HOUSTON – Two prominent Houston area state senators told KPRC 2 Investigates addressing the issue of bond reform will be a priority in the upcoming legislative session. Both said they want to see an end to suspected criminals being repeatedly released on bond.
“This is terrible public policy. It’s terrible safety for the public. I think it’s abhorrent judicial practices,” said State Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston. “It just has to stop, the public won’t stand for it.”
Bettencourt said he is working on a law to prevent people from being released from jail on multiple personal bonds. These bonds do come with monetary amounts attached, but a defendant does not have to put any money toward the bond to be released. Fees associated with personal bonds can be charged or waived and conditions can be set, such as GPS monitoring.
Judges and criminal justice reform advocates have long argued, except in capital murder cases, that a bond is a constitutional right and it is unfair to hold a person in jail until their trial simply because they cannot afford bond. Bettencourt argues granting a person multiple personal bonds provides no incentive for compliance.
“This is not what anybody thought was supposed to be a part of bond reform,” said Bettencourt.
On Aug. 4, Ashton Broussard, 30, was killed during a confrontation with a Houston police officer. Broussard was accused of disarming a security guard and then pointing that gun at a police officer when he was shot.
Court records show Broussard was released on a personal bond on July 21 after being charged with assault. Broussard was then arrested and charged with criminal mischief and escape but was again released on personal bonds on July 27 under the condition his whereabouts would be monitored by GPS.
His bond was forfeited on July 30 when he failed to show for court.
State Senator John Whitmire, D-Houston, echoes his colleague’s sentiment and said he wants a statewide, standardized system that sets bond based on risk.
“The bail bond issue can and must be resolved,” said Whitmire, the chair of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.
Whitmire said he tried to pass bond legislation during the past two sessions and will again make it one of his priorities for the upcoming session. Whitmire also said he does not agree with defendants being released on bond, accused of committing a new crime and released on another bond.
Houston Crimestoppers' Andy Kahan has also been sounding the alarm, saying he's found dozens of cases of people released on multiple bonds and later charged with murder.
“It simply defies logic and it just kept growing and growing,” said Kahan.
Kahan points to the recent murder of Kimberly Robinson.
“I got so many different emotions, so many different thoughts, so many unanswered questions,” said Janet Robinson, Kimberly’s mother.
Janet Robinson said her daughter never told her she filed assault charges against her ex-boyfriend Cedgadrick Harris in November. Court records show Harris was released on bond following the charge, along with a protective order. However, Harris’ bond was forfeited when he failed to show for court. Harris was arrested again in April and charged with tampering with a government document. He was again released on bond.
In July, police said Harris broke into Kimberly Robinson’s apartment and shot her while she was lying in bed. Her four-year daughter was wounded by shrapnel.
“When you keep letting these people out are you thinking about the person that’s supposed to be protected?” said Janet Robinson.
Harris is in jail charged with capital murder and injury to a child with serious bodily injury.