O'Rourke became a political star in national liberal circles, raised $80-plus million and came within three percentage points of upsetting Republican Sen. Ted Cruz to become the first Democrat to win statewide office in Texas in nearly a quarter century. The 46-year-old is giving up his House seat and has said he'll wait until he finishes his term Jan. 3 before making up his mind on 2020.

Amid his indecision, O'Rourke's name has continued to rise among top potential Democratic presidential candidates — even climbing to at or near the top in some opinion polls.

Later asked at the town hall about the "immense pressure" the eventual Democratic presidential nominee competing with President Donald Trump and his combative campaigning style could face to refrain from going negative, O'Rourke said "interesting, speculative question."

"Whoever is running may very well be running against somebody who has not the slightest respect for our norms, our traditions, civility, dignity, decency and public life," O'Rourke said. "Where you can say anything that you want to from the highest perch of power in this land."

He continued of 2020: "This is the mother of all tests for this democracy and whether we can run a campaign, have candidates at all levels from schoolboard to the White House who are willing to focus on issues, on our potential, on our promise, on the future instead of our fears, instead of attacking one another personally, instead of going for the most base impulse and instincts among us."

O'Rourke, whose populist brand of optimism was a hit with many Texas voters, said he had planned to make Friday his last day in Congress and spend it packing up his belongings and heading back to Texas. Instead, though, he's planning to return to Capitol Hill next week for discussions on passing federal spending bills "because the government will run out of money on Dec. 21" unless Congress acts.

Trump has vowed to help force a government shutdown unless funding to expand the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border is approved — something O'Rourke calls inhumane and ineffective.

"I will vote against any budget proposal that comes forward that adds to the already 600 miles of walls and fencing and physical barriers that we have in this country," he said. "Not only is it a waste of your money at a time that we are $21 trillion in debt, but we are projected to add $1 trillion in deficit spending to that debt just in this next fiscal year."

O'Rourke crossed into Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, later Friday and headed to an immigration shelter to mingle with men, women and children, mostly from Central America, who want to claim asylum in the United States because they are fleeing violence or political persecution back home. Most said they have been forced to wait days — and assigned numbers scribbled on their arms — before being allowed to reach border crossings and formally make such claims.

"We're here to understand your story and to see how we can help you seek asylum in our country," O'Rourke said in Spanish to a group from Guatemala.

Advocates O'Rourke spoke to at the shelter accused the U.S. of effectively "rationing asylum," arguing that authorities are deliberately slow-playing the process. They say families sometimes give up waiting and try to cross illegally, only to be captured and face potential criminal charges.

Speaking to reporters upon returning to El Paso, O'Rourke repeated that he wasn't ready to make a 2020 decision, noting that he didn't expect presidential race talk to heat up so far from the election. He added that he may have a better idea of his next move after "everything settles," perhaps after the end of the year.

On Saturday, O'Rourke is touring Tornillo, the tent city about 30 miles outside El Paso, where 2,300 immigrant teens are being held at what began as an emergency shelter but now is taking on a permanent feel — costing taxpayers up to $1,200 per child, per day.

Author: ap.content
Posted: December 15, 2018, 12:51 am
 New Apple Campus In Austin

Ricardo Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman via AP

Apple Announces Plans To Build $1 Billion Campus In Austin

December 14, 2018
Categories: 

AUSTIN (AP) — One tech giant strung dozens of North American cities through a circus-like contest that led mayors and governors to desperately pitch their regions — and offer huge sums of public money — in hopes of landing a gleaming new corporate campus. The other swept in quietly before making its big move.

The outcome was largely the same: Amazon and Apple are running out of room in their West Coast hometowns and establishing a major foothold in a handful of U.S. cities already known as second-tier technology hubs.

But this week, at least, Apple may have won the prize for completing its search with the fewest hurt feelings.

Apple announced plans Thursday to build a $1 billion campus in Austin, Texas, that will create at least 5,000 jobs ranging from engineers to call-center agents while adding more luster to a city that has already become a destination for tech startups and bigger companies.

The decision comes 11 months after Apple CEO Tim Cook disclosed plans to open a major office outside California on the heels of a massive tax cut on overseas profits, which prompted the company to bring about $250 billion back to the U.S.

The company said it will also open offices in Seattle, San Diego and Culver City, California, each employing at least 1,000 workers over the next three years. Apple also pledged to add hundreds of jobs each in New York; Pittsburgh; Boston; Boulder, Colorado; and Portland, Oregon.

