Judge who lost re-election bid allegedly releases juvenile defendants on condition they won't kill anyone

HOUSTON, Texas -- The ACLU is calling for an investigation into the Republican Harris County judge who let young criminal defendants go hours after he was voted out of office.

Tuesday night, 313th District Court Judge Glenn Devlin lost his bid for re-election, along with all of his Republican colleagues in the midterm judicial sweep by Democrats.

Wednesday morning, he took the bench for detention hearings and asked juvenile defendants something very unusual, says public defender Steve Halpert.

"'If I release you, will you go out and murder anybody?' And so, if the juvenile said 'No,' they were released," said Halpert who was requesting release for his client. "Judge Devlin would never normally ask that question of a juvenile. This was unusual."

In the end, 10-12 juveniles, including Halpert's client, were released. Many are accused of violent crimes. In the juvenile justice system, minors can be held in detention or released to their families pending resolution of their cases.

Devlin did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

"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.

Halpert said Devlin, normally conscientious and tough on crime, alluded to the election results.

"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 said.

The ACLU is asking for an investigation. "We call on 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, director of political strategies for the ACLU of Texas.

"I would not have expected that from a professional," said Natalia Oakes, the Democrat who unseated Devlin.

"We don't condone any judge releasing anyone charged with a violent crime carelessly," added David Cuevas, President of the Harris County Deputies' Organization.

Devlin reset all of Wednesday's cases until Jan. 4, when Oakes takes over. Devlin has another docket Thursday morning, and more eyes will likely be watching.

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