Our system is broken.
Here in Houston we've made a habit out of repeatedly releasing violent and dangerous criminals from jail.
Although last week Houston Police Department investigators successfully obtained a warrant for the arrest of Vernon Menifee on new felony charges, a Harris County district court magistrate authorized his release again on Tuesday.
The 24-year-old suspect was arrested earlier this year and charged in the murder of Guy-Anthony Owen Allen on April 21, but released in August after posting bond. At the time of the alleged murder, Menifee was already free on bond in three separate felony charges.
The new warrant sought Menifee on charges of Burglary of a Habitation with the Intent to Commit Aggravated Assault, and describes a home-invasion style burglary that involved a gunfire exchange with the female resident who was shot in the arm.
Menifee, who police say also has gang ties, was rearrested over the Labor Day weekend, but on the morning of September 8, the 232nd District Court under Judge Josh Hill authorized his release on a bond set at $50,000.
Rather than the elected judge, appointed magistrate Jennifer Gaut signed off on Menifee’s bond and subsequent release.
Gaut is also the magistrate who refused a prosecutor’s request for a $50,000 bond in the case of Timothy Singleton, a felony suspect charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and prior convictions. After Gaut reduced Singleton’s bond to $500 and released him, he allegedly broke into the home of an ex-girlfriend and assaulted both the woman and her grandmother.
Responding to Gaut’s actions in the Singleton case, the district attorney employed a long-ignored section of Texas criminal code and appealed to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. The court unanimously ruled against Gaut, reset Singleton’s bail at $100,000, and issued a warrant for his arrest.
According to the district clerk’s records, Singleton is being detained in the Harris County Jail system with an upcoming court date on September 22.
Regarding the Menifee case, the district attorney’s office told The Texan that while they could not comment on a specific judge’s actions, they had sought to prevent Menifee’s release.