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:

Criminal Justice

Meet Nueces County’s New DA, a Self-Professed ‘Mexican Biker Lawyer Covered in Tattoos’

Mark Gonzalez is listed as a gang member in police databases, has "not guilty" tattooed on his chest and is hoping to bring reform to Corpus Christi.

Early this year, border agents ran a name-check and wound up briefly detaining Mark Gonzalez as he traveled home to Corpus Christi after a vacation in Mexico. That’s why Gonzalez says he gave the Texas cop that stopped him a … Read More

Criminal Justice

Texas Cities Embrace a Softer Approach to Pot Possession as State Reforms Stall

“How harshly you’re treated for possessing cannabis in Texas now varies city by city, county by county.”

Remember David Simpson? He was a peculiar kind of conservative lawmaker, about as fundamentalist Christian as they come, while also passionately articulating the Christian case for legal weed at the Texas Legislature. “The Bible warns about excessive drinking, eating and … Read More

2017 in Review

Excited. Delirious. Dead.

Is excited delirium syndrome a medical phenomenon, or a convenient cover for deaths in police custody?

Is excited delirium syndrome a medical phenomenon, or a convenient cover for deaths in police custody? Read More

Criminal Justice

It’s Time to End Austin’s Failed Experiment in Police Oversight, Activists Say

APD’s refusal to act on recommendations given by a citizen review panel suggests that the city's 16-year experiment in police oversight has failed.

Richard Munroe just wanted to talk to someone when he called 911 at 3:48 a.m. on July 5, 2015. Sobbing and drunk, the 25-year-old Austin man unloaded on the dispatcher. He hadn’t talked to his mother in months, he’d recently … Read More

Criminal Justice

The Case to End Assembly Line Justice for Poor People in Harris County

A case heard by the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals this week could change the landscape of American bail practices.

On October 1, 2016, police arrested Andrew Goodson for carrying a knife just short of 6 inches long, a Class A misdemeanor in Texas. The next day, guards brought him and dozens of other inmates into a large room at … Read More

Criminal Justice

Body Cam Policies in Texas Exacerbate a System Designed to Protect Police, Critics Say

Civil rights advocates worry interpretation of a 2015 body camera law could help cops avoid prosecution as much as it ensures police accountability.

The senator who drafted the sweeping-but-little-noticed body camera law that the Texas Legislature passed in 2015 called his bill a blueprint for other states wanting to establish baseline standards and help fund police departments that hadn’t yet adopted the technology. … Read More