A Texas judge reportedly released almost all of his juvenile defendants after losing his re-election on Tuesday, but not before asking if they planned to kill anyone. "Apparently he was saying that's what the voters wanted". On Wednesday, as juvenile cases came before him, with defendants facing charges ranging from misdemeanors to violent crimes, Devlin released them, saying that he was responding to the voice of the voters.
Judge Devlin also rescheduled all of the cases to be heard during the first week of January, which is when Democrat Natalia Oakes will take the bench.
"Judge Devlin appears to be abdicating the basic responsibility of any sitting juvenile judge", said Elizabeth Henneke of the Lone Star Justice Alliance, a group that works to get young people out of the justice system and into treatment programs.
"We oppose the wholesale release of violent offenders at any age; this could endanger the public", Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said.
Public defender Steven Halpert said it is not uncommon for Devlin to release a juvenile who has already been in detention upon review, but has never seen anything like what happened on Wednesday.
Devlin declined comment Wednesday when contacted by the Houston Chronicle.
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Devlin and another Harris County juvenile judge, John Phillips, accounted for more than 20 percent of all youths sent to the state's juvenile prisons a year ago, according to the newspaper.
Devlin has released juveniles facing serious charges in the past as long as they have behaved in detention and will have adequate adult supervision upon their release, Halpert said.
Devlin, a Republican, lost his re-election Tuesday after Democrats captured the benches in 59 local courts.
"I'm not sure that I can wrap my arms around what he's actually doing", he told the Chronicle.
"I think he may have to be consistent and continue this practice", Halpert said.
"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 American Civil Liberties Union is requesting an investigation into Devlin's conduct.