"They are just picking America's most established superstar cities and tech hubs," said Richard Florida, an urban development expert at the University of Toronto.

Apple's scattershot expansion reflects the increasing competition for engineers in Silicon Valley, which has long been the world's high-tech capital. The bidding for programmers is driving salaries higher, which in turn is catapulting the average prices of homes in many parts of the San Francisco Bay Area above $1 million. Many high-tech workers are thus choosing to live elsewhere, causing major tech employers such as Apple, Amazon and Google to look in new places for the employees they need to pursue their future ambitions.

"Talent, creativity and tomorrow's breakthrough ideas aren't limited by region or ZIP code," Cook said in a statement.

Cities around the country offered financial incentives in an attempt to land Apple's new campus, but Cook avoided a high-profile competition that pitted them against one another, as Amazon had before deciding to build huge new offices in New York and Virginia.

Amazon could receive up to $2.8 billion in incentives in New York, depending on how many it ultimately hires there, and up to $750 million in Virginia. Apple will receive up to $25 million from a jobs-creation fund in Texas in addition to property-tax rebates, which still need approval. The figure is expected to be a small fraction of what Amazon received.

The government incentives offered to Apple seem "more in the line of normal business site selection" compared with Amazon's public "shakedown," said Mark Muro, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Center.

"There's a growing backlash in the country against the entire process of subsidies and relocation inducements," Muro said. "That said, the Apple numbers for a very significant increase in jobs are much less eye-popping than the Amazon numbers."

The spots where Amazon and Apple decided to expand were obvious choices, based on an analysis released earlier this year by CBRE Research. Washington, D.C., ranked as the third best place in North America for tech talent, behind Silicon Valley and Seattle. New York ranked fifth and Austin sixth. No. 4 was outside the U.S.: Toronto.

The new Austin campus, with about 3 million square feet (nearly 280,000 square meters) of office space, will be about a mile from another large office that Apple opened five years ago. Apple currently employs about 6,200 workers in Austin, making it the company's largest hub outside Silicon Valley even before the expansion.

The new jobs are expected to mirror the same mix Apple already has at its Cupertino, California, headquarters, ranging from jobs in technology and research that pay well over $100,000 to lower-paying positions in customer call centers.

Cities have been eager to bring in more tech employers because their hires often make six-figure salaries. That can ripple through the economy, with new employees filling restaurants and theaters, buying property and paying taxes.

But an influx of affluent tech workers can also drive up rent and home prices, making it more difficult for those in lower-paying jobs to make ends meet.

"When tech companies invest in a place and try to hire thousands of workers, it is of course good news for tech workers who are already there and want to be there," said Jed Kolko, chief economist for employment website Indeed.com. "But it can put a strain on the housing market and transportation."

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott hailed Apple's new campus as a milestone development that "truly elevates Austin as one of the premier technology hubs in the entire world."

Apple's move was cheered Friday by President Donald Trump, who thanked Cook in a tweet for "agreeing" to expand its U.S. operations. It was sharp change in tone from September, when Trump responded to Cook's concerns about tariffs by telling Apple to make its products in the U.S. instead of China. Apple uses plants in China and elsewhere to produce components and assemble its products.

Author: Jeff.Burkett
Posted: December 14, 2018, 7:44 pm
Samuel Little

Ector County Texas Sheriff's Office via AP

Serial Killer Pleads Guilty In Texas Woman's 1994 Death

December 14, 2018
Categories: 

DALLAS (AP) — A 78-year-old prisoner who says he killed about 90 people over nearly four decades as he moved around the country pleaded guilty to murder Thursday in the 1994 strangulation of a Texas woman.

Samuel Little entered his plea in the West Texas city of Odessa, where the body of Denise Christie Brothers was discovered in a vacant lot about a month after she disappeared. He received another life prison term, Ector County District Attorney Bobby Bland said in a statement.

"Due to the efforts of law enforcement agencies from around the country, dozens of victims' families now have answers," Bland said. "Although this is a conviction in Ector County, Texas, I hope it will serve as justice for all those atrocious murders committed across this nation in this unprecedented era of terror and mayhem caused by Samuel Little."

Little was convicted in 2014 of killing three Los Angeles-area women in separate attacks in the late 1980s and was serving life sentences when authorities say he confessed this year to killing dozens more people in 20 states since 1970.

