AUSTIN (AP) – Texas has become the first state to call for a ban on allowing bite mark evidence, which legal experts say is likely to reverberate in courtrooms across the U.S. The Texas Forensic Science Commission formally recommended Friday that judges stop accepting bite mark analysis until the technique is supported by better research. There’s currently no scientific proof that teeth can be definitively matched to human skin. At least two dozen men convicted or charged with murder or rape based on bite marks have been exonerated nationwide since 2000. The commission can’t outright ban bite marks evidence. But the state agency’s recommendation is expected to carry significant weight in Texas and beyond. Commissioners say it’s up to supporters of bite mark evidence to produce better research and change their mind.
HOUSTON (AP) – Two more Harris County Sheriff’s Office employees have been fired amid the investigation into the August fatal shooting of a deputy at a gas station. Sheriff Ron Hickman on Friday fired a deputy named J. Goodrich. The sheriff on Tuesday fired a deputy identified as M. DeLeon. Hickman’s office says Goodrich had inappropriate communication with a witness in the investigation of the slaying of Deputy Darren Goforth. DeLeon was found to have been untruthful related to a witness. An investigator, Sgt. Craig Clopton, was fired last October for having “consensual sexual conduct” with a witness. Authorities haven’t said if the dismissals involve the same witness. A suspect in Goforth’s killing, Shannon Miles, is charged with capital murder but Tuesday was ruled incompetent for trial and sent to a mental hospital.
AUSTIN (AP) – A powerful Republican lawmaker is demanding that Texas health officials explain why two state employees co-authored a study suggesting that cuts to Planned Parenthood are curbing access to women’s health services. State Sen. Jane Nelson sent a letter Friday to Texas Health Commissioner Chris Traylor. Her request is the latest fallout from a New England Journal of Medicine study that has angered Republicans, who say the findings are flawed and biased. The study found that fewer Texas women obtained long-acting birth control after GOP lawmakers booted Planned Parenthood from a state women’s health program in 2013. Two researchers with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission were among the study’s five co-authors. Traylor hasn’t said whether he will punish his employees. But his spokesman says they agree with Nelson’s concerns.
WACO (AP) – A judge has postponed the first trial scheduled for one of the many bikers arrested after last year’s deadly shootout at a restaurant in Waco. During a pretrial hearing Friday, Judge Matt Johnson scheduled a hearing for April 1 to consider Matthew Clendennen’s motion for a change of venue. Clendennen had argued that pretrial publicity would taint the jury pool. The district court judge also ordered the state to turn over evidence from a federal sting operation that led to the January indictment of top officers of the Bandidos motorcycle club. Nine people were killed outside a Waco restaurant in an apparent confrontation between the Bandidos and Cossacks motorcycle clubs. Evidence reviewed by The Associated Press shows that four of the dead were shot by the rifles police use.
HOUSTON (AP) – Legal experts say prosecutors face a tough road in their case against a former priest accused this week in the killing of a young Texas teacher and beauty queen nearly 56 years ago. As with many cold cases, the challenges include decades-old evidence, a lack of DNA and the long delay in bringing charges. 83-year-old John Bernard Feit remained in jail Friday in Phoenix after he was indicted in South Texas in the murder of 25-year-old Irene Garza. Authorities allege the then-27-year-old Feit killed Garza in April 1960, after hearing her confession at a Catholic church in McAllen, where Feit was a priest. The former district attorney who investigated the murder is among those expressing doubt about whether prosecutors can win a conviction.
LIBERTY (AP) – Authorities say a 4-year-old boy has died after steel barbecue equipment fell on top of him in Liberty County. The Liberty County Sheriff’s Office said Thursday that a deputy responded just before 2 p.m. Tuesday to a home where Bryan Jara’s mother told authorities that the equipment fell on her son in the yard while she was inside the home doing chores. Jara was transported to San Jacinto Methodist Hospital in Baytown, where he was pronounced dead. Authorities believe the boy was trying to climb onto the equipment when it fell and that it was an accident. An investigation is ongoing.
SAN ANTONIO (AP) – A South Texas sheriff’s deputy has been charged with theft for allegedly charging $2,900 of her own expenses to an inmate’s credit card. Bexar County records show Deputy Laura Ramos was free Friday on a personal recognizance bond after being charged with credit card abuse and theft by a public servant. Online records don’t list an attorney for Ramos, who was assigned to the detention division before her arrest Thursday. Ramos has been put on administrative amid the process to fire her. A sheriff’s department statement says Ramos allegedly obtained the inmate’s credit card information and agreed to deposit $500 into the prisoner’s Texas Department of Corrections account. The female inmate, whose name wasn’t released, had been in the county jail. No money was deposited in the Texas prison account.
IDALOU (AP) – Investigators are trying to determine who fatally stabbed an 18-year-old West Texas high school student at her home and set the place on fire. The Lubbock County Sheriff’s Office said Friday that no arrests had been made in the slaying of Holli Jeffcoat of Idalou. Lt. Bryan Taylor described the victim as a “special needs” student. He declined to elaborate. Taylor says a relative found Jeffcoat’s body Wednesday morning. Taylor says the initial call for help then came from a neighbor. Taylor declined to release further details of the fire, other than to say it was intentionally set to try to conceal the crime. The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services is also investigating the death. Spokesman Paul Zimmerman the family had prior involvement with Child Protective Services.