LISTEN: Podcast update explores police transparency challenges at Texas Capitol

Investigations

AUSTIN (KXAN) – A tough Texas legislative session came to an end May 31. With the close of business at the Capitol, lawmakers passed one bill sparked by a KXAN Catalyst investigation and saw another fail.

KXAN’s 2020 Catalyst investigation, Dead & Undone, exposed flaws in the state’s system of reporting deaths in police custody. Following that report, State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, authored House Bill 2901 to revamp penalties for failing to report those deaths. His legislation got a committee hearing but later stalled.

In Dead & Undone, KXAN found hundreds of custodial death reports were filed late or left incomplete for years by police departments across Texas. One of those incomplete reports belonged to Herman Titus, a 21-year-old Black man who died in a Travis County jail in 2017. The bill’s failure disappointed Titus’ mother, Demeisha Burns, who has fought for more police transparency since her son’s death.

“I just wish that with everything going on, that it would have really been a high consideration on their to-do list, because it is a part of change … to a better, a … better justice system. I don’t like that it got dropped, because for me, it would’ve been at least some form of justice for me losing my child,” Burns said in an interview with KXAN.

Lawmakers did, however, pass a bill to fix problems KXAN exposed in another Catalyst project: Mayberry Texas. The Mayberry investigation focused on the missing persons case of Jamie Mayberry and uncovered shortfalls in the state’s system for reporting missing persons.

Following KXAN’s project, State Rep. Lacey Hull, R-Houston, filed House Bill 1419. Gov. Greg Abbott signed it into law effective Sept. 1. The bill will improve reporting of missing persons case details into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, commonly called NamUs.

Jamie Mayberry’s case has never been solved, but his brother Terry told KXAN the new law will help families like his in the future.

“We’re so excited, but we’re also relieved, because – from here on out, there will be families that will benefit from this and their cases will be solved much quicker … believe me, being the brother of a missing person, you just don’t know how much that means to our family,” Terry Mayberry said.

Dead & Undone

Missing in Texas

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