Those confessions, which often included a level of detail and recall that authorities say was uncanny, spurred investigators from Florida to California to review old murder cases. An FBI spokesman said thus far, investigators have concluded that Little was the killer in 36 cases, including the killing of Brothers and the three in the Los Angeles-area that landed him in prison. But Bland said in his statement more than 40 cases have been confirmed. He later explained that he received that number from Texas Rangers, an elite investigative agency that has relayed details of Little's confessions to law officers in other states. Little explained the killings in a series of conversations with Ranger James Holland.

Most recently, police in Tennessee linked Little to the death of Martha Cunningham, a Knoxville woman whose body was found in a wooded area by a road in 1975. Even though Cunningham was bruised and nude from the waist down when her body was found, detectives attributed her death to natural causes, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel.

With at least three-dozen confirmed deaths, Little is already among the most prolific known serial killers in American history. Gary Ridgway, the so-called Green River killer who is serving life in prison, pleaded guilty to killing 49 women and girls, making him the deadliest serial killer in terms of confirmed kills, though he has said he likely killed more than 71 people. Ted Bundy confessed to 30 homicides from about 1974 to 1978 and John Wayne Gacy killed at least 33 young men and boys in the 1970s. Both of them were executed.

Little, who is in poor health and relies on a wheelchair, offered his confessions as a bargaining chip to be moved from the Los Angeles County prison where he was being held, the FBI said last month. But Bland said Thursday that Little will return to California to serve his life term.

Little, who also went by the name Samuel McDowell, targeted vulnerable women who were often involved in prostitution and addicted to drugs, authorities have said. Once a competitive boxer, he usually stunned or knocked out his victims with powerful punches before he strangled them while masturbating.

"With no stab marks or bullet wounds, many of these deaths were not classified as homicides but attributed to drug overdoses, accidents, or natural causes," the FBI said.

Author: Jeff.Burkett
Posted: December 14, 2018, 12:23 pm
Prison, Jail

© Danee79 | Dreamstime.com

Use Of Death Penalty Continues To Decline In Texas

December 13, 2018
The Associated Press
Categories: 

HOUSTON (AP) — While Texas led the nation in the number of inmates executed in 2018, the use of capital punishment in the state continues to decline, according to a new report.

The Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty said in its year-end review report the drop can be attributed, in part, to prosecutors and the public continuing to turn away from the death penalty.

"The death penalty landscape in Texas has changed significantly over the last 20 years," said Kristin Houlé, the coalition's executive director. "Not only have the number of death sentences and executions declined by staggering percentages, but the chorus of voices raising concerns about the application of the death penalty grows louder and more diverse every day."

In recent years, reform-minded district attorneys have been elected in some of Texas' most populous counties.

Voters in Dallas County and in Bexar County, where San Antonio is located, elected district attorneys in November who have expressed concerns about the use of the death penalty and who appear more willing to promote life without parole as an alternative punishment.

"We think (November's) election signals a significant shift in Texas, in the way that people in our state view criminal justice," John Creuzot, Dallas County's district attorney-elect, said earlier this month at a meeting in Houston of reform-minded district attorneys from across the country.

The coalition said in the report that Texas led the nation with 13 executions in 2018, accounting for more than half of all executions in the U.S. Tennessee was second with three.

But the coalition also said the number of executions in Texas from 2009 to 2018 is nearly 50 percent less than the number carried out from 1999 to 2008. Executions in Texas peaked in 2000, when 40 people were put to death.

In 2018, juries in Texas condemned seven individuals. From 2009 until 2018, juries in Texas sentenced to death more than 70 percent fewer individuals compared to the previous 10-year period.

The death penalty continued to be disproportionately imposed on people of color, as more than 70 percent of death sentences have been imposed on minorities over the last five years, according to the report.

The drop in the death penalty's use in recent years is most apparent in Harris County, where Houston is located.

Death row inmates from Harris County have accounted for 129 executions in Texas since capital punishment resumed in the state in 1982, more than any other county, according to the coalition.

But 2018 was the first time in four years that a jury in Harris County sentenced someone to death.

A 2016 survey by Rice University in Houston found just 27 percent of area residents supported the death penalty over life imprisonment.

Since taking office in 2017, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg has focused on criminal justice reforms and has gone against expectations in various death penalty cases.

Ogg's office filed a brief last month with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of a claim from a death row inmate convicted in Harris County that he is intellectually disabled and can't be executed. The case is still pending.

