Know Your Landlord Well Before Renting an Apartment

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How to Prepare Yourself Before Renting an Apartment?

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Dallas prosecutors still heavily rely on eyewitness testimony despite questions about it reliability

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This story was originally published in October 2008 as part of a series about how through exonerations, we know that witness identifications of suspects can be questionable. We are republishing it because exonerations continue to be a topic of interest in Dallas County.

LAST OF THREE PARTS

The fallibility of eyewitness testimony revealed by DNA exonerations in Dallas County and nationwide is not a relic of the past. Police and prosecutors still depend on the same discredited identification procedures to ensure convictions today.

Police use these techniques in a variety of crimes from murders to robberies. The difference between today’s cases and the 19 exonerations involving sexual assaults is that often there is no DNA to ensure guilt or innocence.

"We’ve shown how unreliable eyewitness testimony is in sexual assault cases," said Rob Warden, executive director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University law school.

"But now the system itself is pretending that all of these armed robbery cases are just hunky dory when we know, if anything, it’s no doubt less reliable in an armed robbery case than in a sexual assault case."

It’s impossible to estimate how many wrongful convictions might be occurring in cases without genetic evidence, experts say.

"There is no question that there are many more mistakes that we will never know about because there is no DNA in those cases," said Edwin Colfax, an Austin researcher with the nonprofit reform group The Justice Project.

To examine whether the flawed practices highlighted by the DNA exoneration cases were still in use, The Dallas Morning News examined robbery trials in Dallas County from 2006 and 2007 – the last year of former District Attorney Bill Hill’s tenure and the first year Craig Watkins was in office. Eyewitness testimony is the most crucial element in robbery cases.

The News found that law enforcement still relies heavily on eyewitness testimony, even if corroborating evidence is weak and despite decades of research showing its shortcomings.

Eyewitness testimony can be unreliable for a variety of reasons. Victims often get only a brief look at their attackers, especially in robberies, and they tend to focus on the gun rather than the face, research shows. Accurately identifying strangers, especially of a different race, is difficult, and the stress of being a crime victim can distort memories.

Nonetheless, police and prosecutors say eyewitnesses are second only to genetic evidence in convincing jurors of a defendant’s guilt.

"Nothing beats a victim or a witness standing there when the crime was committed," Dallas homicide Sgt. Larry Lewis said. "The only thing that would beat that is DNA."

Troubles persist

The News reviewed 31 robbery trials over two years in which defendants were found guilty and appealed their sentences. Only cases on appeal have trial transcripts, which allow for an examination of what happened at trial and, in part, during the investigation.

The cases reviewed represented about two-thirds of all appealed robberies. However, more than 1,700 defendants during the same two years pleaded guilty and were given prison time, probation or deferred adjudication probation. As seen in some of the 19 exoneration cases, defendants sometimes accept a plea bargain to ensure a shorter sentence.

The newspaper did not reinvestigate the cases to determine whether an innocent defendant had been found guilty of the crime. But it found several of the same practices discredited in the DNA exonerations, including cases in which:

*Witnesses often selected people from photo lineups when they could not provide detailed descriptions of the robbers’ faces. In a 2007 Dallas robbery case, a pizza deliveryman did not provide details of the robbers’ faces or mention noticing a permanent grill on the defendant’s teeth, but he identified a suspect with a grill during a photo lineup.

*Photo lineups were not always conducted according to best practices. In two Dallas cases, officers asked two witnesses to identify a suspect at the same time. Best practice dictates that witnesses view suspects separately.

*Victims sometimes picked suspects from lineups by eliminating other photos and then selecting the remaining one who most resembled their attacker. In a 2007 Coppell robbery case, the victim told jurors that she selected the defendant because he had the darkest complexion and the largest forehead of anyone in the photo lineup.

*Police focused on suspects in spite of conflicting evidence. A man was convicted in 2006 after a police dog tracked a scent from a store several doors down from a Duncanville crime scene. The dog led officers to an apartment complex where a man known to police lived. Investigators found a gun in the man’s bedroom that didn’t match the robbery weapon. But he was arrested after the victim identified him in a photo lineup.

*Although defense attorneys questioned the reliability of eyewitness identification, they did not call experts to testify about studies proving that point.

*Victims in six cases could not identify their attackers, sometimes because the robbers wore masks. In those cases, DNA or robbers using victims’ credit cards led to arrests.

