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Posts published in “Day: August 10, 2004”

Hundreds turn out for National Night Out

August 3 was one of the hottest days this summer. Still, hundreds of northeast Houston residents left their air conditioned homes to party with their neighbors on National Night Out.

Several communities in the Northeast News coverage area held National Night Out events including the Aldine Sheriff’s Storefront. All reported large crowds who had a wonderful evening.

One of the largest parties had about 200 people in attendence and was put on by the Green Forest Civic Club, Fairgreen 1,2,3,4 and Eastex Freeway Forest 1,2,3,4. They dealt with the heat by stringing extension cords to the empty lot and plugging in fans.

Green Forest Civic Club president Shirley Reed said the event was a success and helped neighbors get to know eachother and their community. “This will help reduce crime with the awareness of the storefront and that we are concerned about each other,” she said.

Reed said that when new neighbors move into the neighborhood there is always a phase in which people might wave but not talk because they are unsure how to fit into the new area. National Night Out breaks down barriers and brings neighborhoods together. “Lack of knowledge causes people to stand off. Being informed causes people to come togther,” Reed explained.

Attendees enjoyed good food and visited booths from South Texas Dental, the health department and received a cholesterol screening.
“We were well represented by our elected officials,” said Reed. Senfronia Thomspon, Kevin Bailey and representatives from Gene Green’s office stopped by the party.

Body of missing woman found near Hall’s Bayou

Houston Police have identified the body of an elderly woman, found along the banks of Hall’s Bayou in the North Forest area last Thursday.

Juanita Bass, 70, had been missing after she left her home on Onslow Street, off Little York and Hirsch, and did not return. Family members including Bass’ nephew Alfred Hunt, said that she suffered from early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, and that may have contributed.

However, Bass is reported to have been carrying a bag with a large amount of cash with her, and this was not found on her body or in the immediate area. Police are investigating.

Anyone who saw Ms. Bass or suspicious activity can call HPD Missing Persons, at 713-731-5223.

Bailey continues probe of Crime Lab, finds results “Outrageous”

“This is an outrageous miscarriage of justice. We need to know that everyone is treated fairly in our criminal justice system, that evidence is analyzed correctly, and that an analyst never again takes a witness stand in a criminal trail claiming to be an expert when they are not. We were all told years ago that DNA was infallible and we wouldn’t have innocent people being convicted. Well, we forgot about human error and misconduct,” says state Rep. Kevin Bailey, D- North Houston.

He went on to say, “We now face the potential that we are dealing with two different problems in the crime lab: scientific incompetence and a lack of integrity. It appears there may have been efforts made by some analyst to conform their findings to the detective’s theory of the case.”

“That’s what we need to protect against in the future,” Bailey said. He and state Rep. Robert Talton, R-Pasadena hope to come up with legislation that will force the creation of a regional crime lab, which he believes would increase accountability and help prevent future problems. “We passed the legislation to require accreditation for crime labs,” Bailey said. “But I’m still very concerned about it, and I think we are going to have to look at a regional lab that is independent of local law enforcement agencies.”

Bailey voiced his concerns after the most recent case of apparent wrongful prosecution was made public. He said there now is ample evidence that people were wrongly accused and wrongly convicted as a result of testimony from crime lab personnel.

In the most recent case George Rodriguez was convicted of sexual assault of a teenage girl in 1987, and has spent the last 17 years of his life locked up for a crime he did not commit.

The victim was on the street when she was abducted by two men who drove her to a house. The two assailants took the victim inside the house, passing a third man who was watching television, and into a bedroom where they both raped her. Afterward, the two men took her back in the car and dropped her off on a road.

Initially, the victim told the police that one of the men called the other man George, but that she thought it was a fake name. The victim gave police a detailed description of the house and described the route that the perpetrators drove to get to it.

Based on this information, a police officer from the community believed he recognized the house as belonging to two brothers, Manuel and Uvaldo Beltran. Since the name George was used, and the same officer knew that Manuel Beltran hung out with George Rodriguez in the past, George Rodriguez became a suspect.

Rodriguez’s picture was shown to the victim in a photo array and she identified him as one of the assailants. The victim’s friend, who was with her when she was abducted, also identified George as a suspect, though he could not later identify him from a line up.

George Rodriguez insisted that he was at work when the crime was committed, and the police obtained these records, indicating that he was in fact working during the time of the crime.

The police searched the Beltran’s house and took the Beltran brothers into custody. Uvaldo Beltran stated that his brother, Manuel, and another man raped the girl in the bedroom while he was watching television. Manuel Beltran confessed to committing the crime, along with friend Isidro Yanez. Police determined that the car used in the attack belonged to Isidro Yanez and that Yanez had been named a suspect in an identical abduction-rape in the area.

