Michael Barajas

Michael Barajas is a staff writer covering civil rights for the Observer. Before joining the Observer, he was editor of the San Antonio Current and managing editor of the Houston Press. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. You can reach him on Twitter or at [email protected].

Criminal Justice

In Harris County, the ‘Slow Erosion’ of a System That Keeps People in Jail Because They’re Poor

The case to end cash bail puts Harris County judges and magistrates under a microscope.

The young woman muttered “yeah” when asked if she wanted a court-appointed lawyer. That wasn’t good enough for Harris County magistrate Eric Hagstette, who explained to her the difference between “yes” and “yeah” when she appeared, via video link, before … Read More

Civil Rights, News

Lawsuit Questions How Port Arthur Police, Hospital Staff Respond to Mentally Ill Patients

Family claims police and hospital guards cornered a schizophrenic man then smothered him to death when he refused to remove his underwear.

The Delacruz family realized Manuel was dangerously sick somewhere on the highway as they passed San Antonio. It was the summer of 2016 and they were coming back from a weeklong vacation in northern Mexico, where Manuel, 26, hadn’t slept … Read More

Criminal Justice

New Report Finds — Surprise — Indigent Defense Attorneys Shouldn’t be Under the Control of the State Prison System

The Texas prison system controls an agency tasked with defending poor inmates accused of crimes inside Texas prisons. What could possibly go wrong?

A new report by a committee of the State Bar of Texas aims to draw attention to a glaringly obvious conflict of interest at a little-known indigent defense system in Texas. Current and former attorneys with the State Counsel for … Read More

Youth in the Texas Juvenile Justice Department's Phoenix Program
Civil Rights, Political Intelligence, The Issue

Problems Hide in Plain Sight at Texas’ Youth Lockups

Critics say Texas’ five remaining juvenile prisons not only fail to rehabilitate young people but “actually make them worse.”

It was spring break 2017 at the McLennan County State Juvenile Correctional Facility, and the young inmates were more restless than normal. Some of the teens roamed the lockup, located about 20 miles east of Waco, throwing garbage, flashing gang … Read More

Texas Politics

Meet Dave Welch, the ‘Pastor of Pastors’ who Mobilizes Texas Churches Against LGBT Rights

The Houston conservative's ability to blend politics and religion makes him a particularly potent force.

Editor’s note: With the far right ascendant in Texas politics, once-marginal ideas and people have found a place in the political mainstream. Our recurring Fringe Factor series is an introduction to the often-unknown, but influential activists, thinkers and operatives who … Read More

edith jones
Texas Politics

What Does Discrimination Look Like to Fifth Circuit Judge Edith Jones?

Despite repeat rulings that Texas passed voter ID with racist intent, judge tells opponents from the bench, “You have nothing.”

Before any of the attorneys even uttered a word, Judge Edith Jones already sounded irritated. She called the case before her and the two other Fifth Circuit judges “twice-chewed food.” She even seemed to caution the lawyers: “Given that, maybe … Read More

police reform, brutality
Criminal Justice

Austin City Council Takes a Step Toward Police Reform, Rejects Union Contract

Activists said the contract would perpetuate a broken system of citizen oversight and shield cops who engage in misconduct.

Late Wednesday night, after almost nine hours of impassioned public testimony, Austin City Council rejected a police union contract that watchdogs say would perpetuate a toothless system of citizen oversight and extend unfair protections for cops accused of misconduct. The … Read More

Civil Rights, News

Dallas Grand Jury Indicts Cop Who Shot Unarmed Man Mistaken for Burglar

Former Mesquite Police Department officer Derick Wiley, who shot Lyndo Jones last month, is the third Dallas-area cop to face criminal charges for an on-duty shooting in 2017.

On Wednesday, a Dallas County grand jury indicted the officer who shot an unarmed black man who police mistook for a car burglar last month, marking the third Dallas-area cop to face criminal charges for an on-duty shooting this year. … Read More

Texas Politics

Texas Continues to Litigate Marriage Equality Amid Inaction from Federal Courts

The U.S. Supreme Court won’t intervene in Houston case challenging benefits for same-sex spouses of city employees.

Despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that made marriage equality the law of the land more than two years ago, Texas’ anti-LGBT crusaders continue to wage legal war against same-sex unions in state court and on Monday notched what they … Read More