*DNA was found in only three cases: One involved a sexual assault; in the other two, defendants left behind gloves with DNA.

*The identification practice commonly known as "showups" occurred in about 20 percent of the robbery cases examined. That tracks with the percentage of showups involved in DNA exonerations nationwide.

Showups allow police to show witnesses a suspect one-on-one, either in person or by photo. The U.S. Supreme Court has discouraged but not banned the practice.

In one 2006 trial involving a showup, a woman was robbed at gunpoint while parking cars at the State Fair of Texas. She said the man who robbed her was wearing a white tank top and jeans and took from her $15 or $16 in cash, a cellphone and some wadded-up toilet paper she had in her pocket.

Police put the woman in a squad car and drove her around the area until police spotted a man on the street wearing the same kind of clothes as the robber. After she identified him, police found $51 in his pockets but no gun or the woman’s cellphone. He did have some crumpled toilet paper in his back pocket and was arrested. The man, who had a prior record, was later convicted and sentenced to 70 years in prison. No one tracks how often police conduct showups, but officers believe strongly in their value. One officer in a Dallas County robbery case tried last year testified that he preferred using showups to photo lineups.

Addressing problems

Watkins has made righting wrongful convictions a hallmark of his nearly two-year administration. Presented with The News’ findings, he acknowledged that his office needs to do much more to improve how it handles eyewitness testimony.

"This is just another indication of how far we need to go," Watkins said in an interview. "I was thinking, ‘Yeah we’ll get there,’ but we have a long way to go."

However, he said, he cannot stop trying cases even if they are based on little else but eyewitness testimony.

"You can’t just throw the whole process out of the window," he said. "The thing is to try to improve the process."

Watkins and his top assistant, Terri Moore, said they want to better train prosecutors to ask questions of witnesses and police officers about how identifications were obtained.

"Teaching them how to rethink some things, challenging ourselves," said Moore, a former federal prosecutor.

"I don’t think you are going to stop wrongful convictions today because of a DNA test," Moore said, referring to how few cases have genetic evidence that can be used to verify the verdict. "I think it goes well beyond that."

Watkins said he would not support a law requiring all police departments to follow a specific policy on the use of eyewitness testimony. But he said he would lobby the Legislature to mandate that all police departments adopt standards for how they handle witness identifications. Only five Dallas County police departments could provide The News written policies on how to conduct witness identifications.

The Dallas Police Department in recent years began requiring witnesses to sign a form, acknowledging that the officer conducting the lineup warned them that the photo spread may not include the actual suspect. The department also has written guidelines for how to conduct photo lineups, but police officials say there is little oversight.

Watkins said he also would not support a special jury instruction warning that eyewitness identification can be unreliable. That point, he said, is more appropriately handled by presenting expert witnesses on the subject.

Texas law allows for convictions based on the testimony of a single eyewitness. Potential jurors who cannot convict based on the testimony of that lone witness – if they believe the testimony beyond a reasonable doubt – cannot legally serve on a jury panel.

Longtime Dallas defense attorney John Read said that since Watkins took office, county prosecutors have been more likely to question eyewitnesses’ reliability.

But police departments in Dallas County and prosecutors in other counties still base many of their cases on an eyewitness picking out a suspect, he said.

Read said he also believes that police, intentionally or otherwise, are still suggesting in lineups which suspect the victim should identify.

"I believe they do what they do – whatever it is they do with their suggestions – because they think they’ve got the right person," Read said. "They believe he’s guilty."

‘The revelation’

Earlier this year, Richardson police changed how they handled photo lineups after wrongly charging a man in a 1985 burglary and rape. The man, Thomas McGowan, was cleared in April through DNA testing after serving 22 years in prison.

Richardson police Chief Larry Zacharias called the city’s only DNA exoneration "the revelation."

The photo lineup that led to McGowan’s arrest and conviction included color photos, black-and-white photos and photocopies of photos – a violation of the best practice that mandates all photos should be similar in composition. McGowan was pictured in a color photo, wearing a placard that read Richardson police.

Now, instead of the case investigator showing six photos at one time to a witness, a detective not involved in the case shows witnesses one photo at a time. The practice is known as a sequential blind lineup.

Investigators also video record all witness identifications conducted at the station, which previously had not been done. Field identifications are at least audio recorded.

