A Texas judge who lost his bench in a Democratic sweep Tuesday left folks scratching their heads when he released nearly all of his juvenile defendants.
On Wednesday, Harris County Juvenile Court Judge Glenn Devlin ordered the release of seven kids, four of whom faced aggravated robbery charges, but not before asking them if they planned on killing anyone, the Houston Chronicle reported.
“He was releasing everybody,” said public defender Steven Halpert, who watched the surprising releases. “Apparently he was saying that’s what the voters wanted.”
Devlin, a longtime Republican jurist in the Lone Star State, was one of several Republicans who had their seats snatched from them by Democrats in Tuesday’s midterm elections. He is also one of two juvenile court judges in Harris County whose heavy track record of incarcerating youth contributed to the doubling of the number of juveniles being sent to the state’s juvenile prisons, according to the newspaper.
A Houston Chronicle investigation also revealed that Devlin and Judge John Phillips were responsible for more than one-fifth of all children sent to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department in 2017.
Prosecutors were quick to criticize Devlin’s actions, arguing it could put the public, and the children, at risk.
“We oppose the wholesale release of violent offenders of any age; this could endanger the public,” Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said in a statement Wednesday.
Sharon Watkins Jones of the American Civil Liberties of Texas echoed Ogg’s sentiments and called for an investigation into the judge’s behavior.
“Judge Devlin’s mass release of children today, without any apparent concern for the children’s safety or for ensuring that they are released to their parents, proves his detachment from the needs of each child,” Jones said. “Reducing mass incarceration and addressing racial disparities require judges to look at people as individuals.”
“We call on the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct to investigate Judge Devlin for violating the canons of judicial conduct,” she added. “It is improper for a judge to make orders motivated by partisan interests or spite as a result of his political loss.”
According to ABC 13, Devlin reset all of Wednesday’s cases for Jan. 4, which is when his replacement, newly-elected jurist Natalia Oakes, is set to take the bench. Oakes responded to Devlin’s decision to release the youths and said it wasn’t something she’s “expect from a professional.”
Halpert, whose client was among those released Wednesday, said Devlin’s actions were clearly motivated by his recent loss.
“‘If I release you, will you go out and murder anybody?’ And so, if the juvenile said ‘No,’ they were released,” Halpert recalled. “Judge Devlin would never normally ask that question of a juvenile. This was unusual. 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.”
Devlin’s office has yet to comment on the matter.
Watch more in the clip below.