Naked City

Macy's to close its Highland store and Holly lawsuit dismissed

Last Nail in Coffin

The beleaguered Highland Mall received what must spell the final blow to a relevant retail presence there with this week's announcement that Macy's, the mall's final department store anchor, would close its doors in the coming months, leaving just two Macy's in Austin – one at the Domain and one at Barton Creek. Foley's, in the Highland location since 1979, sold its stores to Macy's in 2006. That same year, when JC Penney closed its longtime location at Highland in favor of a stand-alone location in Pflugerville, there were already obvious gaps in the hallways of the mall that were becoming more and more difficult to camouflage with black paper and rubber plants. When FEMA selected the former JCPenney storefront for its Austin headquarters, neighborhood shoppers had reason to worry. Then Dillard's pulled out in 2009, hobbling one end of the mall. A recent stop for last-minute holiday gifts revealed that Gap and Forever 21 had also vanished. Central Austinites accustomed to the convenience of Highland Mall's staple shops might have a longer commute to shop. Meanwhile, Macy's begins close-out sales on Sunday, lasting about 10 weeks. This probably means more overstock from other stores in later weeks, so don't hang up your shopping spurs too soon. (As of press time, Austin Community College had purchased Macy's Highland Mall property to expand programs and facilities.) – Anne Harris

Holly Complaints Dumped

Travis County Judge John Dietz on Monday dismissed a lawsuit filed by CST Environmental LP over the city's bid process in the planned demolition of the Holly Street Power Plant. On the same day, city staff rejected a request filed by another company, Dixie Demolition, for the public release of the methodology used to select TRC Environmental Corp. as the winning bidder in the six-way competition to dismantle and remediate the Holly site in East Austin. Dixie was staff's second choice for the project. Both companies challenged TRC's qualifications for the job and questioned TRC's high price tag of $24.9 million (see "Raising Hell Over Razing Holly," Dec. 31). In the CST case, Dietz granted the city's motion to dismiss the suit on grounds that the court had no jurisdiction to decide the matter until a contract is signed. Dietz gave CST the option to refile the suit once there's an actual contract. "This is more delay by the city," CST attorney Tom Nesbitt said. "We'll see the city [in court] after a contract is signed." – Amy Smith

DNA Prevails Again

A Dallas County judge on Jan. 4 declared Cornelius Dupree Jr. innocent of a 1979 robbery and rape after DNA testing proved he was not responsible. Dupree, the state's 43rd inmate exonerated through DNA, spent 30 years in prison for the crime (on a 75-year sentence), making him the state's longest-imprisoned wrongfully convicted inmate. Testing in the case was requested by the Innocence Project and pursued by the Dallas County District Attorney's Office's Convic­tion Integrity Unit; the results came in after Dupree had been released on parole last summer. According to the Innocence Project, Dupree was with a friend, Anthony Massingill, at the time of the crime. Massingill is expected to be exonerated later this year but will remain in prison on an unrelated sexual assault charge. Massingill maintains he is innocent of that crime as well, and DNA testing for that case is pending. The Innocence Project says the latest exonerations show there is a problem with misidentification of suspects by witnesses in Texas, and it's encouraging state lawmakers to finally pass a bill to beef-up live and photo lineup procedures. "Mistaken identification has always plagued the criminal justice system, but great strides have been made in the last three decades to understand the problem and come up with fixes," said Nina Morrison, a senior staff attorney with the Innocence Project, in a press statement. "We hope state lawmakers take note of the terrible miscarriage of justice suffered by Cornelius. When the wrong person is convicted of a crime, the real perpetrator goes free, harming everyone." – Jordan Smith

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Naked City, wrongful conviction, courts, cops, Legislature, Legislature 2011, eyewitness identification, Cornelius Dupree, Anthony Massingill, Innocence Project, rape, DNA testing, Holly Street Power Plant, Charlie Baird, Rosa Jimenez, Highland Mall, Macy's

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