“These are victims of felony bond reform,” Kahan told The Texan.
Of the victims, Kahan reports that 79 were black and 48 were Hispanic. Three were unborn children.
Kahan has been tracking victims and statistics since bond policies shifted in the county a few years ago, and he specifically looks for cases in which a suspect was out on multiple felony bonds, under bond forfeiture, or out on a personal recognizance (PR) bond.
Although a lawsuit settlement approved by a federal court judge in 2019 only applies to bonds for misdemeanor suspects, many criminal court judges have also been implementing lenient bond policies for felony crimes.
Such cases have been leading news headlines in the state’s most populous county over the past year. Two suspects arrested in the “broad daylight” shooting of an off-duty New Orleans police detective dining out at a Houston Galleria eatery proved to have been out on bonds and were known gang members.
Even suspects arrested on capital murder charges have been released on bond by elected criminal court judges in Harris County.
In September, deputies with Harris County Constable Mark Herman’s office arrested an aggravated robbery suspect who was already out on bond for capital murder but who had not complied with release conditions and thus was under bond forfeiture.
“You’ve now got about 113 defendants charged with capital murder out on bond,” Kahan recently said in a FOX 26 Houston interview. “And now three of them are charged with additional murders.”
If convicted on capital murder charges, a suspect faces either the death penalty or life in prison.
Last week, League City police announced they had arrested and charged a 21-year-old suspect in the shooting death of Jeffrey Johnson that took place last June. The suspect, Devan Jordon, had also been previously charged with robbery and capital murder in Harris County.
Jordon is alleged to have followed 58-year-old Jeffrey Johnson and his wife home from a Galleria-area restaurant with intentions to rob the couple on June 11. According to charges filed, Jordon shot Johnson multiple times in his garage.
Harris County records indicate that Judge Jason Luong of the 185th District Court authorized Jordon’s release on a $500,000 bond in July for a capital murder charge in the May 2021 shooting death of Joshua Sandoval.
Jordon is now being held in the Galveston County jail with bond set at $1,000,000.
With all metrics indicating crime and especially violent crime on the rise in Harris County, Judge Lina Hidalgo has announced several new programs this year including a $50 million initiative to reduce crime through “environmental design” and a $2.6 million “precision policing” program to temporarily give sheriff’s deputies overtime pay to patrol high crime areas.
Crime issues are expected to have an impact on the 2022 elections, and Harris County’s 13 incumbent criminal court judges have all drawn primary or general election challengers for next year.
Likewise, Hidalgo has drawn a Democratic Primary challenger in Erica Davis, a former Harris County Department of Education board member and former chief of staff for Constable Alan Rosen. Nine challengers have filed to run in the Republican Primary with the earliest campaign messages focused on crime and public safety.
“Public safety will be issue number one, issue number two, and issue number 999 in next year’s election cycle in Harris County,” predicted Kahan. “There really is no other issue except for the increase in crime rates, especially those committed by suspects out on bond.”
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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.