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Posted November 8, 2018, 12:57 pm CST
A judge in Harris County, Texas, released nearly all the juvenile defendants who appeared before him Wednesday morning after asking whether they planned to kill anyone.
Judge Glenn Devlin did this after he remarked that he was acting according to voters’ obvious wishes, public defender Steven Halpert told the Houston Chronicle and KTRK. Devlin was one of three Republican juvenile court judges ousted by county voters.
The stories differ on the number of juveniles released. Prosecutors told the Chronicle that at least seven youths were released, including four accused of aggravated robbery. Halpert told KTRK that 10 to 12 juveniles were released. Halpert is chief of the juvenile division of the Harris County Public Defender’s Office.
Youths held in lockups while awaiting resolution of their cases are entitled to hearings every 10 days to determine whether they should remain in detention, the Houston Chronicle explains. Halpert told the Chronicle it’s not abnormal for Devlin to release juveniles facing serious charges if they are behaving in detention and have adequate supervision at home. “But nobody has seen this before,” Halpert said.
Devlin and another judge were the subjects of a Houston Chronicle investigation last month. The newspaper found that the two judges accounted for more than a fifth of youths sent to juvenile prisons in Texas last year. The two judges sent more teens to juvenile prison than the county’s third juvenile court judge, and the youths were imprisoned at younger ages and for less serious offenses.
Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg released a statement expressing concern. “We oppose the wholesale release of violent offenders at any age; this could endanger the public,” Ogg said.
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