Those seeking eyewitness identification reforms say videotaping reduces the likelihood of suggestion by the detective and allows prosecutors to show juries that the photo lineup was conducted properly.

Recording of some kind, Chief Zacharias said, is an "absolute" in identifications.

By contrast, Dallas police, who had 13 of the 19 exonerations, have been considering for nearly two years whether to participate in a limited study using sequential blind identification procedures. The study – which would focus primarily on robbery cases – could begin as early as November, departmental officials said.

When the new procedures begin, Dallas police Assistant Chief Ron Waldrop said, officers will probably make an audio recording of the identifications in photo lineups. Unlike Richardson, however, there are no plans for Dallas police to videotape its lineups.

"It’s not going to eliminate mistakes," Chief Waldrop said of the proposed changes. "We just want to make sure the practices we put in place don’t aid the mistakes."

For nearly a century, police and prosecutors have been on notice that relying on eyewitness testimony is risky. But that hasn’t stopped them from using it to prosecute cases – sometimes sending the innocent to prison. The Dallas Morning News spent eight months investigating Dallas County’s 19 DNA exonerations as of 2008, as well as current felony cases, to understand why there have been so many wrongful convictions.

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JMJ Development to Create Luxurious Multi-Family Apartments in Forney, Texas – Dallas Business Journal

DALLAS, May 22, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — JMJ Development, LLC, one of the largest builders of luxury real-estate properties in the United States and internationally, announces its most recent project, the Parc at Windmill Farms Apartments in Forney Texas, a luxurious 17- building, two-story project containing 272 units.

Located at on the NWC of Hwy 80 and Windmill Farms Blvd, and abutting the development called Windmill Farms, this upscale multi-family development of 18.45 acres offers 17 residential buildings consisting of garden style walk-up buildings, with 116 one-bedroom, 120 two-bedrooms, and 36 three-bedroom units.

Timothy Barton, chief executive of JMJ Development, said, "JMJ is excited to be working in the city of Forney. The city is having amazing growth and JMJ is proud to be part of the vision of Forney. JMJ has been expanding aggressively in the multi-family space and is looking for more sites."

Construction on the Parc at Windmill Farms recently broke ground. The complex will feature an attractive exterior design with modern amenities as well as high-quality interior finishes. Other features include a resort-style pool; modern clubhouse with leasing office; business center; an internet cafe; state-of-the-art fitness center; and gathering room with kitchen.

About JMJ Development

JMJ Development is a privately held real estate firm devoted to creating premium branded luxury residences and commercial developments in the U.S. and internationally. The company’s broad-ranging roles include managing the disposition of upscale assets to master-planning communities. The company’s core structure consists of strategic oversight as well as legal, conceptual and marketing expertise. The common thread among all JMJ’s projects is a commitment to world-class excellence. Key properties include Frisco Bridges which has the world Stonebriar Mall located in the development, in Frisco, Texas; West World Development in Palm Springs, California; Rosewood Mayakoba in Riviera Maya, Rosewood Las Ventanas in Cabo Mexico; and Rosewood Dubai in the U.A.E. The company was founded by Tim Barton in 1990 and is based in Dallas, TX. For more information visit www.JMJDevelopment.net.

View original content:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/jmj–development-to-create-luxurious-multi-family-apartments-in-forney-texas-300653071.html

SOURCE JMJ Development

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Kidney Transplants Save Spouses In Dallas, Houston

OVILLA, TX — When Ashley and Sammy Turner married 12 years ago, she had no idea she was his perfect match in more ways than one.

The couple experienced a real taste of "in sickness and in health" in July 2017 when Sammy awoke Ashley during night to tell her that he couldn’t breathe, WFAA reported.

The couple rushed to a nearby hospital and learned Sammy was suffering from kidney failure.

Doctors told him he needed an organ transplant to survive.

Left with few options and even less time, Ashley decided to have her blood tested for compatibility. Despite 1-in-100,000 odds, doctors determined the couple was a perfect husband-and-wife kidney pairing.

The odds of finding a match are so slim that most people living with kidney disease must wait 3 to 5 years for an available donor, according to Kidney.org.

Even when an organ is available nearby, doctors must consider a patient’s length of sickness, medical urgency, geographical location, weight, size and blood type, among other factors before a transplant is performed.

According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, 114,902 people are currently waiting for an organ transplant.

