Criminal JusticeLocal NewsConstable Sounds Alarm on Increasing Harris County Criminal Case Dismissals

Constable Mark Herman says both the district attorney and his staff are working to refile hundreds of cases including ones involving violence.
October 6, 2022
Harris County Precinct 4 Constable Mark Herman says that he has had to pull staff from regular duties to work on refiling hundreds of criminal cases dismissed for lack of probable cause.

“Our officers risk their lives and spend hours booking these people, and many times these suspects are out of jail before our guys even finish their paperwork,” Herman told The Texan.

At a press conference along with representatives from the Harris County District Attorney’s Office (HCDAO), Constable Precinct 5 Ted Heap’s office, the Houston Police Officer’s Union (HPOU), and the Harris County Deputies Organization, Herman said that more than 4,000 cases across the county were dismissed for lack of probable cause last year.

Herman explained that officers contact the HCDAO intake division prior to making an arrest to see if charges will be accepted, but over the past few years, more cases have been later dismissed by the magistrate or judge.

“This emboldens the criminals,” said Herman, who also shared photos of all the Harris County law enforcement officers slain over the past few years, including Precinct 5 Constable Corporal Charles Galloway.

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Ray Hunt of HPOU praised Herman for his efforts but lamented the extra work for police officers due to “activist judges who say we have no problem.”

According to data the constable’s office provided to The Texan, 434 cases brought by Precinct 4 deputies have been dismissed so far in 2022 and Herman’s staff along with the HCDAO have refiled 217 of those.

Thirty of the dismissed cases were not eligible to be re-filed due to plea bargains, 30 have been taken to a grand jury for further consideration, and 14 are now past the statute of limitations.

The county’s eight constables’ offices do not investigate homicides, but charges dismissed include some violent crimes such as Assault, Aggravated Assault, and Violation of a Protective Order. Additionally, the courts dismissed 87 cases of Unlawful Carry of a Weapon and five cases of Felon in Possession of a Firearm.

Of judges handling misdemeanor cases, Judge David Singer dismissed the most at 52. Judge Te’iva Bell of the 339th Criminal District Court dismissed the most felony cases at 18.

Among the appointed probable cause hearing officers, Courtney St. Julian dismissed the most, followed by Lisa Porter and Cheryl Diggs. Diggs has also been in the news this year for authorizing the release of a suspect charged with threatening to kill Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and other congressional Republicans.

Judges in Harris County came under fire last year for holding few trials even when courts reopened after the COVID-19 lockdowns. Since then, the county has pressured them to improve clearance rates, and although the commissioners court recently unveiled a court dashboard in collaboration with the Texas Center for Justice and Equity, current clearance data is not posted.

Herman said that in some cases HCDAO staff refiled dismissed cases even before his staff did because the crimes were so “blatant and ludicrous.” His data shows that HCDAO refiled 59 of the Constable Precinct 4 cases dismissed so far this year.

Noting that he had also embedded two deputies in the HCDAO to assist with investigations, Herman said District Attorney Kim Ogg often got a “bad rap,” but that she was “fighting the fight” despite not receiving all of her funding requests.

In reference to County Judge Lina Hidalgo’s non-traditional public safety spending, Herman added, “People can say that sidewalks and lighting is funding for law enforcement…I understand it well, but we need boots on the ground.”

“We need the DA fully funded, and we need the courts to get off their rears and start prosecuting some of these cases.”


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Holly Hansen

Holly Hansen is a regional reporter for The Texan living in Harris County. Her former column, “All In Perspective” ran in The Georgetown Advocate, Jarrell Star Ledger, and The Hill Country News, and she has contributed to a variety of Texas digital media outlets. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Central Florida with a degree in History, and in addition to writing about politics and policy, also writes about faith and culture.