By Andy Kahan, Crime Stoppers of Houston
Daniel Musterman was a devoted son and caretaker to his 87-year-old mother who suffered from Alzheimer’s. Caitlynne Rose was a young mother and was 8 months pregnant. Gregory Brooks had a wonderful sense of humor but he prided himself in taking his education seriously and was proud to be one of the first in his family to go to college. Reginald Larry was on his way to his Grandmother’s house when he stopped to get a drink at a corner store.
What do Daniel, Caitlynne, Gregory and Reginald have in common? All four of them were murdered. The suspects were all released on multiple bonds by Harris County Judges in the past year. And sadly, there are many more.
Crime Stoppers of Houston wants to be perfectly clear: We support Misdemeanor Bond Reform. We recognize and support the need for Criminal Justice Reform. What we don’t support is when public safety is placed at a higher risk when career habitual offenders are continuously released back to the community despite being charged with multiple violent crimes.
In another disturbing note, Crime Stoppers has had to issue rewards on suspects charged with crimes after they have been released on multiple bonds.
Misdemeanor Judges are bound by a Federal Court ruling basically removing cash bail for most misdemeanor charges. District Judges who handle felony cases are not. When a defendant out on felony bond is arrested on a new felony charge, the judge then has discretion whether or not to revoke the original bond or grant him/her a new bond giving them the chance to return to the community once again.
From our perspective, that’s the crux of the problem. Time and time again, we’re seeing the same defendants released on multiple bonds, continually being arrested for additional felony crimes and yet are still getting out of jail on new bonds.
What’s the problem with that? Ask the families of Daniel, Caitlynne, Gregory and Reginald and many others whose loved ones have been murdered by defendants out on multiple bonds, people who have shown their propensity to thumb their nose at the law
The last statistical data I received six months ago from local law enforcement officials indicate over 4,000 defendants have been granted bonds for violent and sexually related offenses.
This is of grave concern to Crime Stoppers and leads to a series of questions that deserve answers:
- How many felony defendants are out on repeat multiple bonds and for what types of offenses?
- How many felony defendants are in bond forfeiture and have been declared fugitives?
- How many defendants committed crimes after a Motion to Revoke the original bond was denied?
- How many defendants have actually had their bonds revoked after being charged with another crime while out on bond?
- How many of our citizens have become crime victims as a result of offenders violating their conditions of bond?
The defendant charged with Capital Murder in the slaying of Byron Handy was on Felony Probation and yet managed to be granted three separate bonds for offenses, all involving the use of a firearm. His bond was not revoked and inexplicably was allowed to remain on probation.
The defendant charged with the slaying of Matthew Franklin was out on bond for three charges of Aggravated Robbery with a Deadly Weapon and Aggravated Assault.
The defendant wanted for the murder of Reginald Larry was released on multiple felony bonds including murder and two aggravated assault charges. He was on deferred adjudication while all this occurred, yet was allowed to remain in the community.
The defendant charged with two counts Capital Murder in the deaths of Kevin Kelly and Sylvernia Edwards was out on multiple felony bonds at the time of their killings.
I could go on and on with examples like the above in which our citizens paid the ultimate price for criminal justice and bond reform. . As a victim advocate, it is difficult to explain to families why their loved one was killed. It simply defies logic. What do I tell the family of an 11-year-old boy who was shot by a defendant already out on multiple bonds for murder, evading arrest and unlawfully carrying a weapon? How do I try to put into context what is happening to our criminal justice system to families who are grieving and searching for answers as to why their loved one was murdered?
Public safety is at a higher risk when career habitual offenders are continuously released back to the community. The problem is we have no way of knowing how many offenders fit into this category because Harris County does not keep such vital statistical information.
Everyone who supports criminal justice and bond reform should be demanding to have as much information as possible to determine which measures are working and which are putting the public at risk. All of us who live and work in Harris County should be on the same page on behalf of public safety. Increasing crime rates detrimentally affect all of us. Improving public safety has to be a non-partisan issue.
My mantra as a Victim Advocate for over 28 years is to seek solutions. It would behoove all of us, instead of yelling and screaming about the injustices regarding our criminal justice system it’s time for all of us who have a vested interest in making Harris County safer to get together as a cohesive group and work on positive changes.
Shame on all of us if we fail to take proactive measure to make our community safer: The citizens of Harris County deserve better.
Andy Kahan, Director of Victim Services & Advocacy
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