The police asked both Rodriguez and Yanez to participate in a line up in which the victim selected Rodriguez. In a photo array, the victim identified Rodriguez as the assailant and Yanez as someone who resembled the assailant. The Houston police crime lab later reported that a hair form the victim’s underwear was microscopically consistent with Rodriguez.

Meanwhile, the Houston Police Department was investigating another case involving Yanez, in which he allegedly sexually assaulted an undocumented alien who was working for his mother as a maid. His mother stated that “her son is mentally ill and needs to be arrested before he hurts someone else.” Yanez eventually pled guilty and was convicted of attempted sexual assault.

At Rodriguez’ trial, his alibi was rendered useless in the face of the HPD crime lab’s “scientific evidence” that “showed beyond a doubt” that Yanez did not commit the crime. Rodriguez, on the other hand, could not be excluded as a contributor and eventually was convicted of sexual assault.

Post-conviction DNA testing has recently demonstrated that the hair from the victim’s underwear that was used during the trial did not belong to Rodriguez. Further testing has shown that this hair actually belongs to Isidro Yanez.

Legislation authored by state Rep. Kevin Bailey and passed into law last year requires that the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) establish an accreditation process for crime laboratories, including DNA laboratories, and other entities conducting forensic analyses of physical evidence for use in criminal proceedings. Physical evidence subjected to forensic analysis and testimony regarding evidence will not be admissible in a criminal court if, at the time of analysis the crime laboratory is not accredited by DPS.

Bailey went on to say, “This is about justice. And we need to know that everyone is treated fairly in our criminal justice system, that evidence is analyzed correctly, and that an analyst never again takes a witness stand in a criminal trail claiming to be an expert when they are not or misrepresent their findings.”

Aldine ISD to introduce new security measures at school

Aldine ISD will introduce a new security measure to help protect students when the 2004-05 school year begins on Aug. 12.

The district has purchased new software called V-soft, which helps track visitors, students, faculty, contractors and volunteers. The V-soft system will be in place at every school in Aldine ISD and will be operational the first day of classes.

All visitors (parents, AISD staff, etc.), volunteers and contractors will be required to check-in when they visit a campus. Individuals will be asked to present a valid state issued ID, which will be scanned into the V-soft system. The system has the ability to provide alerts on people who may jeopardize the safety of AISD students and staff.

The V-soft system contains a public sex offender database which is used to screen visitors to campuses, as well as private alert data entered by schools on custody issues and restraining orders. The data collected is exclusively for the use of Aldine ISD schools, Aldine ISD and law enforcement only. This information will not be sold or shared with any outside sources.

“This is one more tool we can use to keep our children and staff members safer and to provide a safe learning environment for our students,” said Vernon Lewis, assistant superintendent of administration. “We are asking for our parents’ and volunteers’ cooperation in presenting their valid IDs when checking in at school.”

HISD makes changes for new school year

School starts August 16 in America’s 7th largest school district, and HISD students this year will face tougher academic requirements than ever before.

In announcing the move, Superintendent Kaye Stripling said “school will be harder, and that’s the way it must be. We must prepare young people for the challenges of the real world.”

And that isn’t all that is new at Texas’ largest school district this year. When school starts, students will find more than 1,200 new teachers, 27 new principals, even a new superintendent. HISD will launch a historic expansion of its education program for very young children with the opening of two new Pre-Kindergarten centers. And on August 28, a wave of school officials and community volunteers will roll across the city to knock on doors and get dropouts back in school.

Here is a list of what’s new at HISD this year:

• Harder classes will be required. Thousands of students will be automatically enrolled in the hardest courses this year. Sixth graders will be required to take pre-Advanced Placement English courses, and all high school students who have demonstrated their ability to do tougher work will be required to enter Advanced Placement (AP) courses.

Any high school student who made at least a verbal score of 46 on the PSAT will be automatically enrolled in the tougher AP English, chemistry and social studies courses. Students with a math sore 56 or better on the PSAT will be automatically enrolled in Pre-AP calculus, and AP computer science.

Students can only opt out of these course with permission from parents. Dr. Eric Smith, president of the Board of Directors for the College Board, praised HISD’s move, saying “For a district this size, I don’t think there is a single other district in America trying to define itself around advanced academics.”

• In another historic move, educators and community members will fan out across the city August 28 to knock on doors, find children who may have dropped out of school, and get them to come back to school. The teams will go through eight neighborhoods throughout the city armed with lists of students who have not shown up for school during the first two weeks.

• Construction will begin on six new schools this year, and on 17 replacement schools. Thirty three school renovation projects are expected to begin this school year. HISD installed new air conditioning systems in 15 schools this summer, and 76 playgrounds ill be installed by the end of August. All totaled, about 50,000 students will benefit from the construction work under the HISD bond program.

