A witness said that Devlin was asking the defendants whether they planned to kill anyone. If they weren’t, he let them go.
“‘If I release you, will you go out and murder anybody?’ And so, if the juvenile said ‘No,’ they were released,” public defender Steven Halpert, who was requesting release for his client, told KTRK.
“Judge Devlin would never normally ask that question of a juvenile. This was unusual.”
— ABC13 Houston (@abc13houston) November 8, 2018
"He was releasing everybody," said public defender Steven Halpert, who watched the string of surprising releases. "Apparently he was saying that's what the voters wanted." https://t.co/lTXJlg0s69
— Houston Chronicle (@HoustonChron) November 7, 2018
Some of the defendants were only accused of low-level misdemeanors but others had been charged with other crimes.
Devlin, one of three Republican judges swept out of court in the midterms, declined to comment when reached by the Chronicle.
However, Halpert told the Houston Chronicle that it’s actually not unusual for Devlin to release youth who are facing serious charges if they’ve behaved in detention and have adequate supervision. The defendants by law are entitled to hearings every 10 working days where judges can decide to release them.
“He’s not one of those that never releases a kid charged with an aggravated robbery,” Halpert said. “But nobody has seen this before.”
Both stories relied on Halpert and didn’t appear to include any other witnesses or evidence regarding Devlin’s actions or motives.
The Chronicle said, citing prosecutors, that at seven youth were released on Wednesday, including four facing aggravated robbery charges, but didn’t provide figures of those released on any other day for context. KTRK said 10 to 12 juveniles were released but didn’t provide a source other than Halpert or figures showing what an average number of juveniles released would look like.
“I just think this was a post-election weird blip. 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,” Halpert told KTRK.
A judge shouldn't make orders motivated by partisan interests or in spite as a result of his political loss.
We're calling for an investigation of Judge Devlin for violating the canons of judicial conduct.
— ACLU of Texas (@ACLUTx) November 8, 2018
Others weighed in, criticizing Devlin.
“We oppose the wholesale release of violent offenders at any age,” Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said in a statement. “This could endanger the public.”
“I would not have expected that from a professional,” added Natalia Oakes, the Democrat who unseated Devlin.
The American Civil Liberties Union called for the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct to investigate Judge Devlin for violating the canons of judicial conduct.
“It is improper for a judge to make orders motivated by partisan interests or in spite as a result of his political loss,” said Sharon Watkins Jones, a director for the group.