Houston-area juvenile judge loses election, then ‘wholesale releases’ defendants the next day

Houston-area juvenile judge loses election, then ‘wholesale releases’ defendants the next day
Juvenile court Judge Glenn Devlin of Harris County, Texas. (Image source: KTRK video screenshot)

A juvenile court judge in Harris County, Texas, responded to getting voted out of office by releasing every defendant who appeared before him Wednesday, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Judge Glenn Devlin, apparently making a point about the Democratic judges who were elected Tuesday being soft on crime, released every juvenile who simply said they wouldn’t murder someone upon their release.

“I think this was a post-election weird blip,” said public defender Steve Halpert, according to KTRK-TV. “He made a comment, ‘This is obviously what the voters wanted’ and I think there’s an implication by electing all Democratic judges, there’s this belief that Democratic judges are going to be soft on crime.”

What’s the story?

Devlin and two other county judges lost to Democrats on Election Day, and Devlin apparently wanted to make a statement to spite those who voted him out.

According to Halpert, Devlin asked each defendant “If I release you, will you go out and murder anybody?” Once the defendants answered “no,” Devlin released them.

According to the Houston Chronicle, Devlin had a reputation for being tough on crime:

“The longtime Republican jurist — whose seat was among 59 swept by Democrats in Tuesday’s election — is one of two juvenile court judges in Harris County whose track records favoring incarceration contributed heavily to doubling the number of kids Harris County sent to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department in recent years, even as those figures fell in the rest of the state.”

Backlash against the judge

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg didn’t find Devlin’s stunt amusing, however, considering some of the juveniles he released were charged with violent crimes such as aggravated robbery.

“We oppose the wholesale release of violent offenders at any age,” Ogg said in a statement, expressing concern that Devlin’s move could “endanger the public.”

The American Civil Liberties Union is requesting an investigation into Devlin’s conduct.

“It is improper for a judge to make orders motivated by partisan interests or in spite as a result of his political loss,” Sharon Jones of the ACLU said, according to KTRK.

The released defendants will have their cases heard on Jan. 4, when Democratic Judge Natalia Oakes takes over.

(H/T USA Today)