• Testimony begins in Rashad Owens trial

    Rashad Owens, a man accused of murdering four people and injuring 21 others at the South by Southwest Music Festival last year by drunkenly driving a car through crowds of people, stood for his first day of trial on Monday.

    Owens’ lawyers said he had never intended to kill anyone and only began driving off-route when he panicked while being pursued by police.

    Meredith Bradley, a witness to the incident, said Owens drove into crowds gathered on Red River Street at high speeds without regard for the people he was impacting.

    “He was just driving super, super fast and whipped into that turn without stopping,” Bradley said. “He just whipped into that crowd of people. You just saw those people being mowed down. The first victim got tossed around like a rag doll.”

    Owens is facing four counts of capital murder for intentionally killing the four victims and four counts of felony murder for killing them while evading the police. Owens pleaded not guilty to all charges in September. 

    Owens has remained in custody at Travis County Jail since the fatal crash on March 13, 2014. His bail is set at $5.5 million. 

    Police said Owens fled from a sobriety checkpoint, smashed through a police barricade and then crashed into nearly 30 people as he sped through downtown Austin.

    According to Owens’ defense attorney, Russell Hunt, Owens was visiting Austin that weekend to perform with a rap act. He had been driving a car he had borrowed to pick up a lost friend, and had his headlights off when the police tried to pull him over.

    “He didn’t intend to kill anybody,” Hunt said. “We are not asking for forgiveness. We are asking for you to be reasonable.”

    For student reactions to the SXSW crash, click here.

  • Flash flood warning issued for Travis County

    Update (5:30 p.m.): Capital Metro spokeswoman Melissa Ayala said a UT shuttle bus was impacted by partial flooding.

    “We evacuated all the passengers and the operator,” Ayala said. “There were no injuries.”

    Update (4:20 p.m.): The University is investigating flooding in east lower level of Welch Hall due to a malfunctioning drain line, according to UT spokeswoman Laurie Lentz.

    Lentz said Robert Lee Moore Hall also experienced water leakage on the 13th floor stemming from the 14th floor.

    Several inches of water have been contained in mechanical rooms in the Texas Swim Center.

    Fire alarms in Mezes and Andrew dormitories also went off Friday due to water infiltration.

    Update (12:48 p.m.): The National Weather Service issued a tornado watch for Travis County, Bastrop County and 18 other Texas counties until 7 p.m. Friday night.

    The NWS also issued severe thunderstorm, flash flood and tornado warnings for Travis County on Friday morning, according to the agency’s  website.

    The tornado and severe thunderstorm warnings expired at 9:45 a.m. and 10:15 a.m., respectively, while the flash flood warning will remain in effect until 1:15 p.m.

    The University urged students, faculty and staff to review shelter procedures if high winds or a tornado take place, according to an email sent by the University.

    “While the conditions here currently are wet and at times windy, there is no serious weather threat at this time,” the email read.

    UTPD spokeswoman Cindy Posery said classes have not been canceled.

    “Right now our biggest concern is flooding and obviously traveling on roads and sidewalks so we are asking people to not go into any standing or flowing water whether you’re walking or driving,” Posey said.

    The airfield at Austin-Bergstrom Airport was shut down because of the severe weather conditions, according to a tweet from the airport’s twitter account. The airport has received a total of 13.4 inches of rain since the storm began.

    Rain is expected to continue until Saturday morning, according to the NWS.  

  • University files respondent brief in Fisher case

    Abigail Fisher addresses the press outside the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on Nov. 13, 2013. Fisher v. University of Texas, filed in 2008, will be reheard by the Supreme Court in December.
    Abigail Fisher addresses the press outside the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on Nov. 13, 2013. Fisher v. University of Texas, filed in 2008, will be reheard by the Supreme Court in December.

    This story has been updated since its original publication. To see the updated story, click here.

    UT filed its brief Monday to the Supreme Court in response to the brief filed by Abigail Fisher on Sept. 3.

    The Fisher brief argues for the case to be heard again because UT has violated its standard of race in admissions. Fisher’s brief demands that the University “demonstrate with clarity that its purpose or interest is both constitutionally permissible and substantial, and that its use of the classification is necessary ... to the accomplishment of its purpose.” 