"We have the responsibility and the opportunity to take justice in this country to a different level ... to bend toward a fairer system, a more effective system that still protects us from people's bad actions but recognizes the humanity and respect that everyone deserves," Ogg said earlier this month.

___

Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter at www.twitter.com/juanlozano70

Author: ap.content
Posted: December 14, 2018, 5:05 am
Houston Flood Control Vote

(AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

Texas Report Says ‘Changing Climate’ Intensifying Disasters

December 13, 2018
Categories: 

AUSTIN (AP) — Powerful natural disasters in Texas on the scale of Hurricane Harvey’s deadly destruction last year will become more frequent because of a changing climate, warned a new report Thursday ordered by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in a state where skepticism about climate change runs deep.

But the report makes no mention of global warming. And in urging steps Texas should take to lessen the impact of intensifying hurricanes and flooding, the report makes no mention of curbing greenhouse gases in Texas, the nation’s oil-refining epicenter that leads the U.S. in carbon emissions.

The phrase “climate change” also does not appear in the nearly 200-page report, except in footnotes that reference scientific papers.

But it is the latest government alarm that massive disasters such as Harvey will only continue. Last month, a White House report warned these types of disasters are worsening because of global warming, and citing numerous studies, said more than 90 percent of the current warming is caused by humans.

After releasing the new Texas report Thursday, Abbott wouldn’t wade into whether he believed manmade global warming is causing the kind of disasters the state is telling residents to get used to.

“I’m not a scientist. Impossible for me to answer that question,” he said.

The report was not commissioned as an assessment of climate change in Texas. Instead, it is the findings of a rebuilding task force Abbott created after Hurricane Harvey devastated the Texas coast, causing an estimated $125 billion in damage. At least 68 people directly died from Harvey’s effects, and another 35 people died from indirect effects such as vehicle accidents, according to the report.

The Category 4 hurricane dumped more than 50 inches of rain on Houston, leaving the nation’s fourth-largest city underwater.

But in underscoring the inevitably of future disasters in Texas, the report notes rising sea levels and extreme downpours becoming more frequent in recent decades.

It also cites a “changing climate” while reinforcing the need to strengthen dams and levees.

“Flooding risks for coastal Texas, and much of the rest of the state, will continue to rise. The current scientific consensus points to increasing amounts of intense rainfall coupled with the likelihood of more intense hurricanes,” the report read.

The report was spearheaded by Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp, who Abbott appointed as a recovery czar after the storm. It urges state and local officials to think in “generational terms” to infrastructure planning so as to “future-proof” the Gulf Coast .

Sharp said there was no discussion about leaving the terms climate change or global warming out of the report. He, too, declined to weigh in on whether humans are causing climate change after helping Texas recover from Harvey for the past year.

“I don’t know,” Sharp said. “It looks like something’s changing but I’m not sure I’m a good enough scientist to know what it is. I leave it in their hands.”

John Anderson, a professor of oceanography at Rice University and expert on rising sea levels, said the report continues a trend of denials from Texas leaders.

“The tendency in the state of Texas has been to combat the changing climate without acknowledging the causes of climate change,” he said. “The elephant in the room is getting bigger.”

Abbott, who easily won re-election in November, has been noncommittal in his career about whether he thinks human activity is affecting the climate. Before becoming governor in 2015, Abbott repeatedly sued the federal government over environmental regulations as Texas’ attorney general.

President Donald Trump and elected Republicans frequently say they can’t tell how much of climate change is caused by humans and how much is natural.

Across the U.S. In the last two years alone, storms and natural disasters have killed scores of people, damaged or destroyed tens of thousands of homes and cost tens of billions of dollars. As the severity escalates, governors are finding they have to make disaster planning a priority or risk the consequences of inaction defining their terms and enraging voters.

Author: Josh.Clark
Posted: December 13, 2018, 10:39 pm
Texas state capital building in cloudy day, Austin. Architecture, congress.

Kan1234 | Dreamstime.com

Apple Plans Austin Campus Costing $1B

December 13, 2018
Categories: 

Apple is planning to spend a billion dollars on a new campus in Austin.

The company already has a sprawling facility there, employing more than 6,000 people.

The new campus could mean another 5,000 jobs with the potential for another 10,000 beyond that. 

The Associated Press reports on this story this morning:


AUSTIN, Texas (AP) _ Apple says it plans to build a $1 billion campus in Austin, Texas.

