Judge Loses Election, Lets Defendants Go If They Promise They Won't Kill Anyone
Houston, TX – A Republican Texas judge who had a reputation for tough sentencing lost his bid for re-election and then released nearly all of the young defendants in front of him that day and just asked them if they planned to kill anyone before being released.
Harris County Juvenile Court Judge Glenn Devlin released seven youths, including four that were facing aggravated robbery charges, according to the Houston Chronicle.
"He was releasing everybody," said public defender Steven Halpert, who was in court while the judge released the youth. "Apparently he was saying that's what the voters wanted."
Prosecutors said they were worried about the indiscriminate release of those accused of their crimes.
"We oppose the wholesale release of violent offenders at any age," said Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, according to the Houston Chronicle. "This could endanger the public."
Devlin declined to comment to the Houston Chronicle.
Judge Devlin was one of two judges that the Houston Chronicle claimed were responsible for sending a high percentage of children to state juvenile prisons.
Devlin lost his re-election bid on Tuesday.
He showed up on Wednesday and witnesses claimed his release of juveniles facing serious charges wasn’t unusual as long as they behaved while jailed and had adequate supervision once they were outside.
"He's not one of those that never releases a kid charged with an aggravated robbery," Halpert said, according to the Houston Chronicle. "But nobody has seen this before."
The Houston Chronicle reported that some of the children didn't have parents with them for their court appearance Wednesday. Halpert said he only saw one juvenile detained.
Some were critical of the judge’s actions.
"Judge Devlin appears to be abdicating the basic responsibility of any sitting juvenile judge," said Elizabeth Henneke of the Lone Star Justice Alliance, according to the Houston Chronicle.
The Lone Star Justice Alliance is a group that works to get juveniles out of jail and into treatment programs.
Henneke said Devlin's post-election actions were "disappointing and shocking" and something she'd never saw before in juvenile court.
Alex Bunin, the county's chief public defender, told the Houston Chronicle he found the judge’s actions baffling.
"I'm not sure that I can wrap my arms around what he's actually doing," Bunin said, according to the Houston Chronicle. "It's a huge change and the only thing that has happened is that he was not elected so I don't know what to attribute it to other than that."