Beyond City Limits

• On June 23, by a vote of 8-1, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Texas must provide counsel to indigent defendants upon arrest and not wait until indictment. Upon review of Rothgery v. Gillespie County, justices deemed Texas to be out of step nationally. "We merely reaffirm what we have held before and what an overwhelming majority of American jurisdictions understand in practice: a criminal defendant's initial appearance before a judicial officer, where he learns the charge against him and his liberty is subject to restriction, marks the start of adversary judicial proceedings that trigger ... the Sixth Amendment right to counsel," wrote Justice David Souter for the majority. Justice Clarence Thomas was the lone dissent. In 2004, the Texas Fair Defense Project filed the case in federal court in Austin, which granted Gillespie Co. summary judgment. TFDP then took the appeal all the way to the Supreme Court. Monday's decision is significant because currently "indigent defendants are denied appointed counsel until they are indicted, which could come weeks or months after an arrest and initial appearance," says a TFDP release. Such delays in receiving counsel "could cause defendants to have a much harder time putting together their defense," TFDP Director Andrea Marsh told the Chronicle. Walter Allen Rothgery of Fredericksburg, erroneously charged with illegal possession of a firearm after a database incorrectly tagged him as a convicted felon, was denied counsel for six months before the charges were dropped. According to TFDP, after indictment, "Mr. Rothgery's lawyer was quickly able to obtain paperwork that showed Mr. Rothgery was not a felon, and the charges were dismissed" – by which point Rothgery had already spent three weeks in jail. – P.J.R.

• Mayor Will Wynn was in Miami this week for the annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, a group that's been a dynamic driver of grassroots eco-reforms, especially in its 2005 passage of the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, now endorsed by more than 850 mayors. Wynn serves as the conference's energy chair and presided over the adoption of a resolution this week endorsing a 30% residential energy-efficiency improvement in the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code – as drafted by the Inter­national Code Council, which develops comprehensive national construction codes. Efficiency is seen as the single best weapon against climate change, so both mayors and greens hope to see the so-called 30% Solution adopted when the ICC meets this September. Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope urged support for the resolution, noting that "buildings consume as much as 75% of U.S. electricity ... and contribute nearly 40% of greenhouse gas emissions." The club's Cool Cities campaign, which spreads the word about the Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, has enlisted 1,007 cities nationwide. Locally, Central Texas Cool Cities coordinator Terry Moore focuses on towns less progressive than Austin. Lakeway, for example, has begun looking at managing peak energy demand and urging the Pedernales Electric Cooperative to adopt some of Austin Energy's efficiency incentive programs. – Daniel Mottola

• Speaker of the U.S. House Nancy Pelosi went on record Tuesday as supporting Edwards for Barack Obama's vice presidential running mate – um, that's Chet Edwards, not John. "Anyone that Barack Obama wants is my choice for vice president," Pelosi told Newsweek. "But I do think in the list of considerations there should be somebody from the House of Representatives, and Chet Edwards is a person that many of us think would be a good person to be in the mix." Edwards is a nine-term congressman who represented Texas' 11th District – which then included Fort Hood – from 1991 to 2005 and built a loyal following among military families. In 2003, the now-disgraced, then-Majority Leader Tom DeLay targeted Edwards in his re-redistricting scheme and drew Edwards out of the 11th District and into the 17th, which stretches from near Fort Worth, through Waco, and down past College Station. Despite DeLay's effort to make the district solidly Republican, Edwards' reputation for moderation helped him beat right-wing crazy state Rep. Arlene Wohlge­muth in 2004, and a 2006 challenge from Van Taylor went nowhere. – Lee Nichols

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle