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Newsmonger: Congress' newest science-denying Science Committee chair, Incarceration nation, Teacher suspended over supposed murder memoir

Photo: Michael Barajas, License: N/A

Michael Barajas

Triathlete Monica Caban, 39, was biking with a friend in October when a driver crashed into her from behind, paralyzing her from the waist down. At least 11 cyclists have died from collisions with drivers in and around the San Antonio area since 2009. Six of those deaths have been in the past year, including a North Side accident last week. Fellow triathlete Mack Williams started an online petition last week calling for cyclist safety on the roadways and for the City of San Antonio to better enforce its safe-passing ordinance.


Speaking last week at the statewide Reentry Council Coalition's San Antonio gathering, Yáñez-Correa and Adkisson proposed lawmakers approve a so-called pre-trial "victim-offender mediation program" that gives victims of non-violent crimes — like burglary, theft, and shoplifting — a voice at the table in how a suspect is prosecuted. The victim and suspect could come to an agreement, stamped by a judge, to be fulfilled out of court in lieu of jail time, Yáñez-Correa says, cutting down on corrections costs. "Sometimes the victims don't just want to throw away the life of that offender," she said. "They want to be able to tell that young man or young woman, 'This is the impact the crime had on me emotionally, financially' … This is also so offenders can understand the real consequences of their actions."

Among other measures Bexar County and the TCJC want lawmakers to consider is expanding the list of non-violent crimes for which offenders can be cited, issued a court summons, and released, instead of being jailed. TCJC also want the Lege to address what Yáñez-Correa calls "criminal inflation," by adjusting dollar values outlined in the Texas Penal Code for various offenses like theft or criminal mischief. Without adjusting the dollar-values tied to certain crimes, inflation has arbitrarily made those offenses more severe. "Say you steal the same TV set you stole years ago. Today that penalty is now more severe," said Allen Castro, a Bexar County grants manager and part of the county's re-entry roundtable. "Over the years we've adjusted everything else for inflation, why not criminal offense guidelines?"

Teacher suspended over supposed murder memoir

With a criminal investigation closed, a John Jay High School teacher and soccer coach could soon return to school following his suspension last week when a memoir surfaced in which he claimed to have drowned his gravely-ill son.

Northside ISD officials placed Daniel Chapa, a 36-year-old social studies teacher and head boy's soccer coach at John Jay, on paid administrative leave last week after a KSAT reporter obtained and then shared a 53-page document with the district in which Chapa confessed to drowning his son in 2003. Neither Chapa nor his lawyer could be reached for comment.

Chapa's son Anthony, born in 2000, suffered from Sandhoff disease, a rare and fatal genetic disorder. He died at home in 2003 from complications; officials ruled the death of natural causes and didn't order an autopsy.

First Assistant District Attorney Cliff Herberg said Chapa's memoir first surfaced after Chapa emailed a copy to his ex-wife last summer, who then contacted the medical examiner's officer. Officials exhumed the boy's body and re-investigated the case, Herberg said. While a Bexar County Medical Examiner updated the death to homicide by drowning due to the written confession, "There was no other evidence by the Medical Examiner to show there was a drowning," Herberg said.

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