Sheriff Lupe Valdez Has a Transparency Problem

Not every prisoner in the Dallas County Jail can be protected from a sudden assault by an agitated cellmate. But how the jail's leaders respond to such incidents sets a tone. Despite promises to be open and transparent about problems on her watch, Sheriff Lupe Valdez continues to close ranks. In late December, Patrick Martin brutally beat to death his cellmate Javier Leal, a disco DJ, during a sudden and unprovoked altercation. When it was over, Leal lay dying in the cell. Valdez, who has promised transparency about prisoner violence or escapes, continues to treat the death like a state secret. Three days passed before the department confirmed that Leal had died. Then jail officials declined to answer a reporter's questions about the incident. And when they did issue a statement, their version was dramatically different from the more violent and aggressive account provided in a felony arrest warrant affidavit. The sheriff's version suggested this was a brief attack that was quickly broken up, not the brutal extended beating that Martin admits he delivered. The disparity suggests that jail procedure might have been violated; the Texas Commission on Jail Standards is conducting a review. And when we asked the sheriff for an explanation, she declined to comment on an ongoing investigation.   Continue reading...

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