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

Tom Embury-Dennis
Harris County Juvenile Justice Centre, Houston, Texas: Google Maps

A Republican judge released nearly every juvenile defendant who appeared before him the morning after he lost his re-election campaign in the US midterms.

Glenn Devlin reportedly said it was “what the voters wanted” to justify his actions.

After asking the offenders if they planned on killing anyone, when they responded with a negative, he is said to have let them go.

The juvenile court judge in Harris County, Texas, sparked concern among criminal justice advocates about his decision making.

In court, state prosecutors raised concerns over the releases of the juveniles, who were accused of everything from misdemeanours to violent crimes, The Houston Chronicle reported.

"We oppose the wholesale release of violent offenders at any age. This could endanger the public,” Harris County district attorney Kim Ogg said in a statement.

Prosecutors said at least seven young offenders were released, including four facing aggravated robbery charges.

Public defender Steven Halpert said he saw only one kept in detention.

"He was releasing everybody," Mr Halpert told the newspaper. "Apparently he was saying that's what the voters wanted."

The releases came despite Mr Devlin’s reputation for favouring incarceration.

By law, youths waiting for their cases to be decided are entitled to hearings every 10 working days to decide whether they should continue their detention or be released under supervision.

Mr Devlin would sometimes release juveniles charged with aggravated robbery, Mr Halpert said, “but nobody has seen this before”.

Elizabeth Henneke, of Lone Star Justice Alliance, which works to get young offenders into treatment programmes, branded Mr Halpert’s decisions “disappointing and shocking”.

"Judge Devlin appears to be abdicating the basic responsibility of any sitting juvenile judge," she said. "I'm not sure that I can wrap my arms around what he's actually doing," said the county’s chief public defender, Alex Bunin. "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."

Harris County District Courts and Mr Devlin have been contacted for comment.