    In response to the Fisher brief, UT claims Fisher is “doubly wrong” about her claim that the university cannot rely on the “educational benefits of diversity” and that UT is trying to search for more diversity influential backgrounds.

    “Like [the] petitioner’s attack on UT’s interest, these arguments are ultimately aimed at dismantling, rather than applying the Court’s existing precedent, and replacing it with a regime in which race can essentially never be considered even in holistic review, no matter how individualized or modest,” the UT brief said.  

    In a campus-wide email, University president Gregory Fenves said the University argues in the brief that its admissions process is constitutional and has been upheld in the court of law. 

    “During the past six years, multiple courts have ruled in our favor and upheld the use of race and ethnicity as one factor in admissions,” Fenves said in an email. “In 2013, the Supreme Court remanded the case for further consideration. In 2014, the Fifth Circuit upheld the policy again. Now, the Supreme Court has agreed to review the case for a second time.”

    In 2008, Abigail Fisher — a white applicant — was denied admission into UT. After the Supreme Court heard the case in 2012, a 7-1 vote sent the case back to the 5th Circuit Courts of Appeals, but the court ruled in favor of UT. On June 29, 2015, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case a second time, announcing in early October that the hearing would take place on Dec. 9.

  • Austinites should expect sunny weather following rainy weekend, according to UT meteorologist

    Austin residents should expect sunshine Monday morning and through the rest of the work week after a weekend of persistent rain, according to UT’s incident meteorologist Troy Kimmel. The rain will most likely return by next weekend, Kimmel said.

    Rainfall in the Central Texas region broke the Oct. 24 calendar day record for inches of rainfall in the Austin Bergstrom International Airport area and the Austin City and Camp Mabry area, according to the University’s inclement weather report. 4.79 inches of rain fell in the Austin City and Camp Mabry areas, and 5.16 inches of rain fell in the airport area. The previous records were set Oct. 24, 1949, when 1.94 inches of rain fell in the Austin City and Camp Mabry areas and 1.62 inches of rain fell in the airport area.

    As the area begins to settle into a rainy El Niño pattern this fall, Austin residents should continue using caution when leaving their homes when flash flood warnings are issued, Kimmel said. El Niño is a weather
    phenomenon characterized by unusually warm temperatures in the Pacific Ocean that lead to harsher weather conditions.

    Kimmel said on the inclement weather report that only about .10 inches of the rain over the weekend could be attributed to moisture coming into the area from Hurricane Patricia, which made landfall in Mexico on Friday. The rest of the moisture came in from a separate storm system from the Gulf of Mexico.

    “Between us and [Mexico] are two huge mountain chains … so yeah, the remnants come overhead, but there is little Pacific contribution to the region,” Kimmel said. “It hasn’t been the media portraying this, it’s been other folks mostly, but we need to think about this if we want to be a scientifically literate country.”

  • University to file brief regarding Fisher v. UT case

    UT will file a brief to the Supreme Court regarding the Abigail Fisher v. University of Texas case on Monday, according to University spokesperson Gary Susswein.

    The brief will respond to a brief filed by plaintiff Abigail Fisher in September. Susswein said Fisher’s party will also have a chance to respond to UT’s brief.

    The case challenges the constitutionality of UT’s affirmative action policies. UT denied admission to Fisher — who is white — in 2008, who then sued the University on charges of racial and ethnic discrimination. The Supreme Court heard the case in 2013 and sent it back to the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals for further review. The 5th Circuit ruled that UT did not discriminate against Fisher based on race. On June 29, 2015, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case for a second time. Oral argument is scheduled for Dec. 9, 2015.

    President Gregory Fenves said he believes the University’s admission policies are constitutional, according to an official statement.

    “Under the Supreme Court’s existing precedent, the University’s commitment to using race as one factor in an individualized, holistic admissions policy allows us to assemble a student body that brings with it the educational benefits of diversity for all students,” the statement read. “Our admissions policy is narrowly-tailored, constitutional and has been upheld by the courts multiple times.”

    In a statement to The New York Times, Fisher said she hopes the judges will rule in favor of admissions not based on race or ethnicity. 

    “I hope the justices will rule that UT is not allowed to treat undergraduate applicants differently because of their race or ethnicity,” Fisher said.