Jury Is In

A Harris County grand jury decided on Thursday that two Houston police officers will not face charges for the July 2016 shooting of 38-year-old Alva Braziel, according to the Houston Chronicle. According to the officers involved in the incident, they encountered Braziel—who was black—as they were patrolling the area and believed that he was waving them down for assistance. When the officers shined a light on Braziel, they saw that he was waving a gun. The officers said that Braziel first pointed the gun in the air, then lowered it toward them, at which point the officers fired. Braziel’s death occurred on July 9, 2016,  just two days after five officers in Dallas were ambushed and killed, further fueling tensions between black communities and police. That, perhaps, is why Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner swiftly ordered footage to be released to the public after the shooting, which he said would dispel misinformation that Braziel was unarmed. Still, Braziel’s widow and local advocates said  after the grand jury’s decision that the footage wasn’t conclusive. The officers’ bodycams were only activated after the shooting, and from the dashcam surveillance it’s difficult to tell if Braziel was pointing the gun toward the officers. “I’m at a loss for words today. I don’t know which way to turn now,” Nikita Braziel, Alva’s widow, told ABC News. “This is not going to be tolerated where you can just take people’s lives and … get away with it.” Ashton Woods with the Houston chapter of Black Lives matter told the station that the decision was “a slap in the face,” pointing out that on the same day Braziel was killed, a white man fired at SWAT officers and was taken into custody without incident. Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, meanwhile, commented that her office has a duty “to be transparent and ensure that grand jurors have the opportunity to make informed decisions on whether a crime has been committed.” This is the second time that a grand jury has cleared the officers in the incident.

Death Shift

In a newly discovered letter, “Death Shift” nurse Genene Jones—who is suspected of killing over a dozen infants—seemed to admit her guilt for the first time. The news broke on the same day that Jones, who was convicted of murdering a fifteen-month-old toddler and injuring a month-old baby in 1984, was indicted for two additional counts of murder. Texas Monthly and ProPublica obtained the letter—which Jones wrote while incarcerated to the Texas Board of Nursing in 2011—through an open records request. In the letter, Jones apologizes for the “damage I did to all because of my crime” and admits that “I look back now on what I did and agree with you now that it was heinous, that I was heinous.” Although she does not specifically reference any particular incident, the letter—which was received by the board and filed away—comes as a shock to prosecutors, who are currently trying Jones on four counts of murder to prevent her release from prison in March 2018. Throughout her initial trial and during two follow up interviews while in prison, Jones steadfastly maintained her innocence. Jason Goss, assistant DA in the case, said that “It’s a confession.” He continued, “That’s a big deal. It’s an incredibly important piece of evidence. We already knew she was guilty. The fact that she’s saying it to this nursing board just strengthens that belief. Just the fact that she’s acknowledging that means she’s not an innocent person in her own mind.”


In a press release on Thursday evening, President Donald Trump nominated former Texas U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison to be the U.S. ambassador for NATO, according to the Texas Tribune. The Tribune predicts that Hutchison won’t face any obstacles for confirmation, citing her relatively recent retirement from the Senate in 2013. “I have no doubt she will now bring her tireless advocacy and fierce work ethic to the world stage on behalf of the American people,” her former colleague Senator John Cornyn told the Tribune. “I’m thankful she has once again answered the call to service, and I look forward to supporting my fellow Texan’s nomination before the U.S. Senate.” But the twenty-year congressional veteran has a tough road ahead with her new gig. As the Tribune notes, Hutchison will be stepping into an “increasingly fractured diplomatic alliance of the western world,” in which Trump, in the few weeks that Hutchison’s name has been floated as a possible ambassador, has “alienated political leaders of the three most powerful European countries: the United Kingdom, France, and Germany.” In a recent trip to Europe, Trump was also reluctant to agree to a NATO agreement that if one country was attacked, other members of the military alliance would respond. Despite the obstacles ahead of her, Hutchison was tapped with the support of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and ultimately beat out presumed front-runner Richard Grenell, a Trump supporter and former United Nations official. According to the Hill, Hutchison was among the first Republican public figures to cast doubt on her ability to support Trump if he secured the 2016 Republican nomination. Still, it seems that she is ready to tackle this new role, should she be confirmed. “I am a strong supporter of this historic defense and security alliance that was formed to protect freedom for all of its members, united and indivisible,” Hutchison said in a statement. “I look forward to the Senate confirmation process.”