• Healthier meal guidelines will affect even homeroom parties. School dietary guidelines are set by the USDA and recommend that children’s foods include one-third the recommended daily nutrients and no more than 30 percent of calories from fat. HISD moved beyond those guideline and expanded the menu to include more favorite foods with more vitamins and reduced fat. HISD meals the first week of school, for example, will be 3.3 percent lower in fat than required by the federal government, 205 percent higher in protein and 219 percent higher in Vitamin C.

But new requirements by the state agriculture commissioner will impact what kinds of food parents can bring to school for other children, and what PTA and PTO groups can sell. Elementary school parents no longer can bring cupcakes to school for their child to share with friends. Under the new state rules, children can eat cupcakes served at school, but not cupcakes with sprinkles. Parent groups won’t be able to sell unhealthy food on campus as a fundraiser under the new rules. And the new state limits for younger students say that after one bag of French fries per week, “no fries for you!” That goes for baked fries and tater tots too.

New free/reduced meal guidelines announced

Aldine ISD Child Nutrition Services Department administers the federal/free reduced meal program. Both breakfast and lunch will be available to all students in Aldine ISD. All students, free, reduced and paid, are encouraged to enjoy breakfast and lunch each day. Aldine ISD school meals meet the Dietary Guidelines for Healthy American and the recommendations of reduced fat and saturated fat levels.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced new income poverty guidelines yearly for local school food service departments to use to determine the eligibility of free/reduced meal applicants. The income eligibility guidelines for 2004-05 can be found in the chart accompanying this article.

Children may be eligible for free or reduced price meals without application if they are listed on the Texas Education Agency Direct Certification Program. Families who are direct certified will receive a letter from Aldine ISD’s Child Nutrition Services Department. This letter tells parents or guardians that their children are already approved for meal benefits. Families receiving this letter should not complete a new application. If any school-age children in a Direct-Certified family are not listed on the letter, you must complete a new application.

All families that were approved for free or reduced price meals at the end of the 2003-04 school year will receive meal service through early-September. Federal law dictates that everyone receiving free/reduced meals must reapply each year, unless they are Direct-Certified. For those who are not Direct-Certified, and feel they need assistance for the 2004-05 school year, applications are currently available in schools or at the central Child Nutrition Services Office, located at 2112 Aldine Meadows. Early completion of the application assures families faster, better service in the processing of applications.

Parents or guardians are asked to only fill out one application per family. Applications must be filled out completely and signed before they can be processed.

In accordance with Federal law and U.S. Department of Agriculture policy, this institution is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability. To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, Room 326-W, Whitten Building, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call (202) 720-5964 (voice and TDD). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

Regular child support improves school achievement

There is no more important time than the beginning of the school year to remind parents of the importance of making regular child support payments.

It is common knowledge that children depend on child support to provide basic needs like food, shelter, health care, and back-to-school clothing. However, research shows that children who receive regular child support derive more benefits than the financial security that each payment provides. The children of parents who pay their child support have fewer behavior problems, make better grades, and stay in school longer than children who do not receive regular support.

In most instances, non-custodial parents are ordered to pay child support for their children who live in a separate household. But a parent’s contribution to a child’s well being goes beyond the financial assistance the parent is required to provide. Parents who pay child support are much more likely to take an active role in raising their children. Children with two involved and caring parents are more self-confident, more likely to exercise self control, and less likely to engage in risky behaviors that result in drug usage and early pregnancies.

I am thankful that most parents faithfully pay court-ordered child support every month without reminders. For parents who need extra encouragement, it is my hope that the new school year will renew their commitment to do the right thing and pay their child support. All children deserve the security that comes from knowing their parents care enough to make regular child support payments.

Parents who need child support services can contact the Child Support Division of my office for assistance. We will help you:

-Locate a non-custodial parent;
-Establish your child’s paternity;
-Establish and enforce child support orders;
-Establish and enforce medical support orders;
-Review and adjust child support payments; and
-Collect and distribute child support payments.

To help parents collect child support, the Attorney General’s Office accepts applications from mothers, fathers and other individuals who request our services. Customers can apply for services by calling our 24-hour voice response system at (800) 252-8014 or by visiting Child Support Interactive on the main Attorney General Web site www.oag. state.tx.us. Parents who receive financial assistance through the Texas Department of Human Services automatically receive child support services.

For the state fiscal year that ended August 31, 2003, the Child Support Division collected a record $1.5 billion in child support. Although the final tally is not in, we are set to break last year’s collection record for State Fiscal Year 2004 that ends this month.

I will not be satisfied until all our children receive the financial and medical support their parents are ordered to provide. As your Attorney General, you have my commitment to work tirelessly on behalf of Texas children to collect the support they need to lead healthy and productive lives.

