Reporting Texas
News and features from UT-Austin's School of Journalism

Justice & Government

Surviving For A Reason

Crystal Chen’s soft voice echoed through the Senate chamber as she recounted nightmares of persecution by her own government for her religious beliefs. In the prime of her 20s, Chen was sentenced to four and a half years of forced labor and torture in China. “I was pinned to the concrete floor and force-fed an all-salt mixture which nearly killed me,” Chen said. The room filled with lawmakers was silent. “Some guards handcuffed me to a radiator pipe,” she continued. “I was left there for three days while a police chief groped my body.” Chen was among a group of victims of political and religious persecution who testified before the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services of the Texas legislature in support of Senate Bill 1040 that would prohibit health insurance companies and other benefit plans from covering organ transplant procedures in which the organs come from a country known to engage in forced organ harvesting — namely China.

One State Representative is Fighting to Stop Texas from Executing People With Mental Illness

House Bill 727, by Rep. Toni Rose, D-Dallas, would end the death penalty fo people with “severe mental illness.” Rose filed similar measures during the last three legislative sessions, but none have made it to the governor’s desk. However, each time her bills were voted on they gained more bi-partisan support, including Representative Jeff Leach, R-Plano, who joint-authored the bill in 2021.

Alex Jones in Her Courtroom Is the Least Interesting Thing About Judge Maya Guerra Gamble

The world came to know Maya Guerra Gamble last summer as the no-nonsense judge presiding over the Texas defamation trial of Austin-based conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his Infowars media company.
“It seems absurd to instruct you, again, that you must tell the truth while you testify,” the Travis County district court judge lectured Jones at one point. “But here I am. You must tell the truth while you testify. This is not your show. You need to slow down and not take what you see as opportunities to further the message you’re wanting to further.”
Speaking directly is a trademark of Gamble’s personality. “I’ve always been a pretty direct person. … And in both directions. I have never enjoyed false praise. I would rather hear the truth. Whatever it is,” Gamble said.

Inmates’ Families March Alongside Those Wrongly Convicted at Death Penalty Protest

Families of death row prisoners joined opponents of capital punishment for the 23rd annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty at the Texas State Capitol.
“I’m here today, tomorrow and as long as it takes until we end this death penalty,” said Rodrick Reed, brother of Rodney Reed, who has been on Texas’ death row for 24 years. “Not just bring Rodney home, but to abolish the death penalty because it is cruel, inhumane and pure racist.”

Apr 28, 2023

LGBTQ+ Parents: “Don’t Say Gay” Bills Threaten Families

House Bill 1155, by Jared Patterson, R-Frisco, would ban teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity from kindergarten through eighth grade. 

Jan 18, 2023

UT Bans TikTok Due to Security Concerns, But Some Professors Wary

Some UT professors said they understand the concern over TikTok but voiced anxiety about the ban affecting their ability to study and teach.

May 03, 2022

4/20 Rally at Governor’s Mansion Calls for Marijuana Decriminalization

Marijuana advocates waved flags and smoked weed outside of the Texas Governor’s Mansion on 4/20, a day known as a holiday for celebrating marijuana, to call for further decriminalization of the drug.  “We can help, you know, liberate people who are in prison for nonviolent crime,” said Colin Kerrigan, a civil engineering student at the […]

Apr 13, 2022

Opponents to Solitary Confinement Call It an Impediment to Rehabilitation

Solitary confinement can have disastrous psychological consequences for inmates. Advocates in Texas on opposite ends of the political spectrum have called recently for reforming solitary confinement rules, both in Texas and federally.

Dec 02, 2021

‘Conversion Therapy’ Aimed at Queer People Remains Legal in Texas

With gay marriage now a constitutional right and the strides made in LGBTQ+ acceptance in American society, it might be hard for some to imagine that just 50 years ago, homosexuality was still considered a mental illness. It took until 1973 for the American Psychological Association to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. […]

Oct 29, 2021

Planned Parenthood’s Place as Texas’ Anti-Abortion Law Causes Panic Among Some

If the rally at the Texas capitol and others across the nation last month are any indication, feelings of panic and outrage have erupted from not only women, but from others who have childbearing loved ones and oppose a move away from reproductive rights. On Sept. 1, Texas Senate Bill 8 went into effect. It imposes […]

Oct 29, 2021

UT’s William Wayne Justice Center Encourages Students to Enter Public Interest Law

Jane, one of millions of Texans living below the poverty level, needs a lawyer but cannot afford to pay for one. Fortunately, she’s part of the approximately 5.2 million who qualify for legal aid. So she has a couple of options. She could get help from an organization like Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, which serves […]

Oct 21, 2021

Texas Remains Reluctant to Legalize Recreational Marijuana Use

Texas has had a puzzling past with marijuana. While the state refuses to legalize and regulate recreational marijuana, it has made small strides in recent years to legalize CBD, hemp and medical marijuana. As the laws become more confusing, some cities — like Austin — have chosen to decriminalize misdemeanor amounts of marijuana.

Of the 50 bills pertaining to marijuana introduced during Texas’ 87th legislation — only HB 1535 made it to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk. This bill expands the number of people eligible for medical marijuana as well as the concentration amount they can have. Bills dealing with penalty reduction or recreational legalization died.

May 27, 2021

A Historical Look at Jim Crow Laws in Texas

Charles Zelden, history professor at Nova Southeastern University in Florida, sat down with Reporting Texas to discuss the unfortunate history of Jim Crow in Texas.

May 21, 2021

Texas Lawmakers Want to Make Single Eyewitness Testimony No Longer Grounds for Death Penalty

A state representative wants to make it impossible to hand down a death sentence in Texas based on the testimony of a single witness without corroborating evidence. Supporters of the change say it’s dangerous to sentence someone to death row based on eyewitness testimony alone. Prosecutors, meanwhile, say they doubt  it’s actually a problem and that the proposal could be a slippery slope that leads to micromanaging their work. 

Apr 23, 2021

Foster Parents: Texas Child Welfare System Remains Broken

Kathleen Ender was just 21 when she began the process of becoming a foster parent after the idea of parenting foster children appeared in her dreams again and again. Enders, chief program officer at National Angels, well equipped emotionally and armed with experience, deeply believed in the beauty of being able to love a child […]

Apr 20, 2021

COVID-19 racial retribution impacts UT’s Asian community

When the Atlanta spa shootings happened last month, one of the first things Winston Hung did was call his Taiwanese parents. As his parents’ concern for their son studying at the University of Texas at Austin heightened, his father gave him a warning of caution.  “Be careful, you never know what’s going to happen.”  In […]

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