Texas midterms: Republican judge releases juvenile defendants en masse after losing election to Democrat

Texas midterms: Republican judge releases juvenile defendants en masse after losing election to Democrat

Republican judge frees defendants after losing job to Democrat

Victories mark unprecedented level of success for black female judicial candidates in Harris county, which includes Houston

They campaigned together under the slogan Black Girl Magic with the support of the Harris county Democratic party, and united for a pre-election photograph inside a courtroom.

Read more Their victories marked an unprecedented level of success for black female judicial candidates in the county, which includes Houston. With a population of more than 4.5 million, Harris county is bigger than 24 US states. About 70% of the population is non-white.

According to figures from The Gavel Gap, an analysis by a progressive legal group, the American Constitution Society found white men make up 30% of the Texas population but 58% of state court judges.

Equal opportunity for justice regardless of who you are – I think that with having an African American judge, a female judge, a woman judge, those are the kinds of things that we bring to the bench. And we bring an understanding of a person who may come from that similar background, Latosha Lewis Payne, a judge-elect, told Fox 26 local news.

We want to definitely turn Harris county upside down in criminal justice reform, Erica Hughes, who was elected to a criminal court position, said in a Facebook post.

Democrats won all 59 judicial races in Harris county in Tuesdays midterm elections. In one of the most eye-catching and significant results, the long-time incumbent Republican county judge, Ed Emmett – in effect, the countys chief executive – lost to Lina Hidalgo, a 27-year-old first-time candidate who immigrated from Colombia as a teenager.

The morning after the election, Glenn Devlin, a juvenile court judge in Houston who is one of the defeated Republicans, reportedly released most of the defendants who appeared in front of him after asking them whether they planned to kill anyone.

Apparently he was was saying thats what the voters wanted, Steven Halpert, a public defender, told the Houston Chronicle.

A juvenile judge in Houston stunned everyone in his courtroom when he unceremoniously freed as many as a dozen young suspects who appeared before him the day after he lost reelection to a Democrat.

Judge Glenn Devlin, who is known for sending youths to detention in droves, simply asked whether or not they planned to kill anyone before turning them loose.

Public defenders said he complained thats what the voters want as he indiscriminately let defendants go, seemingly implying that the newly elected Democratic judges would be lenient towards criminals.

Judge Glenn Devlin lost his bench on Tuesday night to a Democrat, and on Wednesday freed all seven youths who came before his court, saying thats what the people want

The youths were facing various charges, ranging from misdemeanors to felonies stemming from violent crimes. At least four of them were facing counts of aggravated robbery.

All of the cases came before Devlins bench on Wednesday, the day after the midterm elections, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Democrats swept the benches of Republican justices in Houston on Tuesday night, seizing control of 59 posts, including Devlins.

Natalia Oakes, the Democrat who defeated Devlin in Tuesdays election, said she would not have expected this kind of conduct from a professional

After setting the juveniles free, Devlin rescheduled all of the cases for January 4, when his replacement will have taken the bench.

Public defender Steven Halpert quoted Devlin as telling his juvenile client accused of aggravated robbery, as well as others: “If I release you, are you going to go out and kill anybody?”

Halpert said he had previously requested Devlin to release his client from detention on three separate occassions, but without success.     

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg hit out at Devlin over the move, saying: We oppose the wholesale release of violent offenders at any age. This could endanger the public.  

Until Wednesday, Devlin had a reputation for readily sending children to detention, and together with another justice, he was responsible for one in five juvenile suspects sent to detention last year in the state.

Im not sure that I can wrap my arms around what hes actually doing, Alex Bunin, the chief public defender in Harris County, told the Houston Chronicle. Its a huge change, and the only thing that has happened is that he was not elected, so I dont know what to attribute it to other than that.

Halpert said it is not uncommon for Devlin to release a juvenile who has already been in detention upon review, but has never seen anything like what happened on Wednesday.

The voters of Harris County clearly wanted a change in the juvenile courts, and Judge Devlin today is showing us why the voters may have wanted change, said Jay Jenkins, a policy attorney with the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition. 

Devlin, who sits at Harris County Juvenile Court in Houston (pictured), is notorious for sending youths to detention, but decided to break with that habit after losing the election

The ACLU of Texas is calling on the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct to investigate Judge Devlin, accusing him of releasing the juveniles without any regard for their safety and without ensuring they are released to their parents. 

It is improper for a judge to make orders motivated by partisan interests or in spite as a result of his political loss, said Sharon Watkins Jones, director of political strategies for the ACLU of Texas.

Natalia Oakes, the Democrat who beat Devlin in the election, told KTRK she would not have expected this kind of conduct from a professional. . 

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