POINTS TO REMEMBER ABOUT CHILD SUPPORT

Children Who Receive Child Support:
-Have better health and nutrition
-Have fewer behavior problems
-Make better grades

The Attorney General Will Help You:
-Locate a non-custodial parent;
-Establish your child’s paternity;
-Establish and enforce child support orders;
-Establish and enforce medical support orders;
-Review and adjust child support payments; and
-Collect and distribute child support payments.

Apply for Child Support Services by:
-Visiting Child Support Interactive on the main Attorney General Web site www.oag.state.tx.us
-Calling the 24-hour voice response system at (800) 252-8014

Information on this and other topics is available on the Attorney General’s Web site at www.oag.state.tx.us.

Hot enough fer ya?

Hot enough fer ya? And to think school is fixing to start back. It’s gotta be hotter than a firecracker on those school busses, you reckon?

This time next month I’ll be in Uvalde, Texas with a bunch of old cops and good ole boys bird hunting in this heat. Went to this same ranch last year and had a large time indeed. Looking forward to the feed after one of the hunts. We go to another ranch below a mountain and feast on fine groceries that are fit for a king. I’ll take a couple jars of my chowchow and something else, just ain’t figered out yet what it’ll be.

What do you think of the landscaper in Houston that got raided by the police because he was growing Texas Hibiscus? The cops (task force) got a report from someone that he was growing marjuiawana. Texas Hibiscus looks like marijuiawana and that’s why he was raided and handcuffed.

From what I read, they didn’t even say sorry ‘bout that, but were simply doing their job.

After reading what I just wrote, the Mrs. told me back when she was in the energy audit business; one of her co workers came across a marijuiawana farm growing in an attic with special lighting.

I think I’d quit growing that Texas Hibiscus and try tomatoes or something you can eat.

Had news from my wine making friend in Georgia. Said his wife missed a step and fell. (She was sober and a retired school teacher.) Broke her leg in 4 places and got all skint up from falling that also resulted in her knocking out a tooth. Talk about a stroke of bad luck, she’s got screws and plates in place to hold the fragments in. Can you imagine what’ll happen when she goes through an airport body scanner? When I go through one of those things and it goes off, I tell them it must be the metal plate in my head. We are sending her a jar of get well jelly, to heck with a card.

Ever heard the term once in a Blue Moon? Did you notice the Blue Moon the last Saturday in July? It ain’t got nothing to do with color but is a term used from long ago when you have two full moons in the same month; the first one was July 2 and the next was July 31st. Just an interesting cosmic event. Mark your calendar for June 30, 2007 for the next Blue Moon, that’s 3 years away.

I missed it too and glad I didn’t know about it but I wondered where all the crazies came from. I ain’t superstitious but if it’s Friday 13th and a full moon, I make myself scarce.

Next Friday 13th is August 13th and just around the corner; oh Lordy.

There are no new sins. The old ones just got more publicity.

“I, Robot” a disappointment

Running time: 115 minutes
MPAA rating: PG-13

Just got back from seeing “I, Robot,” and I’ve got two words for ya: I, Robbed.

Director Alex Proyas and screenwriters Jeff Vintar and Akiva Goldsman (writers who gave us “Batman and Robin” and “Lost in Space”) have taken Isaac Asimov’s classic and thought-provoking stories and turned them into “Bad Bots 2035,” complete with a blustering, overwrought police chief (Chi McBride, who parodied the same role in “Undercover Brother”), lots of CGI, chases, explosions and riveting dialogue exchanges like this:

“You’re the dumbest smart person I ever met.”

“Yeah? Well you’re the dumbest dumb person I ever met.”

(Sigh)

“I, Robot” stars Will Smith as … well, Will Smith; but we’re supposed to believe he’s Del Spooner, a too-hip-to-be-seen-with-you, wise-cracking, renegade cop who plays by his own rules, and not the guy you saw in “Bad Boys” or any other Will Smith movie. Spooner is investigating the apparent suicide of a scientist who invented a new line of ultra-sophisticated robots. Spooner, technophobic dude that he is, suspects a robot named Sonny murdered the scientist.

This doesn’t go over too well with the head of U.S. Robotics (Bruce Greenwood), the obvious villain of the movie. The company is about to roll out its new line of robots, and having a robot arrested for murder would bankrupt the company.

The new robots, interestingly enough, have evolved, supposedly, into sentient beings and have decided amongst themselves to take over the planet.

Cue Will Smith to say, “Aw, hell no!” and let the whiz-bang-BOOM begin.

“I, Robot” is a disappointment because not only does it betray Asimov’s original material, but also because Proyas is a gifted and intelligent director who gave us the amazing cult-classic “Dark City,” which showed that science-fiction films can be both beautiful to watch and mentally engaging. If you haven’t seen “Dark City,” I highly recommend you rent — or buy — the DVD instead of wasting your time with “I, Robot.”

GRADE: C-

(c) 2004 King Features Synd., Inc.