Republican Judge No-Shows Work After Losing Election, Freeing Defendants

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"The voters of Harris County clearly wanted a change in the juvenile courts, and Judge Devlin today is showing us why the voters may have wanted change", said Jay Jenkins, a policy attorney with the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition.

Devlin and another judge were the subjects of a Houston Chronicle investigation last month. Four were facing aggravated robbery charges. The juveniles face charges ranging from misdemeanors to violent crimes, the Houston Chronicle reported.

The Republican judge based in Harris County lost the 313th District Court seat to Democrat Natalia Oakes, according to the county's unofficial election results page.

Before Harris County Juvenile Court Judge Glenn Devlin released seven defendants - accounting for almost all of the kids who appeared in front of him the morning after Election Day - he asked if they planned to kill anyone before he released them, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Judge Glenn Devlin is seen in this undated photo.

Public defender Steve Halpert quoted Devlin as saying, "This is obviously what the voters wanted", and opined that Devlin, a Republican, meant to imply that Democratic judges are more lenient with accused criminals.

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Devlin's office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The district attorney was concerned about the haphazard releases. He said the court is the first of its kind in Texas and only the second in the U.S. The newspaper found that the two judges accounted for more than a fifth of youths sent to juvenile prisons in Texas past year.

By law, youths who are waiting behind bars before their cases are resolved are entitled to detention hearings every 10 days to decide whether they can be released under supervision. The number of kids sent to state juvenile centers dropped in counties elsewhere in Texas. It's unclear how many juveniles were released.

Alex Bunin, Harris County's chief public defender, was confused by Devlin's sudden leniency.

"'If I release you, will you go out and murder anybody?' And so, if the juvenile said 'No, ' they were released", Halpert said, according to KTRK.

Perhaps supporting that suspected motivation, Devlin reportedly reset all of his released defendants' cases for January 4, which is when his Democratic replacement, Natalia Oakes, takes over.

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