Last month, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office filed a motion to revoke bond for murder suspect Vernon Menifee, who was released again on September 8, 2020, with his sixth felony bond, but the 232nd District Court has not responded for two weeks.
Not only does the filing indicate Menifee failed to meet curfew restrictions on 14 occasions between August 24 and September 17, the district attorney says that “the State is not in possession of any records as to the defendant’s whereabouts after September 18, 2020, at approximately 9:45 am.”
Now an assistant district attorney, Joshua Raygor, is seeking a court order for access to Menifee’s GPS monitoring records in connection with the September 13 shooting of Marvis Bolton.
According to the request, Bolton was both a witness and co-defendant in the shooting death of Guy-Anthony Owen Allen. Bolton is hospitalized but unable to speak. Menifee had been charged with murder in that case and was arrested last June.
At the time of Owen Allen’s murder, Menifee was out of jail on three previous felony bonds. Despite the seriousness of the new charges and a criminal history that includes six prior felony convictions and alleged gang affiliations, 209th District Court Judge Brian E. Warren authorized his release on bond again in August.
After Houston Police Department investigators filed new felony charges against Menifee for Burglary of a Habitation with Intent to Commit Aggravated Assault, he was briefly detained again in September, but then re-released on bond by orders of Magistrate Jennifer Gaut.
The district attorney requested revocation of bond on September 21, but Menifee’s attorney filed an opposition to revocation citing both the Texas and U.S. Constitutions, and Texas Rules of Evidence.
Two weeks after the district attorney’s filing, the motion to revoke bond remains pending without action and no warrant has been issued for Menifee’s arrest.
According to Houston Crime Stoppers Victims’ Advocate Andy Kahan, there are now 62 victims allegedly killed in Harris County over the past two years by defendants who were released on multiple bonds.
Controversy over bail policies looms over local elections in Harris County, where the Democratic incumbent District Attorney Kim Ogg faces a challenge from Republican Mary Nan Huffman, and voters will choose between candidates in multiple district court races.
During a question and answer session with Crime Stoppers Houston, Huffman said that while the judges do set the bonds, the district attorney plays an important role in communicating with judges on what the law allows and in exerting influence to detain dangerous defendants.
Huffman specifically cited the case of Randy Lewis who allegedly stabbed to death 80-year-old Rosalie Cook outside of a Houston Walgreens in May. Lewis’ bond had been waived and he had been released from custody at a psychiatric facility one month before the murder. Huffman said that despite Lewis’ previous 67 arrests, the district attorney’s office had agreed to release him.
In a second Crime Stoppers interview with Ogg on Monday, the incumbent said that her office could request bond amounts or bond revocations, but that bond and release conditions were in the hands of the judges. She noted that the county was still struggling with trial delays, but added that judges had power over the scheduling of hearings.
Ogg also said she had concerns over the abilities of pretrial services to monitor released defendants and emphasized that her office was arguing against personal recognizance (PR) bonds for violent offenders. She also encouraged the public to seek information on the bond setting and release procedures and vote accordingly.
In Menifee’s case, although an arraignment hearing had been scheduled for September 11, the court bumped the hearing out another two months to November 11.
According to county records, the court has neither revoked bond nor issued any new warrant for Menifee’s arrest.
The clerk of the 232nd District Court did not return requests for comment.
Menifee’s other five felony charges are now listed as pending before the 351st District Court under Judge George Powell, a Democrat who was defeated in the March 2020 primary election by Natalia Cornelio, a former federal public defender and legal advisor to Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis (D-Pct. 1). The Republican candidate is Arlene Hecht, an attorney employed with the district attorney’s office.
Update: Menifee is once again in custody and a new bond has been set for $999,999 out of the 232nd District Court in Harris County.
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Holly Hansen is a freelance writer 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.