     The company released a statement early Thursday saying it plans also include establishing sites in Seattle, San Diego and Culver City, California, with more than 1,000 employees at each.

     The tech giant, which is based in Cupertino, California, says the new campus in Austin will start with 5,000 employees. Austin already is home to more than 6,000 Apple employees, representing the largest population of its workers outside of its headquarters.


 

Author: curt.lewis
Posted: December 13, 2018, 11:30 am
Julian Castro

© TNS

Julian Castro Moves Toward 2020 White House Run

December 12, 2018
Categories: 

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Former Obama housing chief Julian Castro says he's taking a step toward a possible White House campaign in 2020 by forming a presidential exploratory committee. The Texas Democrat tells The Associated Press that he will announce a decision Jan. 12.

The move Wednesday gives the 44-year-old former San Antonio mayor an early start to what's shaping up as a crowded Democratic field without a clear front-runner to challenge President Donald Trump.

Castro indicated in an AP interview that his mind was all but made up.

"I know where I'm leaning, for sure," said Castro, who has said for weeks that it was likely he would seek the nomination.

An exploratory committee usually is a formality before a candidate launches a presidential campaign. It legally allows potential candidates to begin raising money.

But just as important for Castro, the step gives him an early jump on bigger name Democrats who are considering running but are taking a slower approach.

No potential contender is more ascendant than outgoing Rep. Beto O'Rourke, who lost last month in a surprisingly close race against Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. O'Rourke has excited donors and activists who are now prodding him to seek the presidency.

Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Cory Booker of New Jersey, along with former Vice President Joe Biden, are also potential candidates.

Castro would be among the youngest candidates in the field and the most prominent Latino. He played down the attention that others are generating and pointed to past election cycles in which early favorites ended up faltering.

"People might say right now, 'Well, hey, you're way down here in polling that's taken.' The most dangerous place to be right now is actually in the pole position," Castro said. "It doesn't bother me that in December of 2018 I'm not right up at the top of the list. If I decide to run, it would be because I believe I have a compelling message and I'm going to work hard and get to the voters and I believe I can be successful."

Castro, who attended O'Rourke's election-night party in El Paso last month, said O'Rourke doesn't complicate his own chances.

"He's talented. He ran a good race against Ted Cruz," Castro said. "I'll let him talk about his future."

Castro said he has not spoken to former President Barack Obama about his potential candidacy but plans on consulting Democratic leaders. Obama has spoken to O'Rourke, who has said he won't make a decision on 2020 until after leaving Congress in January.

Obama picked Castro to take over the Department of Housing and Urban Development in 2014. Two years later, Castro was on the short list of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's potential running mates.

For Castro, running for president would fulfill a destiny that Democrats have projected since he was elected San Antonio mayor at 34, followed by his star-making turn as the keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention in 2012.

He is the grandson of a Mexican immigrant and son of a Latina activist. His twin brother, Joaquin Castro, is a Democratic congressman from Texas. Julian Castro said the Latino community has been treated "like a pinata" under Trump and deserved a candidate in the field.

"I'm also very mindful, especially now for the Latino community, that there's a particular meaning to my candidacy," Castro said. "We can't go through the 2020 cycle with nobody on that stage because of what's happened over the last couple of years."

Young and telegenic, Castro rose to national prominence early in his career as a Latino leader from a state that Democrats are eager to retake after decades of Republican dominance. But in Texas, O'Rourke has eclipsed Castro after getting closer to a statewide victory than any Democrat in a generation. It now puts Texas in the formerly unthinkable position of having two Democratic presidential candidates in the same year.

The last Texas Democrat to run for president was Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, who had a short-lived campaign in 1976.

Maryland Rep. John Delaney is the only declared 2020 Democratic presidential candidate so far. Others are expected to announce their intentions in the coming weeks.

Author: Jeff.Burkett
Posted: December 12, 2018, 3:42 pm
Alvin Braziel Jr.

Texas Department of Criminal Justice via AP

Alvin Braziel Executed For 1993 Murder Of Mesquite Newlywed

December 12, 2018
Categories: 

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — A Texas inmate was executed Tuesday evening for fatally shooting a newlywed during a robbery more than 25 years ago.

Alvin Braziel Jr., 43, received lethal injection at the state penitentiary in Huntsville for the 1993 slaying of 27-year-old Douglas White, who was attacked as he and his wife walked on a jogging trail.