Until recently, a Houston woman with severe kidney disease was among them.

Shanajha Hill, much like Ashley Turner, was diagnosed in July 2017. With her kidneys functioning at a mere 14 percent, she was given a dire prognosis.

"The doctor told me you’re going to start dialysis very soon and you will need a transplant," Shanajha told KHOU.

Doctors told Shanajha it would take her five to seven years to receive a new kidney, but her husband, Gabriel, had no interest in waiting.

The couple underwent a year of testing before they learned Gabriel was his wife’s perfect match.

After surgery, Shanajha posted on Facebook in April that she and Gabriel were "We’re doing well and healing well!!"

Miles away but connected by a similar fight for life, Sammy and Ashley in Ovilla are also healing well.

"I’m going to get her whatever she wants, so that’s already a given, I’m putting it out there," Sammy told WFAA. "I could never repay her, but I will for the rest of my life try to do that."

Image via Shutterstock

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The Dallas Cowboys select Connor Williams 50th overall in the 2018 NFL Draft

Apr 26, 2018; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas tackle Connor Williams arrives on the red carpet before the 2018 NFL Draft at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

With the 50th selection of the 2018 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys have selected Connor Williams. The former Texas tackle was selected 50th overall after finishing the 2017 season with an 85.7 overall grade.

Williams ranked 38th in pass-blocking efficiency among draft-eligible tackles in 2017 (97.1). Williams ranked 10th among draft-eligible tackles in run-blocking success percentage in 2017 (94.0).

2018 NFL Draft – Round 1: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | 31 | 32

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Neil Shekhter – Los Angeles Ranks as Most Attractive Commercial Real Estate Market

LOS ANGELES, CA / ACCESSWIRE / April 15, 2018 / The commercial real estate investment company, CBRE, has announced that for the third year in a row the city of Los Angeles, CA, has ranked as the most commercial real estate market for the entire Western Hemisphere.

Image: https://www.accesswire.com/uploads/LOS%20ANGELES.jpg

CBRE surveyed more than 300 real estate investors and gathered their feelings about the market across North America and, in particular, Los Angeles. The real estate investment firm asked them to rank the cities in the U.S. in terms of desirability for commercial purposes.

According to the head of CBRE’s research department, Spencer Levy, the biggest cities like Los Angeles and New York still ranked the highest on the scale of desirability according to survey takers. Despite this, some smaller markets showed signs of improvement.

Per Neil Shekhter, Dallas, Texas, for example, came in second, even ahead of New York. Seattle showed up in a tie with New York and San Francisco and Houston also tied for fifth place in the survey. These two cities were followed by Atlanta and Washington, with Denver coming in eighth. Miami showed up ninth and then there was another tie for tenth place with Portland, Nashville, and Boston.

As for the reasons why these cities were ranked and why Los Angeles came in at the top, it comes down to economic growth and tax cuts. There were other factors, such as regulatory changes that created a more favorable commercial real estate market overall.

Interestingly, interest rates might be higher in these cities, such as Los Angeles, 96 percent of the investors polled indicated they were still ready to invest in real estate in the coming year, 2018. In fact, the study showed that 45 percent of those called wanted to increase the real estate acquired in 2018, compared to their investment level in 2017, Neil Shekhter notes.

Americans surveyed also indicated they were expecting strong returns on their investments in areas like Los Angeles and New York. Real estate investors said they were expecting unlevered returns will range from 6 to 9 percent. A significant percentage are anticipating returns even higher than that in 2018, according to Neil Shekhter, founder, and CEO of Santa Monica-based NMS Properties.

Despite this positive feeling, Levy has a cautious word for investors. In fact, he recommends they remain agile in their investment portfolio. In fact, Levy stated, "capital structure needs to be agile in debt by considering longer-term paper, which is what our Debt & Structured Finance professionals are advising today. For equity capital structure, investors need to consider lowering their cost of capital if they are going to stay in the same markets/asset classes."

Launching NMS Properties in 1988, Neil Shekhter assumed the role of CEO in January 1995. The real estate management company focuses on multi-family and mixed-use properties in the Greater Los Angeles area and in Santa Monica.

Contact Information

SOURCE: NMS Properties, Inc.

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Apartment List study shows Dallas’ rental market has balanced supply, demand – Dallas Business Journal

Rent growth over the past year show supply and demand are relatively aligned in Dallas’ rental market.

