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].

By Michael Barajas:

dallas shooting
Criminal Justice

Botham Jean’s Death Could Lead to an Overhaul of Police Oversight in Dallas

The outrageous shooting of a man in his own apartment has triggered calls to reform Dallas’ toothless, decades-old system of police oversight.

In the 1970s, the Dallas Police Department was pressured to diversify after a white cop killed a 12-year-old Mexican-American boy in a game of Russian Roulette. A string of police killings in the 1980s, including that of an 81-year-old crime … Read More

Criminal Justice

When Prison Reform Goes Bad

What happened to the Legislature's two-decade-old attempt to break the cycle of incarceration for low-level felons?

In the early 1990s, the Texas Legislature tried to build something surprisingly progressive amid the state’s tough-on-crime prison boom: an alternative to prison for low-level felons. Lawmakers reclassified a host of third-degree felony charges, mostly for drug and property crimes, … Read More

Criminal Justice

State-Sanctioned Secrecy Shields Texas’ Death Penalty Machine from Scrutiny

New revelations about the source of Texas’ execution drugs underscore the risks of capital punishment shrouded in secrecy.

Shortly before he died by lethal injection earlier this year, Anthony Shore, Houston’s infamous “tourniquet killer,” exclaimed that he felt a burning sensation. Later that month, condemned killer William Rayford reportedly grimaced and writhed on the gurney during his final … Read More

Ken Paxton

With Texas Court Ruling, Ken Paxton’s Felony Case May Fizzle

In a Thanksgiving-eve ruling, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals defanged Paxton’s prosecutors, putting his felony prosecution in jeopardy.

In a Thanksgiving-eve ruling, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals defanged Paxton’s prosecutors, putting his felony prosecution in jeopardy. Read More

Criminal Justice

New Contract Could Give Austin One of the Most Transparent Police Departments in the Country

Activists are claiming victory after a drawn-out fight over police accountability, and encouraging other cities to follow suit.

After 18 months of tense negotiations over a police union contract, the Austin City Council and the city’s police union have agreed to reforms that anti-police brutality activists say could turn the Austin Police Department into one of the most … Read More

Criminal Justice

Ken Paxton’s Strange Quest to Execute an Intellectually Disabled Man

Prosecutors have agreed to spare Bobby Moore’s life due to his intellectual disability. Texas’ highest criminal court and top legal official want to kill him anyway.

As a teenager, Bobby Moore couldn’t tell time. Before dropping out of school in the ninth grade, he was so far behind his peers that teachers told him to draw pictures rather than try to keep up with reading and … Read More

ice, houston, immigration
Criminal Justice

The Midterms Trigger a Seismic Shift in Harris County’s Courts

Among the Democrats who won all 59 judicial seats at play in the midterms: a socialist and 19 black women running on criminal justice reform.

The Democratic sweep in Harris County Tuesday night could remake one of the largest criminal justice systems in the country. When the blue wave crashed into Houston, it not only unseated a widely popular Republican county executive and a much-maligned … Read More

prairie view, voter suppression, midterms

On Election Day, Students Rally for Voting Rights at Texas’ Oldest HBCU

Prairie View A&M students, galvanized by yet another fight for equal voting rights, march to the polls.

When Jessmine Cornelius encourages other students to vote, she takes a moment to remind them about the history of discrimination against students at Texas’ oldest historically black college — and how they have always fought back. This year, Prairie View … Read More

Prairie View A&M students wait to vote

In the Midterms, Texans Face a ‘Panoply of Voter Suppression’

Civil rights groups accuse Texas of implementing a layer-cake of voter suppression techniques.

Restricted voting hours for college students, translators barred from polling places in immigrant-heavy communities, an aging fleet of voting machines prone to botching ballots — those are just some of the problems Texans experienced so far during early voting. Civil … Read More