Asked by the warden if he had a final statement, Braziel thanks supporters and apologized to the victim's wife, Lora White.

"I would like to apologize ... for her husband dying at my hands," Braziel said from the death chamber gurney. He also said he loved the White family and a person he named but who was not present, then told the warden he was finished.

As the sedative pentobarbital began taking effect, he took a couple of breaths, gasped, then snored loudly three times. The fourth snore was noticeably less pronounced, and then all movement stopped.

Braziel was pronounced dead 7:19 p.m., nine minutes after the drug began.

Braziel became the 24th inmate put to death this year in the U.S. and the 13th executed in Texas, the nation's busiest capital punishment state. He will be the last Texas inmate executed this year.

The execution was delayed about an hour after the six-hour window defined by the warrant began at 6 p.m. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rejected a last-minute appeal from Braziel's attorneys.

A brother of Douglas White and two friends attended the execution but declined to speak afterward. Braziel selected no one to witness his death.

In 1993, as Douglas and Lora White walked along a community college jogging trail in the Dallas suburb of Mesquite, Braziel jumped out from behind some bushes with a pistol in his hand and demanded money.

The Whites, who had only been married 10 days, didn't have any money on them but told Braziel they could get him some and they started walking back to their truck. But Braziel became angry with the couple and ordered them to the ground.

"Doug ... was praying, asked God to forgive him and Lora their sins because they both knew that this was it," said Michael Bradshaw, the lead detective on the case for Mesquite police. "The last thing Doug said before Braziel fired the first round, he said, 'Please God, don't let him hurt Lora.'"

Braziel shot White once in the head and once in his heart.

Bradshaw said he believes Braziel would have also shot then-24-year-old Lora White but his gun malfunctioned. Braziel instead took her to bushy area near the trail and sexually assaulted her.

Douglas White's murder was featured on the television show "America's Most Wanted" and a $20,000 reward was raised by the chiropractic college he had worked for as an electrician. Bradshaw said more than 40 potential suspects were interrogated and had their blood drawn for testing.

But White's murder remained unsolved for over seven years.

"I really didn't know that I would ever be able to solve it. But I really did not give up hope," said Bradshaw, 63, who retired from Mesquite police in 2012.

Braziel was eventually tied to the killing in 2001 after he was imprisoned for sexual assault in an unrelated case and his DNA matched evidence from Lora White's assault.

At his trial, Braziel said he wasn't near the college during the killing.

Braziel's attorneys didn't immediately reply to emails and calls seeking comment on Tuesday.

Last week, his lawyers asked the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to stop his execution, arguing in part he should not receive lethal injection because he is intellectually disabled.

The Supreme Court held in 2002 that people convicted of murder who are intellectually disabled cannot be executed.

Braziel's attorneys later withdrew their request.

Courts had previously turned down Braziel's appeals that have focused on claims of mental illness and that he had suffered a childhood brain injury, saying Braziel refused to be examined by a mental health expert during his trial and that his family declined to help his defense attorneys obtain evidence of any mental health problems in Braziel's family.

His attorneys also filed a last-minute appeal Tuesday, arguing that an emotional outburst at the 2001 murder trial from Lora White was unfairly elicited by prosecutors when she was shown on the witness stand a photo of her husband's autopsied body.

Bradshaw said he still keeps in contact with Lora White and that she started a new life and is doing well.

"Lora wants it known that she's prayed for Alvin Braziel and his family," Bradshaw said.

Author: Jeff.Burkett
Posted: December 12, 2018, 12:31 pm
Texas Campus Attacker

James Plagianos

Insanity Defense Accepted In Texas Campus Stabbing Attack

December 11, 2018
Categories: 

AUSTIN (AP) — A judge has found a former University of Texas student not guilty by reason of insanity in a random stabbing attack that left one student dead and three injured last year.

The Austin American-Statesman reports that State District Judge Tamara Needles found Kendrex White not guilty by reason of insanity on Tuesday. That came after prosecutors said they agreed with an assessment from a doctor for the defense who said White was suffering from severe mental illness at the time of the attack and couldn’t discern right from wrong.

White was charged with murder in the attack in which student Harrison Brown was killed.

White’s lawyers had filed paperwork with the court that waived White’s right to a jury trial.

The judge will order him confined to a state hospital.

Author: Josh.Clark
Posted: December 11, 2018, 9:27 pm