FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 2, 2015
Contact: Lowell Brown
Communications Division Director, State Bar of Texas
(800) 204-2222, ext. 1713, or (512) 427-1713
Winners of 2015 Texas Gavel Awards announced
AUSTIN — In-depth stories exploring a flawed capital murder conviction, alleged racial profiling, and a debate over DWI sentencing penalties are among the winners of the 2015 Texas Gavel Awards.
Journalists representing the Houston Chronicle, Victoria Advocate, KXAN-TV, Marfa Public Radio, and The Intercepthave been selected as winners of 2015 Texas Gavel Awards, which honor journalism that deepens public understanding of the legal system. The State Bar of Texas will honor the winners at an awards luncheon Sept. 17 in Austin in conjunction with the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas annual conference.
Each year, the State Bar of Texas Public Affairs Committee coordinates the Texas Gavel Awards and recruits an independent panel of journalists and legal professionals to judge the entries. Submissions are judged on their educational value, journalisitic excellence, objectivity, creativity, and overall quality.
“This year’s winners are examples of how good journalism can educate the public and in many cases inspire new laws or prod efforts to right old wrongs,” said Rudy England, chair of the Public Affairs Committee. “In their own way, each entry sheds light on an area of law and leaves the public with a better understanding of our legal system.”
The winners are listed below by award category, along with short descriptions of their entries.
Print, Major Metro: Lisa Falkenberg of the Houston Chronicle is the winner for “Dead Man Waiting,” a series of columns exploring problems with the case of Alfred Dewayne Brown, whose 2005 conviction and death sentence for the murder of a Houston police officer was reversed by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals last year. Falkenberg revealed how a Harris County grand jury threatened Brown’s chief alibi witness — his girlfriend — until she agreed to testify against him — revelations that helped spur a successful push for grand jury reform in the 84th Texas Legislature. Online at http://www.houstonchronicle.com/local/dead-man-waiting/.
Print, Non-Metro: Jessica Priest of the Victoria Advocate is the winner for “Is Probation Enough Punishment?,” which analyzed the rate at which Victoria County prosecutors suggested DWI defendants be placed on probation and found that, on the misdemeanor level, defendants were placed on probation more than the state average. The district attorney’s office subsequently announced it would stop accepting plea agreements for misdemeanor DWIs. Online at https://www.victoriaadvocate.com/news/2014/mar/08/dwi_cases_jrp_030914_234608/.
Broadcast, Major Metro: Sally Hernandez, Josh Hinkle, and Mark Batchelder of KXAN-TV in Austin are the winners for “7 Minutes to Live: Crisis in Child Protective Services Courts.” The report concluded that children had been rushed through the court system because of a heavy caseload and a lack of time and funding. Online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wnmlTu-8Lco.
Broadcast, Non-Metro: Lorne Matalon of Marfa Public Radio is the winner for “Texas Case Vs. Border Patrol May Set Precedent,” a report exploring whether a court case could set a precedent in alleged racial profiling cases brought against the Border Patrol. Online at http://marfapublicradio.org/blog/texas-case-vs-border-patrol-may-set-precedent-decision-said-to-be-imminent/.
Online: Jordan Smith and Liliana Segura of The Intercept are the winners for “Is Texas Getting Ready to Kill an Innocent Man?,” a story that explores lingering questions in the case of Texas death row inmate Rodney Reed and illuminates broader tensions within the capital punishment system. Online at https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/11/17/is-texas-getting-ready-kill-innocent-man/.
The State Bar of Texas will feature winner bios and links to their stories at texasbar.com/gavelawards prior to the awards ceremony.
The Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas’s 2015 Bernard and Audre Rapoport State Conference is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sept. 17 at the Hyatt Regency, 208 Barton Springs Road in Austin. The conference will examine open government laws, state ethics disclosures, and other timely transparency topics. The Texas Gavel Awards presentation will occur during the John Henry Faulk Awards Luncheon. For more information or to register for the conference, visit www.foift.org.
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The State Bar of Texas is an administrative agency of the Supreme Court of Texas that provides educational programs for the legal profession and the public, administers the minimum continuing legal education program for attorneys, and manages the attorney discipline system. For more information, follow the State Bar on Twitter @statebaroftexas, like the State Bar on Facebook at www.facebook.com/statebaroftexas, or visit texasbar.com.