That’s according to a report by Apartment List, which showed year-over-year rent growth in the city was 1.8 percent. Some increase in rental prices is healthy and a matter of inflation, according to Chris Salviati, a housing economist with Apartment List.

Dallas’ rent growth over the past 12 months and flat growth in the past month show builders are keeping up with more demand for rental units in the city, maintaining a healthy and vibrant rental market.

“Dallas has a strong economy with solid job growth driving demand, but the area has also been building a good amount of new housing to keep up with that demand,” Salviati added. “For those reasons, I expect that rents in Dallas will continue to increase, but a relatively modest pace.”

Despite any anticipated increases, the average rent in Dallas for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,100, below the national average of $1,170. And rents are growing at a slower rate than the country’s average of 2 percent and Texas’ average of 2.1 percent year over year.

“Dallas has been and continues to be relatively affordable compared to most other major cities in the country,” Salviati said. “Despite experiencing increasing rents, growth over the past year has actually been slower than the national average.”

One factor that could change Dallas’ supply-and-demand ratio is an influx of new residents from a major corporate relocation, like Amazon’s HQ2. Landing the campus would bring roughly 50,000 jobs to the region.

But even that would raise rents only slightly, between 0.2 percent and 0.4 percent annually, Apartment List estimates.

But there’s no doubt demand for apartments in Dallas, specifically in the city’s core, is on the rise. Companies like Toyota and Liberty Mutual are bringing in millennial workforces looking to live, work and play in the same area. While downtown and Uptown Dallas remain hot spots, the Deep Ellum/Farmers Market and Knox Henderson neighborhoods are also seeing an uptick in interest.

“Dallas is top 3 for job growth in the entire country so that’s bringing tons of young professionals here,” said Drew Mancuso, co-owner of Dallas Apartment Locators. “You’ve got huge companies like Liberty Mutual, State Farm and Toyota that have moved their headquarters to North Texas. The demand is definitely there, which is obvious when you see most apartment buildings are occupied around 92 percent to 97 percent.”

See some of the area’s hottest apartments in those neighborhoods, click through the attached slideshow.

Largest North Texas Residential Real Estate Brokerages

Ranked by Transactions Closed in 2016

Rank Business Transactions Closed in 2016 1 Keller Williams Realty 25,301 2 Ebby Halliday Real Estate Inc. 19,719 3 Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, Dallas/Fort Worth 7,652 View This List

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US Housing Real Estate Market and Banking Pressures Are Building

Housing-Market / US Housing

Early signs that the US Fed may be pushing the envelope of rising rates and creating pressure on banks and borrowers are starting to show up more prominently now. One component of our research at Technical Traders Ltd. is to find data that may be overlooked or ignored by some other researchers. We believe that any pressures or hardships related to general consumers will be seen first in discretionary debt (credit cards, autos, and entertainment/activities). When consumers feel the debt pressure starting to build, they react by cutting back on certain discretionary spending – focusing their purchasing/paying abilities on essential items like food, human necessities (toiletries and other essentials) and maintaining essential components of their lives. Continue reading “US Housing Real Estate Market and Banking Pressures Are Building”

Embrace The Charm Of This Dallas Tudor

DALLAS, TX — You’re sure to love this charming Tudor located in the heart of Kessler Park. The fully updated exterior and interior provide the best light and overall living experience. Offerings include an updated kitchen with stainless appliances, updated bathrooms, oversized master bedroom a refinished hardwoods throughout. Make the most of the oversized laundry room and back yard leisure space. To tour this house, call your realtor and tell her you saw it on Realtor.com.

This listing originally appeared on realtor.com. For more information and photos, click here.

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Man Wanted For Sexually Assaulting Woman In South Dallas Park

DALLAS, TX — One man is at large after he took a woman walking near the Morrell DART station to a nearby playground and sexually assaulted her, police say. The assault happened between 4:30 and 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 3 in East Oak Cliff.

Her attacker is described as a black male between 37 and 43-years-old. He has a stocky build, weighs around 220 pounds and is 6-foot tall. Police say he has short, black hair and a dark complexion. He was wearing a black button-up shirt and black pants.

Police said the man was driving a newer four-door silver Dodge Charger with black racing stripes. Continue reading “Man Wanted For Sexually Assaulting Woman In South Dallas Park”