Houston-area officials blast judges over dismissal of many criminal cases, call for accountability

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Houston-area law enforcement officials voiced frustration toward Harris County judges this week for dismissing a large number of criminal cases amid an ongoing crime surge in the region, saying criminals are feeling emboldened by lax penalties for violent offenders.  

Harris County Precinct 4 Constable Mark Herman said he was notified several months ago by District Attorney Kim Ogg that judges and magistrates had slated thousands of cases for dismissal. Her prosecutors were left with no choice but to dismiss the cases, he said. 

Harris County Precinct 4 Constable Mark Herman announced Wednesday a new initiative to re-file criminal cases dismissed by judges. 
(Harris County Constable Precinct 4)

During a news conference, he provided a document that indicated thousands of cases in 2021 had no probable cause finding. It did not say if the cases were dismissed or why nor did it identify the judge or magistrate assigned to them. 

“We cannot let these people go without having their day in court. We’re seeing more and more crime,” Herman told reporters. “We are on the precipice of a total collapse here in Harris County with public safety if we don’t change direction. I’m choosing to change direction.” 

The constable said he brought together a group to review the cases with the DA’s office. More than 100 criminal cases have been re-filed, he said. He did acknowledge that there are legitimate cases that have to be dismissed or re-filed. 

Eric Batton, executive director of the Harris County Deputies Organization, placed the blame on elected judges and officials who he said have failed to uphold the law. 

Houston police officers responded to a gas station Tuesday night where they encountered a 9-year-old girl who had been shot in the head moments earlier while with her family inside a vehicle, authorities said. 
(KRIV-TV)

“Harris County is being razed by murderers, rapists, robbers and thieves,” he said. “There’s nothing more frustrating for law enforcement officers to go out there and do their job and do it with the utmost responsibility, but when it’s turned around on us and we have a part of the system that just refuses to work, it’s discouraging.”

The dismissals, coupled with bail reform laws, have fueled the growing crime wave, officials said. Houston, the largest city in the county and in the state of Texas, finished 2021 with 473 homicides, a 20% jump from the previous year. 

A Fox News report in December revealed at least 150 people had been killed since 2018 by criminal suspects released on multiple bonds in Harris County. 

“These are cases in which activist judges did everything they could to find a way to dismiss that person who probably has a lengthy criminal record or multiple felony bonds to put them back out on the streets,” said Ray Hunt, Executive Director of the Houston Police Officers Union.

A list of some victims killed by offenders who were out on multiple bonds in Harris County, Texas. Crime Stoppers of Houston said 156 people have been killed since 2018 by people released on multiple bonds in Harris County. 
(Crime Stoppers of Houston)

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During his remarks, Herman warned anyone thinking of committing a crime in his jurisdiction that he will re-file their case if they are dismissed. He also cited the rise in recent gun violence that has seen young children and police officers shot or killed. 

In October, one of his deputies was killed and two others were injured in an ambush attack. 

“The criminal of today is no comparison to the criminal of four years ago. They are just more emboldened,” he said. 

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